Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

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

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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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

CBC News documentary

Link= Stunning Debate part 1 (.wmv file)
Link= Stunning Debate part 2 (.wmv file)

A very good documentary by CBC.

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (obsolete M26 studies)

Mr. Smith's props

Did he include any negative X26 studies? There have been several of them recently; are any of them in there?

UPDATE: It took a while, but the minutes are out. [LINK] Other SECU Minutes and Evidence are available on here [LINK].

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (on exhaustion)

Mr. Smith seemed to be claiming something like this: the victims of Excited Delirium (sic) might be sort-of killing themselves by way of exhaustion. He more-or-less claimed that immediate application of a taser (no delay to try talking) could assist the subject by getting them to 'professional help' sooner (such 'help' in reality typically being nothing more than being tossed into the nearest jail cell). I guess the urgency is that something really bad might happen; like the subject's antiperspirant being totally consumed. It was difficult to follow his logic. I'll have to review the transcript to decipher exactly what he was trying to say.

By way of counter example, let's pretend we have a marathon race in a big city where thousands of people run 26 miles. Do we expect to see, for this unquestionably absolutely-ultimate example of acidosis and exhaustion, a death rate of roughly 20 per 3000 participants (or whatever the exact numbers are)? Marathons can rarely be fatal, but not usually at the sort of rates we are seeing with Canadian taser use. Not even within the same order of magnitude. Marathons would be banned if the 'coincidental' death rate was the same ratio that we're seeing with taser deployments in Canada.

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (on 15:1 safety margin)

Well, I heard him say it. It was in relation to the Member's question about minimum weight of the victims (60 lbs, i.e. tasering children is fine).

Smith said the taser has a "fifteen to one safety margin" (15:1).

And as is his little propaganda trick, he did not specify which taser model he is referring to. But I'm fairly certain that the study in question (being rather fundamental to their whole operation) was from the early days before the X26 was introduced in 2003. And thus was for the M26 or earlier models, but probably not covering the X26.

So, given that Taser has defended itself against Ruggieri by claiming a 100:1 safety advantage for the older M26 due to the 50 kHz high frequency, and the newer more powerful X26 is only 19 Hz low frequency (and thus must walk away from the claimed 100:1 advantage of high frequency), they appear to be left with little (if any) safety margin for the X26. The only safety margin in practice would be the placement of the barbs, the victim's condition, and pure luck.

And that may explain why newer studies (on the newer X26) are seeing more problems than that huge stack of old, probably obsolete, studies that almost certainly predate the X26.

Smith also stated, in response to a direct question from a Member, that Taser had no information that the X26 model is more dangerous than the M26 model.

I'd recommend checking into that claim.

More later.

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (on 'camera' batteries)

I was only able to view (on-line) a part of the testimony by Smith and Palmer. I'll be looking for the transcript or (hopefully) a complete video download.

UPDATE: It took a while, but the minutes are out. [LINK] Other SECU Minutes and Evidence are available on here [LINK].

One quote from today's meeting (found on-line) is as follows:

Smith, “I think some people are surprised to learn that the energy source for the Taser, the batteries that power it are the same batteries that are in most digital cameras.

First of all, there isn't any such thing as "the Taser". There is the M26, and there is the X26, and there are others. It is misleading to lump them all together to cherry-pick the most favourable details to make the best argument (constantly switching back and forth).

Let's discuss the batteries in the X26 model.

I'm quite familiar with the CR123A camera batteries as used in the X26 taser. These are powerful batteries with a very low internal impedance. If you were to short out this type of battery you would see just how powerful they are. The math is this: 3.0 volts over just the 0.25 ohm internal resistance (a dead short) would result in a current of about 12 amperes (probably a conservative estimate). That's a lot. It could probably melt a paper clip placed across the terminals (NOT RECOMMENDED!!). These are very powerful batteries that can last for thousands of pictures, easily an entire vacation, in a modern digital camera.

But the X26 taser draws so much current from the two 'camera' batteries that if the taser is used continuously, the lifespan of the batteries is rated by Taser as only about 16 minutes, and then they're dead.

(Taser specification sheet for the X26 states "195" five-second shots which is just 16 minutes and 15 seconds).

The X26 taser current consumption is so high that the battery specification sheet doesn't even go that high. The electrical current consumption of the X26 taser is literally off-the-scale (of the battery specification sheet).

So I hope you can see that this is exactly the sort of propaganda that Smith and Taser specialize in. They'll happily tell you that the taser only uses a wee little harmless camera battery. But you have to come here to find out the other side of the story, which sheds an entirely different light on this little detail.

More later.

Ref: Link= Duracell Specification Sheet (.pdf format)

Ref: Taser spec sheet for the X26, Link= LG-STND-TECDBEC-001 (.pdf format)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pigs vs. Humans & M26 vs. X26

Taser points out that pigs are not exactly the same as humans.

I'd like to remind everyone that the difference between pigs and humans is almost certainly much less than the differences between the older (well-studied, possibly safer) M26 taser and the newer (less studied, probably more dangerous) X26 taser.

Also, that famous two-foot pile of studies that Taser bought and paid for, if they address the M26 taser, then they have no bearing on the newer X26 taser.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Absence of Evidence vs. Evidence of Absence

"...many experts, including Dr. Graeme Dowling from the medical examiner's office in Edmonton, have argued there's 'no definitive case where Tasers have actually killed anybody...' "

Link= Taser Use Scrutinized

Even if we assume that his statement is true (which it isn't), it still includes an explicit error of very basic logic. He has confused 'Absence of Evidence' with 'Evidence of Absence'.

We appear to have the situation where medical examiners have spent years looking at victims of electrocution where those victims were killed by contact with commercial power. Commercial power involves very high currents and this would leave tell-tale signs of damage. Now they're presented with victims that have died after being hit with the taser and the medical examiners don't see the physical damage caused by high current electrocution (absence of evidence), and they fall into the trap of thinking that there is therefore no connection (evidence of absence). It is just as likely (if not more likely) that the evidence left in the wake of a taser death is invisible, or 'less-than-visible', using their present techniques.

