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The Vancouver Sun

Sex Sells Tasers At Vegas Show

Neal Hall

Vancouver businessman Randy Puder was drawn to the booth operated by Taser International at the Consumer Trade Show in Las Vegas last January.0516 06 1

Playboy bunnies were signing photographs while salesmen pitched a new personal Taser that's small enough to fit into a woman's purse, he recalled.

"It was excellent marketing," Puder told a public inquiry Thursday probing the use of Tasers in B.C.

He got a signed photo from a Playboy bunny, which he showed to The Vancouver Sun. It has the Taser company logo on it. He was asked who he wanted it signed to and he said, half-joking, "The Vancouver police board."

Puder said he attended the trade show because he has his own electronic systems integration company and wanted to check out that latest technology.

While at Taser's booth, he said, he was approached by the company's international sales manager, responsible for sales in B.C., and Puder recalled asking questions about the testing of the Taser.

"I asked if it had been tested on psychotic people who had medications in their system. He said, 'No.'"

Puder said he has a personal interest in mental health issues because he was a caregiver for his late mother, who was bipolar, and his grandparents, who had Alz-heimer's. He has made submissions to the Vancouver police board on the issue, he said.

He also discussed with the Taser salesman what happened at the Vancouver airport with Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after being zapped by a Taser. He recalls the sales manager saying: "Dziekanski would have died anyway."

(Later, outside the inquiry, Puder told reporters that the man said Dziekanski was suffering from alcohol withdrawal.)

"I was shocked, actually, which is why I'm here today," Puder told the inquiry, pointing out that his late brother, Gil Puder, was a use-of-force trainer with Vancouver police from 1990 to 1993.

Puder said he was a concerned citizen and suggested a moratorium should be placed on Taser use until there can be proper testing in Canada.

"Until tested in Canada by Canadian medical practitioners, it should be put on the shelf," he said of the weapon, which incapacitates a person through a five-second, 50,000-volt pulse of electricity.

"We are not the United States," Puder said. "We have an entirely different model of police and training."

He also raised a possible conflict of interest, pointing out that two officers who do police training have a website for their private company, Defensive Tactics Inc. of Vancouver, which says the officers -- Vancouver police Insp. John McKay and Sgt. Joel Johnston -- are trainers certified by Taser International.

Johnston made an earlier presentation at the inquiry, where he said he had approval from the police chief to run a private company. He is in favour of Taser use in B.C. and is the province's use-of-force coordinator for police services, a division of the Solicitor-General's Ministry.

Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said in an interview he has concerns about Johnston being a possible Taser instructor to other police forces through his private company. He said Johnston is also in charge of a review of Taser use in B.C. for the B.C. Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

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