Taser International to add to the shock value of stun guns

FULL POWER: The stun gun manufacturer will up the voltage of its product after reports claimed it was not fully effective in incapacitating targets


Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 10

Taser International Inc has changed how one of its stun gun models delivers its electric charge after some police officers said some combative suspects had been able to regain partial mobility while they were being stunned, the company said.

The change will make the X26 stun gun about 14 percent more powerful, The New York Times reported.

Scottsdale-based Taser, in statements issued Friday in response to the article, disputed that it was making the device more powerful. The previous version of the X26 delivered a steady two-second stream of electric pulses followed by a slower three-second stream; the change delivers the pulses at the higher rate for the full five seconds.

"This is not a product redesign. It is a software upgrade," the company said in a statement posted on its Web site. "A helpful analogy would be ... installing the latest service updates to a Windows computer operating system."

The company said it announced the change in a September training bulletin that went out to all agencies that use Tasers.

Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle was quoted by the Times as saying the problem occurred infrequently. The company's statement said it had received "a handful of reports" from police in which suspects "regained partial mobility during the last three seconds."

Taser stun guns have been touted as less lethal than other ways of subduing combative people in high-risk situations, but Tasers have come under increasing scrutiny as a number of deaths have been blamed, at least partially, on the devices.

The stun guns use a pair of probes to transmit electricity that incapacitates a suspect by temporarily overwhelming the nervous system.

Taser's stun guns are used by more than 6,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide, as well as the US military.

As Taser's stock price climbed last year, the human rights group Amnesty International and various news organizations published reports raising questions about the safety of Taser's stun guns.

Amnesty International spokesman Edward Jackson said the decision to raise the X26's power is a sign that Taser rushed its product to market.

"The reality is that they have sold law enforcement a product that doesn't work the way they said it would work," Jackson said.

Sergeant Randy Force, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, said the approximately 1,200 Phoenix officers who carry the X26 occasionally encounter problems with the devices, usually as a result of a probe missing a suspect or a battery that wasn't maintained. He didn't know whether they had experienced the problem that prompted the change.