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The Toronto Star

'Why Talk When You Can Shock,' says Taser Opponent

Robyn Doolittle

TORONTO -- Tasers are not a replacement for guns; they're a replacement for talking, said author Naomi Klein at a town-hall meeting last night.0207 06

"If it happened in a cell, we would call it torture and if it happens on the street we should not be afraid to call it torture," said Klein, who is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The discussion on the police use of shock and stun guns was held at the University of Toronto in response to Toronto police Chief Bill Blair's request that 3,000 officers be armed with electroshock guns.

When RCMP officers used a Taser on Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver International Airport last October, they did so within 25 seconds of their arrival on the scene, Klein said. Dziekanski died shortly after.

"Why talk when you can shock?" she said. "Tasers are not a replacement for guns. They're a replacement for everything else ...they're a replacement for talking; for negotiating."

As many as 20 people in Canada and 290 in the United States have died after being shocked by a Taser, said the chair of Toronto's Amnesty International chapter, Andy Buxton, who also sat on the panel.

Taser International has said the weapon it manufactures is safe.

But during clinical trials, people who are zapped are in a calm, healthy state.

"That's not how it is in real life," Buxton said.

Of the 310 people in North American who died after being shocked with a Taser, people were often intoxicated or high on some kind of drug, such as cocaine.

The majority had been in an altercation with police, had had force used on them and many were tied up in some way.

"Something in that whole witches' brew all together (is unsafe) and we don't know what," Buxton said.

"And until all the facts are on the table, (Amnesty International) is asking police in Canada and the United States to put a moratorium on the use of Tasers until we know whether or not they're safe," he said.

Buxton also cited statistics that show officers can become addicted to using Tasers. He used the example of the Edmonton police force, where Taser use increased from an average of once a week to once a day.

© 2008 The Toronto Star

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