(By the way: This is starting to make me think that perhaps these sorts of devices might be the 'perfect murder weapon' if the clues that they leave - other than being dead which I assume would be obvious - are so subtle that they're not visible using the technology available to the current crop of medical examiners.)

But what about the macro evidence that is in plain sight only if you step back and look at the larger picture:

1) We have so many taser death incidents that people are now starting to call themselves "experts" in the field? Interesting. It's worth thinking about that point (taser death expert) for a while. What does it mean? What does it imply? Remember that the X26 model(*) was only recently introduced (2003).

2) Taser is highly involved with coroners and medical examiners. Exactly why? What would be the motivation for Taser cultivating such relationships? Why coroners and medical examiners? What is the connection between Taser and coroners & medical examiners?

* The X26 is the newer taser model that appears to have, accidentally?, stepped away from the purported safety benefits of high frequency claimed for the older M26 model.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (30 Jan. 2008) - formal meeting notice

Taser Chairman Tom Smith will be in Ottawa (Canada) on 30 January 2008 (next Wednesday), appearing before the Canadian House of Commons - Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU).

This meeting is critical. It is the sharp end of democracy meeting the blunt end of the pure free market.

Details are linked below (please refer to the formal notice to ensure that your information is first-hand, up-to-date and accurate):

Link= SECU Home page

Link= Notice of meeting

Also appearing will be Stephen Palmer, Executive Director of the Canadian Police Research Centre. I'll bet you a dollar he won't be able to resist blaming something on "Excited Delirium" at least once.

Two hours for both of them seems to be a bit short for such a complex issue. I hope they get to the tough questions quickly.

I assume that a transcript will eventually appear. When it does I will find it, link to it, and dissect it.

UPDATE: It took a while, but the minutes are out. [LINK] Other SECU Minutes and Evidence are available on here [LINK].

High Taser Usage Stirs Controversy

Link= High Taser Usage Stirs Controversy

Frederick County, MD, USA: One officer, Corporal Rudy Torres, has deployed his taser seven times [another report says NINE] in the past two years. The local police force has had 70 taser deployments in two years.

Get this: "...the sheriff fiercely defends the number saying it reduces the times officers will pull their guns."

Reduce? Reduce? You're saying that Torres would have shot seven citizens, with his gun, in two years if it weren't for the taser? That your trigger-happy department would have killed 70 citizens in two years if it weren't for the taser? [Rolls-eyes...] Why do the police spokespeople sometimes sound like some sort of an 'Orwellian 1984-speak' when they are answering the taser controversy? There's enough illogical spin to make the world turn backwards.

Lawyer Ted William said, "This is a trigger-happy Sheriff's Department. The number of times they have utilized those tasers is shocking, in relation to the population of Frederick County."

Exactly right. This appears to be one of those jurisdictions where the taser deployment rate is roughly two orders of magnitude (100:1) above where you might expect to see the historical/accepted rate of police shootings. The only rational explanation is that they're using the taser not in self-defence or as a replacement for the gun, but much lower on the 'Use of Force' scale. Perhaps as a replacement for talking, reasoning, or waiting. Or perhaps as a pain-compliance device.

And what's the result? The statistics of overuse (=misuse) start to catch up and people die. Continuing the story: "Jarrel Gray's cause of death is still pending, as is a possible lawsuit..."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tasering people in medical distress

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A lawsuit by a man who said he was jolted with a stun gun and roughed up by police when he rejected medical aid following an epileptic seizure has been settled for $90,000. ...

Link= News on SeatllePi.com

Sigh...

Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (30 Jan. 2008)

Mr. Smith of Taser International, Inc is scheduled to appear before the SECU Committee on January 30, at 3:30 p.m. in room 269 West Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

It will be a public meeting and you are welcome to attend if you wish.


UPDATE: It took a while, but the minutes are out. [LINK] Other SECU Minutes and Evidence are available on here [LINK].

Bruce Culver, Independent Director

Looks like someone is cashing in some stock options...

11/01/07, CULVER BRUCE R, Director, Buy 43,334 $0.31/share
11/01/07, CULVER BRUCE R, Director, Buy 6,666 $0.38/share
11/01/07, CULVER BRUCE R, Director, Sell 50,000 $16.09/share

That's about $788,000 profit on exercising the two options.

The point is that these guys are dealing with some fairly substantial amounts of personal money. There's nothing wrong with making some good money, but there's also nothing wrong with making sure it is well known to people following the larger taser debate.

(For the record, I am not financially involved in this topic in any way. I'm just a normal Canadian that really doesn't like the way this whole taser issue is being presented by Taser and the police.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another comment that is a good summary

I left this comment on CommonDreams.org.

Most of the arguments presented by Taser and the police fall to pieces with even a cursory examination. Better than a gun? Taser deployments are about two orders of magnitude (~100:1) more frequent than the historical/accepted rate of police shootings. It’s not even a good lie that tasers replace the gun. Tasers replace talking; to just 24 seconds in the Vancouver Airport incident for example.

Tasers are safe? The technical details are a bit too complicated for the average person. But, putting it simply, the characteristics (frequency spectrum of the waveform) that Taser claims are safe on the older less-common M26 model are the opposite for the newer more-common X26 model introduced in 2003. It appears that they wanted to ensure that the newer model would ‘drop’ more criminals, but perhaps they overshot the mark a bit? There are also a few other examples of technical statements made by Taser or their Directors that are not accurate. These errors bring their technical competence into question. I’m sure that they’re well educated, but it appears that their confidence/competence ratio has slightly exceeded unity at times. When you’re dealing with life-and-death issues, you never (!) allow that to happen.

Ethics and money? Taser shows some signs of being an ethically-challenged organization. Former directors facing 142 years worth of criminal charges. Stock options everywhere you look. Friendly coroners accepting paid travel, but those that make findings that are not aligned with the company position are sued. Present “independent” (sic) director(s?) being heavily involved financially.

