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In the debate over Taser use by Canadian police, there’s a popular refrain from top officers: The Taser is too important to officer safety to be pulled off the street. Many top brass, like Calgary’s chief, have used this argument to oppose the idea of yanking Tasers until testing proves they’re working properly. The argument has intuitive appeal. But a 40-year history of police officer deaths (see report above) doesn’t support the notion. Between 1961 and 2005, 125 police officers were killed in the line of duty. In 93% of those deaths, officers died in situations in which it’s unlikely they’d ever use a Taser because they were killed by an assailant armed with a gun (also because Tasers weren’t available to officers for much of that study period). It’s unlikely police would ever confront a gun-wielding suspect with Tasers. The stats show that investigating a firearms complaint is the deadliest situation for police. It accounted for the largest number of officer deaths, 15, in the 44-year span. What appears to be vital to officer safety is protecting them from being shot.
The inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant who was Tasered at Vancouver’s airport in 2007, resumes Monday.