Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

Yeah right, 'Excited Delirium' my ass...


The primary purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet for my observations and analysis about tasers, taser "associated" deaths, and the behaviour exhibited by the management, employees and minions of Taser International. In general, everything is linked back to external sources, often via previous posts on the same topic, so that readers can fact-check to their heart's content. This blog was started in late-2007 when Canadians were enraged by the taser death of Robert Dziekanski and four others in a short three month period. The cocky attitude exhibited by the Taser International spokespuppet, and his preposterous proposal that Mr. Dziekanski coincidentally died of "excited delirium" at the time of his taser-death, led me to choose the blog name I did and provides my motivation. I have zero financial ties to this issue.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Death rate estimated - feel free to provide rebuttal

There's a subtle (not really) error, or propaganda trick, being tossed into the latest debate about the taser statistics in Canada.

First the taser advocates will rightly point out that a reported 'taser incident' does not always represent a complete deployment (where the victim is actually shocked). Even if the taser is just displayed as a deterrent, a formal 'taser incident' report may have to be filed. For that reason, the actual taser-shock incidents are not as common as the raw data may appear.

Fair enough. This is good news in that it reduces the actual taser abuse rate from the insanely ridiculous to the simply insane.

But then another taser advocate will use the same raw statistics to compute a flawed calculation purported to demonstrate the low risk of death.

Ah, wait a second...

Yes, displaying a taser as a deterrent probably won't kill anyone. Duh. Using a taser in Drive Mode (pressed into the victim) might be safer than shooting the X26 barbs across the chest where the current distribution may be more risky.

So let's review the stats with some estimates to compensate for this factor. This will be based on some guesstimates. If the RCMP would like to provide corrections, please - send them in.

2007 British Columbia: 496 taser incidents

How many were actual X26 barbs fired into the chest in B.C. during 2007? Probably a fairly small fraction of the raw 496 incident count. It seems (based on the news) that most taser deployments are in Drive Mode where the gun in pressed into the victim (often in the back - a possible self-evident indicator for torture as opposed to self-defence by the way).

Chest hits with the X26 are almost certainly less than 10% of the total taser incident rate. Almost certainly more than 2%. These are guesstimates to set reasonable bounds on the secret data. If anyone has actual deployment data, then please feel free to provide it.

So lets choose 5% (a guesstimate) as the precentage of these 'taser incidents' where the X26 was actually fired AND the X26 barbs landed somewhere on the chest. This (5% of 496) is the required denominator for the calculation. So, roughly 25 taserings across the chest in British Columbia during 2007.

It might be 50; it might be 10. Something roughly in that range. If you have a more reliable number, please - send it in.

Deaths in British Columbia 2007: Either one or two (Robert Dziekanski killed Oct. 2007, and Robert Knipstrom, died Nov. 2007). This is the required numerator for the calculation.

Result: 1 or 2 deaths divided by roughly 25 full-on X26 deployments = about a 6% death rate

Might be 1% (maybe). Might be 10% (maybe). Might be a bit higher. Might be a bit lower.

This finding is reasonably aligned with the common sense reaction to the spate of taser-associated deaths in Canada in late 2007. There were FIVE during THREE MONTHS (September to November 2007). That's what caught the attention of Canadians.

So the taser is not quite as bad as Russian Roulette (1 bullet in 6 chambers), but it's still arguably dangerous if the X26 barbs land in a worst case location and other factors (luck, fitness, who knows?) conspire against you.

"Safer than Tylenol" my ass.

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