The police have major issues to address. Their Scale of Force tables appeared to be legally flawed. They appear to have confused lawful ‘force’ (noun) with illegally ‘force’ (verb) and thereby stepped over the fine line between The Rule of Law and A Police State. Example, “Do what I say or I will taser you” is illegal on several counts. If someone is illegally disobeying a lawful order, then add that charge to the list and bring them before the court using reasonable force. Nobody ever gave the police the right to apply ’severe pain’ to ‘intimidate’, or to ‘coerce’ obedience. Even the courts cannot apply electric shock as punishment. What lunatic police officer was the first to make the assumption that he now has more power than even the courts?

The above is in the situation of passive resistance or failure to cooperate. If the subject is violent, then the police are obviously allowed to defend themselves.

...

Friday, January 18, 2008

5 little words...

Lawful 'force' - noun or verb?

The above five words represents the most compact and powerful definition for the boundary between 'The Rule of Law' (noun) and 'A Police State' (verb) ever written.


The complete explanation is to be found on the blog's sidebar (right hand side).

My 'National Post' comment

I'm going to include this comment (which I posted to the National Post website) because it is a pretty good summary. It covers most of the major points and is fairly easy to read.


Taser are far more often misused than used. RCMP admits to 500 taser deployments per year. Ottawa City Police recently claimed 10 per day. I don't think that anyone even bothers to track the whole picture. But at least the media tracks the deaths.

These taser deployment numbers are orders of magnitude above the [historical/accepted] rate of police shootings (with their revolvers). Also, CBC News studied the stats and found that tasers do not reduce police shootings. But apparently they do reduce the time spent trying to talk to someone, for example to just 24 seconds in one well-known case.

The numbers, and the video evidence, CLEARLY indicate that the claim that tasers save lives (by replacing the gun) is nothing but whimsical propaganda. It's not even a good lie. It's clearly obvious that tasers are pretty far down the Use of Force Scale [even replacing talking] - and that is what I call misuse. Mr. Kennedy was kinder with his choice of words: usage creep. Creepy indeed.

If only it were true that tasers replaced guns, then we wouldn't even have to worry about the safety issues. I'm glad to see Mr. Smith continuing his slow and almost imperceptible retreat from the position that tasers are perfectly safe. People with some degree of common sense could see that already.

So we're left with the facts.

Tasers are being misused as a pain compliance device as opposed to a replacement for a gun.

Tasers are not as perfectly safe as Taser has maintained even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Taser has launched legal action against coroners that dared to place the blame squarely on the taser. They're proud of their "perfect record", but fail to spend much time discussing how they maintain it.

On top of all this, the Scale of Force tables used by police forces fail to demarcate a reasonable boundary between those that might be less than fully cooperating, and those that are violent.

Because of this blatant omission, we have fairly normal citizens (just like you and me) being tasered (tortured) for the most minor incidents such as mouthing off to a possibly-rude police officer, or being uncooperative.

Also, last time I checked the Canadian Criminal Code, Lawful 'force' was clearly a noun. The police seem to think it can also be a verb as in, 'Do what I say or I will taser you.' This approach is clearly illegal on several points (eg. 269.1 in case you want to look it up).

If someone is being uncooperative or passively resisting arrest, then charge them with that crime. Do not impose 'severe pain' to 'coerce' them to cooperate.

Even the courts aren't allowed to impose severe pain electric shock as a punishment, or an inducement to be obedient. So why the police?

There are also important questions concerning some technical issues. Taser claims a 100:1 safety margin because of the high frequency (50kHz) of the M26 model. But the similar and more common X26 model is only 19 Hz and is therefore (even by their analysis) forced to walk away from a claimed 100:1 safety margin.

Finally, other companies are now offering similar products with added safety features (better timers) for a fraction of the cost. Better and cheaper.

And someone should audit the Taser training because virtually all of the reprehensible behaviour that we see on YouTube is being done by officers that have received Taser training, and much of the training is traceable back to Taser.

There are so many issues that it's no wonder that the average citizen doesn't understand what's going on here.

Many of them will cling to the belief that "Yeah, but being tasered is still better than being shot...", and the endless loop begins. GOTO 10.


Next up - Parliamentary Committee

I haven't found the details yet [see update below]. But this morning CBC Radio mentioned that Taser Chairman Smith has been invited to appear at a committee meeting in the next few weeks.

I URGE THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS TO BRING IN SOME INDEPENDENT EXPERT WITNESSES. You need people with names that start with 'Prof.' and that are squeaky clean and not in Taser's pocket. Those experts (if they're new to the topic) need to start their review NOW. They can start with some of the issues identified in this blog. Use this blog as a 'suggestion box' for a laundry list of things to check. Please check all facts for yourself. The blog provides links back to applicable sources.

Link= SECU (This is the Commons Committee in question.)

Update: See newer post titled Mr. Smith goes to Ottawa (30 Jan. 2008) for details.

Reports from the Taser Dog&Pony Show

Headline= Taser chief faces criticism... (see the comments!)
Headline= Taser executive takes lumps from Toronto crowd
Headline= Taser executive faces tough questions
Headline= Taser exec takes shots from audience
Headline= Toronto crowd pile criticisms on Taser boss
Headline= Taser Inc.'s Shocking Spin (new!)

Excellent. Caught flat-footed! Publicly embarrassed!

I'm going to mark that down as a Humiliating Defeat for Taser.

Well done folks!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taser stock closes under $10

Their stock has lost $336M of market capitalization just since Xmas. They were almost a one-billion dollar company ($964M), but are now worth about $628M. Today they closed at $9.95. For the latest info, click the graph below.

Well? Any reports from Toronto?

Was the limited space so stacked with taser fan-boys that it became a useless exercise?

Did any media attend? Did they ask any difficult questions?

Did anyone get tasered?


Please send in your reports, or links to news stories. Either by attached comment, or by e-mail to the blog e-mail address (blue box part way down the blog's side bar).

Minnesotan shot with Taser dies

FRIDLEY, Minn., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A Minnesota man [who was in his 20s], who police say became uncooperative died after state troopers shot him with a Taser. ... He was pronounced dead... Five state troopers who were at the scene have been placed on routine administrative leave...

