Days after British Columbia's Braidwood commission recommended tighter rules around the use of tasers, the American manufacturer of the devices rolled a new product off the line that it says will "fit in" to the province's new guidelines.
Taser International debuted its X3 model Monday, the first new conducted energy weapon the company has released since 2003. The X3's main selling feature is its ability to fire three pairs of electrified probes in quick succession without reloading - giving an officer with a taser the chance to simultaneously zap up to three suspects. Older models, which have only one pair of probes, must be reloaded after each shot.
The Braidwood recommendations, released last Thursday and adopted almost immediately by the province, said that a taser should be discharged once, and not for more than five seconds. A second discharge, it recommended, should only happen if it will be "effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm."
Taser International says its new X3 - four years in the making - has a more consistent pulse than its predecessor, the X26.
The new weapon also tracks, second by second, the amount of energy being discharged into a target's body, the company argues. Its earlier model only tracked the time and total duration of a discharge.
"The log just on its own would be phenomenal for courts and [in light of]some of the controversy in Canada," Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle told The Globe and Mail.
"The Taser X3 is the most sophisticated handheld weapon ever developed," Rick Smith, the company's chief executive officer, added in a statement.
The X3's debut in Arizona came as Alberta announced Monday it would restrict the use of conducted energy weapons. The Alberta government is expected to release details of its new rules for police later this week. Three months ago, the province scrapped 50 tasers, or 12 per cent of its inventory, after tests showed they weren't working properly.
Taser International's promise of an improved "pulse calibration system" also comes on the heels of an award-winning CBC and Canadian Press investigation that found 10 per cent of tasers tested were either defective or behaved unexpectedly. Some gave out a higher charge than they were meant to.
The company has disputed the testing methodology of CP, the CBC, the province and the Braidwood commission, in which Mr. Tuttle believes "politics outweighs the science."
Taser International argues its new model is safer than the previous "proven and widely accepted" device. Mr. Tuttle told The Globe that while the timing of the X3's release and both the B.C. and Alberta announcements was coincidental, the features of the X3 will be useful in adopting the Braidwood recommendations.
"In light of the Braidwood commission, this is only a benefit to have the X3 come out, in terms of timing," he said. "This will be helpful … the byproduct of it [the timing of the X3's release]is that it does fit in to some of the [Braidwood]recommendations."
He said the triple-fire capacity could be used to either target more than one suspect - firing the prongs into three people at once - or to fire a second pair of prongs at a lone suspect when the first miss.
An officer with an X3 can fire "in a semi-automatic fashion, hit two probes into one suspect, two shots in another, two shots in another," Mr. Tuttle said. "Now you don't have to reload, which is hard to do under a dynamic scenario. You can take that second shot. You can take that third shot."
The $1,799.95 (U.S.) X3 also includes improved resistance to the elements, including "short-term water submersion," the company said. Police forces will be offered the chance to trade in their old models and upgrade to the X3, the company said.