Link= UPI News

Key points:
1) Young man (therefore likely to have been reasonably healthy)
2) No mention of drugs
3) Victim was being "uncooperative" (no mention of being a threat)
4) FIVE troopers can't control one young man?

Although it is risky to jump to conclusions, there's enough data points to indicate that there's a problem. It's obvious even with common sense.


Update: Autopsy results are 'inconclusive'.

Well let's review.
1) Tasered
2) Heart stops
3) Dead

Hmmmmm.
Think think think...
What could it be?
What could it be?
Think think think...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taser Chairman Smith in T.O. Thurs 17 Jan. '08

A special welcome to the Honourable Members of Parliament and their staff. Also welcome to the reporters and researchers from The Globe & Mail, CBC News, and The National Post. And finally to those lawyers and law-firms that have been specially-invited to review this weblog.


Taser Chairman Thomas P. Smith is coming to Toronto on Thursday, 17 January 2008. See the posts below for details (but confirm with the hosts to be sure).

I've prepared a list of twenty questions that really should be asked. The two posts most relevant to his visit are just a few inches down the blog. Please scroll down a few inches.

I hope that by working together we can make Mr. Smith's visit to Canada a memorable one.

I'll be flabbergasted and disappointed if he is able to escape the well-deserved wrath of Canadians during his visit. I really hope and expect to see him flat-footed, faced with impossible questions about product safety, dubious training, questionable legality, ethical missteps, and so much more.

But don't get tasered for asking too many questions!!

Young (probably healthy) man tasered and dies

Miami: "After the [taser] discharge, Xavier Jones, 29, became unresponsive, and paramedics took him to Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables, where he was pronounced dead. ..."

Link= Miami Herald
Link= Local 10

It's very sad. Many police are taser trigger-happy because they've been trained that tasers are essentially perfectly safe. Even now, Taser continues to downplay the risks. I think that it's perfectly clear that some people have died after being tasered, and it's unlikely to simply be a series of 'excited delirium' coincidences. I'll bet you a dollar that the Taser reps are headed to Miami right now to provide 'expert assistance' during the investigation.

Questions for Thomas P. Smith, Chairman of Taser

Taser chairman is coming to T.O. on 17 January 2008 (details in previous post, see below after you read this...)


Welcome to Toronto Mr. Smith.

Did you have a nice flight? No problems at the airport? No delays at Immigration? You weren't tasered at any point along the way?

Let's play 20 Questions with Mr. Smith:

1) Given the obvious controversy and simmering public outrage surrounding your firm's products, do you think that the Canadian public will not notice and not take offense to you having such a cozy relationship with (for example) the Toronto Police? So much so that you're standing here, now, in their building, reportedly 'invited' by them, presumably for damage control. You don't think that this far-too-friendly relationship on blatant display here tonight is perhaps just a wee bit too bleedingly-obvious? I mean, come on boys... Get a room!

2) On the same subject: I notice that this meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 pm. 7pm seems quite an early closure time for such an important topic. Is that because you're planning to have a lovely (expensive) dinner out tonight, with hungry and thirsty police officials (local or otherwise), after this meeting closes at 7PM, or at any other point during your visit to Canada? If so, who will be paying the tab?

Apologies in advance if this embarrassing question forces you to cancel your dinner plans. That's actually the purpose.

3) Your firm ravaged Mr. Ruggieri and his report, primarily with an outrageous ad hominem attack. The crux of your technical defence seems to hang on the stated high frequency ("50kHz") of the M26 taser. However, an examination of the M26 waveform indicates that there exists a significant low frequency component (11 - 25 Hz) in the spectrum distribution of the current.

The X26 is apparently much worse. In fact, the X26 waveform could most fairly be described as a DC pulse, with a short burst of 100kHz noise on the leading edge, all repeating at 19Hz. Putting it plain and simple, the X26 waveform is 19 Hz. In the event that you disagree with this simple description, Taser Director Mark Kroll described the X26 waveform as "19Hz" in his recent article in IEEE Spectrum (December 2007). On the face of it, this fact seems to vindicate Mr. Ruggieri's basic point (but on the X26, if not on the M26).

So my question is this. If the inherent calculated safety margin of the taser waveform is roughly 15:1 (as I've seen stated), and (especially in the case of the X26) you're forced to walk away from the 100:1 safety advantage that Taser claimed for the 'high frequency' (sic) waveform, then what inherent safety margin remains?

By 'inherent', I mean other than the random placement of the two barbs (which is literally, luck of the draw)?

4) If the 'Advanced' M26 waveform is safer than the X26 waveform, then why is the X26 still your largest seller? Why haven't you stopped its sale, and even recalled it?

5) The X26 repeats the shock waveform 19 times per second. The 'Advanced' M26 is, inexplicably, much less accurately controlled and repetition rate varies between 11 and 25 cycles per second. Taser has recommended a five-second application. In either case, this represents approximately one-hundred shocks per firing. Does your calculated inherent safety margin include the fact that you're repeating the risk one hundred times per deployment cycle? Did you ever learn in Grade 5 that 'unlikely' become 'certainty' if you keep trying.

6) Why do your designers feel it is necessary to have the X26 waveform repeat at 19 cycles per second? Given that the waveform is more than perfectly capable of 'locking up' the victim with each cycle, why not repeat the shock perhaps just 2 or 3 times per second? Is the victim going to have time to fight back in one-third of a second?

7) The 'Maurice Cunningham' incident: He was tasered six times, including one application that was a continuous two minutes and forty-nine seconds in duration. He died, and his death was attributed to the tasering incident. How can you possibly justify designing the taser so that it permits continuous shocking for nearly three minutes? I calculate that he was shocked more than 3000 times! If it is dangerous to use the taser repeatedly (as Taser has been forced to admit), then why didn't you include a simple timer circuit to avoid this misuse and risk? Did Taser over-estimate the safety margin and therefore decide to allow unlimited duration? In hindsight, was this a huge mistake? Was this lack of foresight due to negligent design, over-confidence and the lack of a risk (to victim) management process?

8) You've proudly claimed that the taser is deployed 620 times per day. This is 226,300 times per year. It is probably safe to assume that most of these deployments occur in the USA. If the taser was really strictly being used as a non-lethal, sorry... 'less-lethal', alternative to the policeman's sidearm (gun), then don't these numbers seem just 'a wee bit' high? 'A wee bit' being roughly two orders of magnitude (~100:1)?

Were the police in the USA really shooting 226,300 of their own citizens per year before the taser came along 'to make things safer'? Did the RCMP normally shoot 500 Canadians per year before they got their hands on the taser? The Ottawa city police mentioned "10 times per day" - possibly a sick joke. In fact, since the taser is not universally carried by all police, these ludicrous numbers are very very conservative. A more complete analysis can only be much worse.

Do you have any comment on this clear evidence of a very high rate of illegal misuse of the taser as a pain-compliance device? Would it affect your sales too much if you issued a sternly-worded Training Bulletin to remind the users of the appropriate and legal applications of a taser?

Do you think that the training (which is designed and/or approved by Taser) has contributed to the reprehensible behaviour of some police officers as so clearly documented by leaked footage?

9) "TASER International asserts that the taser is safe for use on anyone weighing 60 pounds or more." In other words, children. Are you insane?

10) In the wake of the Dziekanski killing at Vancouver Airport, the RCMP watchdog Kennedy issued a stern report making clear recommendations. Have you read the report? Are you prepared to endorse it? If not, why not?

11) Taser won a product liability lawsuit based on the strange argument, "...Taser argued that it did not know that the muscle contractions produced by the weapon were strong enough to cause a fracture." So, is there anything else about your products that you don't know? Are the public part of your beta-testing program?

12) You've proudly stated that many hundreds of thousands of people have been tasered as part of their training, or as demonstrations. From what I have seen, these so-called tests appear to done in a manner that does not reflect actual street deployments of the X26 or M26. In other words: FAKE. The demonstrations are normally done in 'drive mode' where the shock is applied across a small area well away from the chest. Or perhaps with the wires connected from belt buckle to ankle. Neither of these placements reflect the design or usage of the X26 (or M26) where the barbs are fired in the general direction of the victim's chest (where in normal people, you'll find something called a 'heart').

To address this point. Would you be willing to ensure that all future training and public demonstrations of the taser include manually placing the barbs into the chest in the exact locations determined to be least safe, pushed all the way in, and the X26 taser triggered continuously for approximately 2 minutes and 49 seconds? Would you be willing to make this standard policy? If not, why not?

13) Your design team should have prepared a complete tolerance analysis of the end-to-end system (including the victim, and the variations between victims) for each taser model. If such an analysis is done properly, then it would provide a reasonably accurate indication of the expected risks with a clear numerical result (a range with 95% confidence) for each risk item. The result of such analysis is never 'no risk'; that answer simply indicates that you've failed to conduct the study. Everything has a risk, and a product such as a taser should be accompanied with clear information describing that risk. It is clearly not acceptable to fail to provide such information in a case like this. Can you produce this documentation? If you can't, why not?

14) There are news stories where police claim that their tasers have failed. There are other news stories that mention that the quality control at Taser is not up to accepted standards.

Is Taser ISO-9000 certified? Has Taser achieved CMMI certification for its design and manufacturing processes and procedures? Given the apparent connection to life-or-death issues, don't you think it would be wise to achieve the sort of certifications that are common-place for less critical products, such as televisions?

15) Do the X26 and M26 tasers have circuits to control the peak current in the event that the victim is more like 75 ohms instead of the assumed 400 ohms? If not, why not? Does this failure to include current limits erode your assumed safety factor for some victims in some circumstances?

16) There was a graph in the recent IEEE Spectum article that showed that the taser waveform was just above the pain threshold, well below the point where muscles are locked-up, far below the point where it would interfere with breathing, and far far below where it might cause the heart to act erratically.

But we know that the taser causes extreme pain, that it actually does lock-up muscles as intended, and now Taser has admitted that it may impair breathing. It seems to be creeping up closer and closer to the line marked "Causes heart to behave erratically". So my question is as follows: Why is this chart, presumably prepared by Kroll and/or Taser, so clearly misleading with respect to the placement of the taser data point?

17) Also, why does Taser maintain that a taser death would have to be immediate, when the chart, presumably prepared by Kroll and/or Taser, uses the descriptive phrase 'behave erratically'. Obviously this description would admit that prediction of the sequence of events, possibly leading to death, are unpredictable. So why does Taser continue to hold the position that a taser-death must be immediate when their own chart admits the opposite?

18) What about the independent report by Valentino et al that clearly demonstrated that cardiac rhythm capture is dependent on discharge vector. Other independent reports are finding similar issues. Why do independent studies tend to find more problems than studies where Taser provided the funding? Is the taser expensive in part because of the liability insurance that Taser must pay for each unit sold?

19) Are you familiar with section 269.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code? Do you know that (for example) any demos of tasers in Canada would be a perfectly-clear violation of that section (unless the victim held down the trigger by himself). Did you do any demos in Canada? How about tonight? Were any police present? Was anyone arrested for violating 269.1? Are you planning to stay in Canada for the next 14 years?

269.1: "...every person acting...with the consent or acquiescence of a [Peace Officer*], who inflicts [severe pain] on any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years."

(*And if the Peace Officer isn't present, then what are you doing possessing, and using, a Prohibited or Restricted Weapon?)

20) One last question for everyone present: Do you think that lawful 'force' is a noun, or a verb?

Friday, January 11, 2008

How cozy - Taser and Toronto Police, lovey dovey

A Public Forum with Thomas P. Smith, Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder, TASER International, Inc.
Hosted by The Toronto Police Services Board
(WTF???)
Date: Thursday January 17, 2008
Time: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
[He couldn't even answer just MY questions in 2 hours]
Place: Toronto Police Headquarters (WTF???)
40 College Street Auditorium, Toronto ON

Recent events have raised questions about the proper use, [ABUSE], effects, [DEATHS] and desirability, [frequent and clearly illegal use as a pain-compliance device] of the TASER as a tool for policing [and application as a TORTURE device in violation of 269.1]. This is your opportunity to hear directly from the Chairman of TASER International and to have your questions answered by him [THERE WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH TIME].

[And look for the 'bucket of turds'... (explained below)*]

Space is limited.

For further information, please call 416-808-8080.


Let's make a few predictions:
1) The limited space will be stacked with taser fan-boys.
2) There will be a few of those faked taser demos described below (leg, not heart).
3) No one will enforce Criminal Code 269.1 (re: item 2 above).
4) There will not be an across-the-chest, 2min 49sec tasering with a stock X26.
5) Anyone asking an endless series of tough questions will be tasered and thrown out.
6) Afterwards, senior police staff and Taser folks will go out for a lovely, and very expensive, dinner at a fine restaurant. Smith will pick-up the tab. Well, unless it is canceled due to people asking pesky questions.


Link= News Tidbit on Shameless
Link= On CRC of T


* 'Bucket of turds' explained:

Some people have an amazing skill. They can walk out onto a stage in front of a thousand people and in front of the world media, plop down a large bucket of turds, gently step into the bucket of turds with both feet, then make a one-hour speech and take one hour of questions, and somehow - throughout the entire event - never make any mention of, nor any reference to, the bucket of turds.

If any explicit or direct questions are asked about the bucket of turds, then a long-winded answer will ensue that inexplicably spins around and amazingly continues to avoid any mention of the bucket of turds.

Sometimes I think that the subsequent applause is for the actual skill involved; not for the typically inane position taken by such people on important issues.

'Bucket of turds' - once you know what it's called, then you can start to see it everywhere.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Unbelieveable attitude - considering the events of late-2007

"...Taser want Canadians to be able to buy the personal defense version of the popular stun gun, including the new female-friendly pink, red and leopard-print models announced this week."

Link= Winnipeg Sun

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Regarding "a Pre-existing Medical Condition"

Once upon a time:

You're walking down the sidewalk, and decide to punch someone in the face just because it's been a lousy day. Okay, here comes someone... POW! Ah, that felt good.

Oh dear, he appears to have coincidentally died. The death occurred sometime after you punched him, but evidently before his lifeless corpse hit the sidewalk in a heap.

How strange that he died, because you really didn't punch him any harder than all the other people you've been punching over the years. It's very strange that this one would die so easily. But you did notice that his head felt quite a bit softer than normal. Very unusual.

At this point Inspector Plod of The Yard fingers your collar and drags you up before The Beak. (Translation from UK English into normal English: At this point a police officer arrests you and takes you to see the judge.)

The judge demands, "How did the victim die?"

You tentatively offer the suggestion, "It was Excited Delirium, m'Lord."

Sometime later that day, after everyone recovers from laughing their asses off, the court reconvenes. The judge, still wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, tries again, "Okay, let's ask the coroner what's what."

The coroner explains that the victim has had, for his entire life, a very thin skull. The thin skull was adequate for day-to-day living and never caused the victim any problems. At least not until the defendant punched him in the face - then he died. The coroner, giving you a quick wink, then concludes, "Such punches are not normally fatal, therefore the primary cause of death was obviously the victim's thin skull."

You exchange imperceptible smiles with the coroner.

Your defense attorney leaps to his feet and says, "See? It isn't the fault of the defendant. The victim had a, ahem, ah, yes, here it is: a Pre-ex-is-ting Med-i-cal Con-di-tion."

The judge slowly pushes his glasses down to the very end of his nose and then fixes you and your attorney with a hard stare that pierces your very souls. You turn slightly pale and quiver; the room suddenly seems 10 degrees colder. Even the ceiling fan with the noisy bearing instantly and inexplicably spins in perfect silence; perhaps it knows what is about to happen.

The judge clears his throat.

"Idiots! It's Common Law and common sense...

You take your victims as you find them.

Guilty as hell."

X26 vice M26

Be careful that Taser doesn't bamboozle you and the jury by using the propaganda technique of pretending to ignore the various models. There are a slew of models, including some with a nice leopard-skin covering [rolls-eyes].

For example: the X26 and M26 have entirely different electrical waveform characteristics as discussed below. I suspect that the X26 waveform is more dangerous than the M26, because the X26 has all the bad points that Taser says are good points in the 'Advanced' M26. But that's just an observation.

If you're representing a victim of the X26, then keep them on-topic and don't let them slippery-slide into how safe the M26 really is...

On the subject of RF emissions...

I received a kind reply from Industry Canada (the folks there are very nice). Apparently the tasers are exempt from licensing in Canada, because there are more important things to worry about than regulating RF emissions from battery-powered torture devices.

Anyway, thank you to Industry Canada for their detailed and speedy reply. The details are appended to the applicable post below.

But before you run off to review the updates to the 'FCC & IC' post, consider this...

What also falls out of this RF emission issue is that the use (and misuse) of tasers behind closed doors could theoretically be detected by means of their (apparently perfectly-legal in Canada) burst of RF noise on either 50 or 100kHz. Each taser model would probably have a distinctive signature in both the frequency and time domains. Direction Finding techniques could triangulate the location.

The torture victim's variables (his conductivity, perhaps his dielectric properties) may also impact the details of these signature elements.

Buzzz-Buzzz-Buzzz. "Hey Fred look at this. They're tasering Bob again..."

Human-rights organizations and others, if they have the requirement, may wish to investigate this possible 'technical means' of detecting and tracking taser use and abuse by way of RF remote sensing. I have no idea what the radio range would be (probably up to 1km [a guess] more or less, depending on conditions and techniques). Some quick-and-dirty experimentation would be required to confirm the concept.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Canadian Police Research Centre

... Given all of this information, it is difficult to image how the Canadian Police Research Institute [Centre] reached its conclusion that the benefits of the Taser and similar devices outweigh the risks they pose to anyone who is shocked with any of them. ...

Link= YourLawyer.com


Well, the CPRC announced that they're going to try again. They're going to gather data for one year starting on 1 January 2008 and write another report.

May I make a strong suggestion? Why not include late-2007 in this study? Do you have any reason not to go back a few months and include the recent spate of taser-related deaths in late-2007?

Any reason at all?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Charming... (it never seems to end...)

Found on the web:

James Cairns, one of Canada's most high-profile coroners, who publicly advocates the use of the stun gun, has become one of the top Canadian experts Taser officials turn to for help shoring up public support for their products in times of crisis... ...dropped out because he was testifying at an inquiry in Ontario, where he admitted to shielding disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.

Link= 'You have to pay for your own expertise...'

Link= Coroners and Taser

Link= Coroner/Taser relationships to be probed

Personally, I'm disgusted. There are almost certainly existing laws that would make such cozy relationships illegal, probably on several counts. The answer to any such 'dirty tricks' that might be uncovered is an outright ban.

Must be painful to be sitting on the fence like that...

Compare and contrast the following:

A: 25 March 2007: Taser - The TASER ECD Does Not Interfere with Breathing."

B: 28 June 2005: Taser International has further elaborated... Its training bulletin advises that "repeated, prolonged and continuous exposures to the Taser may cause strong muscle contractions that may impair breathing and respiration, particularly when the probes are placed [?!?] around the chest or diaphragm."


WHY DID THE BELOW (August 20007) FOLLOW THE ABOVE (28 June 2005)?


RCMP - "In August 2007, Royal Canadian Mounted Police changed its force's protocol on Taser use, from discouraging multiple Taser shocks to suggesting that multiple shocks may bring a subject in a state of excited delirium under control more quickly. ..."

Then in late-2007 we have a flurry of deaths associated with taserings.

Late-2007 - an observation

Taser sure has a lot of balls in the air right now. They should join the circus.

Charming... (it continues...)

Globe and Mail - December 11, 2007

Perhaps no one is more responsible for tasers coming to Canada than [Sgt.] Darren Laur. The veteran Victoria police officer played a pivotal role in a 1998 pilot program that led to his force adopting the weapons permanently.

A subsequent research [*] paper he wrote - which concluded that tasers were safe and effective - laid the groundwork for the devices' spread to police departments across the country.

[* If it is the paper I saw, it is not actually a 'research' paper, but more like a 'review' paper. And, to be fair, others were involved as well. If that's the paper they're referring to.]

...

"I do consider Sgt. Laur to have been in an apparent and perceived conflict of interest by reason of having held a financial interest in TASER through his stock options," the investigator, Inspector Cory Bond, wrote in her report. ...


Sigh...

Link= Copy of Globe and Mail article

[Copyright Notice - Fair Use is claimed for the above small extract for purposes of education, discussion of an important public-policy issue, criticism, and so on. The complete article is available for purchase from The Globe and Mail.]

Charming...

Bernie Kerik was on the Taser Board of Directors (2002-2005). He made $6.2M through stock options.

He is now (late-2007) facing 16 charges and up to 142 years in prison and fines of up to $4.7M.

Link= Bernie Kerik on wiki

You really should follow the above link. It's actually hilarious.

Please pass a bucket of warm tar and a very wide brush...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A review of where we are at this point...

(Updated 7-Jan-08)

1) A taser obviously causes severe pain (or worse). The Canadian Criminal Code clearly defines torture as severe pain, and states that torture is a crime. The only escape clause ('lawful sanction') doesn't look useful; it would also lead to the absurd paradox of permitting severe pain (torture) upon a third person if allowed. So don't assume that you're covered under that clause. That clause appears to be designed to exclude the mental suffering caused by time in prison or fines (both lawful sanctions); nothing more.

2) Using a taser as a pain-compliance device is therefore clearly illegal on several counts. Note that 'just following orders' (in any form, including approved 'Use of Force' policy) is explicitly not a defence for this crime. The torture charge sticks to the one pressing the trigger. Note also that Peace Officers are explicitly listed. So any use of tasers as a pain-compliance device risks the operator 14 years in the clink - think about that.

3) Using a taser as an on-the-spot extra-judicial punishment is obviously illegal for many of the same reasons. It's so obvious that it's not even worth discussing.

4) The only legal application for a taser is to replace a police pistol (or perhaps just barely below that point, but very close). We don't need to change the law to enable this policy. It is already the Law of the Land.

5) RCMP admits to 3000 deployments in six years. That is 500 per year. Deployments by OTHER law enforcement agencies in Canada would be IN ADDITION to this rate (Ottawa City Police mentioned 'ten times per day' - I assume that he was just joking). BC seems to be another hot-spot. The RCMP does not normally shoot-to-kill 500 people a year. That ludicrous number approaches the overall murder rate for Canada. The phrase 'taser trigger happy' seems appropriate, and this reflects very badly on the training instigated by Taser.

6) The above facts coalesce to form a very disturbing conclusion: the apparent rate of possibly-illegal misuse of tasers (pain-compliance and extra-judicial punishment) in Canada appears to be significant. Depending on how you crunch the 500+ per year numbers, and what you think is appropriate, then you get some pretty big percentages.

7) Kennedy was exactly right in his recommendations (ALL of them). In fact, the most controversial of his recommendations (the one that the RCMP is reportedly least happy with), concerning the placement of the taser on the scale of force just before the pistol, is actually redundant. It's already the Law of the Land.

8) Because of the scientific uncertainty of the actual safety of the X26, it should be banned until an independent scientific analysis is completed. You might want to double-check the M26 as well. Taser sock-puppets may not even attend. Do not rely on any Taser-funded studies, there has been too much money and too many stock options floating around during recent years.

9) There should be government standards set for such devices. Taser has been playing in a pure free-market and that is not appropriate for devices that have been so commonly associated with death. In Canada, we regulate such devices. Always.

Lawful 'force' is a noun, not a verb...

Update: 15 Jan 2008.

The context of the following discussion on pain-compliance is a situation involving a subject that is essentially non-threatening (on a reasonable scale!); and unresponsive, or passively resisting, or non-compliant, or slow-to-respond, or anything similar. On the other hand, if the perpetrator is (for example) strangling a police officer, then the police officer is obviously perfectly entitled to defend himself or herself through whatever means are available.

----------------------------------------------------

I've gone through the applicable sections of the Criminal Code of Canada (link below), and the word 'force', when applied to the concept of lawful force, is ALWAYS a noun, NEVER a verb.

In other words, the police do not actually have a blank check to 'force' (verb) you to do what they want you to do. They are simply allowed to apply reasonable physical 'force' (noun) to move you into the position that they're legally entitled to place you. And they are quite clearly not allowed to use threat of torture, nor actual torture, to 'force' (verb) you to submit to their orders.

The Criminal Code of Canada is full of crimes by omission. So if you cheerfully choose to passively disobey a lawful order - well, that omission would be a crime and the police would be perfectly entitled to bundle you up, take you downtown, and add that charge to your ever-growing charge sheet. But they're not allowed to torture with a taser you to force (verb) you to comply.

And the taser devices CLEARLY meet the definition of torture: "...any act or omission by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person..." It is perfectly clearly that the tasers cause what can be fairly described as 'excruciating pain' and that is far far and away above 'severe pain' which is already banned.

Perhaps a wrist-lock (for example), if applied reasonably, is somewhere below 'severe pain' and it would seem therefore to be quite reasonably not be considered to be torture. There's a line in the sand, written by the Canadian Parliament and that line is 'severe pain'. The taser is so far above that line that there's probably not much space above it.

From what I have read, I think that I would choose water-boarding over a good tasering. Both are horrendous, but I'd choose the water.

I honestly believe that there has been a serious misunderstanding of the law on this subtle (noun/verb) point over recent decades. Back in the 1960s, I think that everyone knew that it was legal for the police riot squads to lift up and drag away protesters - and that is what normally happened. If any heads were unnecessarily clubbed, then there was an immediate outcry about violations of civil rights and rightly so. But we've forgotten this recent history.

Since the development of things like pepper-spray and tasers, the nuances of the Queen's English have been overlooked and the police seem to think that they're allowed to 'force' (verb) people to obey their orders. But that's NOT what the law states. Because this issue has sort-of crept up on us, nobody has really noticed. The modern 'hey dude' educational standards don't help either.

ANY USE of the taser device as a pain-compliance device is not protected under the law, is excessive in any case, and finally it amounts to unlawful torture for purposes of "...intimidating or coercing the person...". Therefore, it is clearly not legal on several counts.

In summary:
1) The police are allowed to use reasonable 'force' (noun).
2) The police are not allowed to 'force' (verb) people.
3) Especially not by using torture, or threat of torture, for purposes of intimidating or coercing.
4) The use of a taser as a pain-compliance device clearly constitutes torture.

If you actually set out to bring the administration of justice into disrepute, then one way to bring this about would be to hand out potentially-dangerous torture devices, allow the manufacturer to pull the strings on the training, and then disregard the deployment statistics that clearly indicate that they're being misused.

It seems perfectly clear to me that if the police feel (or are) entitled to use pain-compliance on people, that is the defining boundary of a police state. On the other hand, if their authority is limited to (gently) bringing the subject before The Court to answer the charges (including disobeying a lawful order if applicable) then that is what is known as The Rule Of Law.

In summary, if we allow lawful 'force' to be a verb (which leads to allowing use of the taser as a pain-compliance device), then we've just step over the line. And on that side of the line is a slippery slope to hell.


See sidebar for a Philosophy-101 analysis that reaches the same conclusion.

Link= Criminal Code of Canada (English)


PS: For our American cousins:

You might wish to check your own laws to see what's what. The USA is a great country and I can only assume that your Civil Rights laws are at least as good as Canada's. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 probably has something to say on the subject.

Criminal Code of Canada - on 'torture' (analysis)

So, what the heck is a "lawful sanction"? Because if you read the 'torture' section of the Criminal Code (copied below) carefully, you will see that the ONLY allowance for what would otherwise be called 'torture' is when it is applied in relation to a "lawful sanction".

The phrase "lawful sanction" only appears once in the entire Criminal Code of Canada, at that one instance is under 'torture'. So it is not really well-defined.

But I think that it is obvious that field operatives such as police have not been given the authority to determine when application of severe pain is to be considered a lawful sanction as opposed to plain-and-simple torture. They're not qualified, and frankly a civilized society should never put such powers in the hands of the police. That's the fine line that is crossed to become a police-state. Determining sanctions of any sort is the power we have given to the courts alone.

And note this: If somehow things get so twisted that certain authorities claim that this torture escape clause ('lawful sanctions') is applicable to the police using the taser as a pain-compliance device, then realize that this sort of twisted interpretation would also permit tasering (or torturing) a third person, for example: your child, to force (verb) you to obey their direction. So it seems pretty clear that this one-and-only exception is off-limits by any reasonable interpretation.

Obviously the taser causes excruciating pain. And 'severe pain' (including excruciating pain) is torture. And torture is an illegal act when administered by any Canadian officer anywhere in the world. If the police think that they have an exception, then they're mistaken. There is no exception except 'lawful sanctions' which isn't even their department.

The Kennedy Report, which recommends moving the taser devices back up the 'force' (noun) scale to just before guns, is exactly right.

Damn he is good.


By the way - I've read something about how the Canadian military (DND) now has some very good training about all the legal issues surrounding torture. I understand that DND is now in really good shape on this topic (no doubt world-class). Perhaps the DND Legal Big-Brains should meet-up with the RCMP Legal Medium-Brains, and perhaps they could agree that the policies and procedures that are good enough for the Taliban prisoners might also be good enough for Canadian citizens.

(Credit to Michael Moore for this sort of comparison.)

Criminal Code of Canada - on 'torture' (cut & paste)

Torture

269.1 (1) Every official, or every person acting at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of an official, who inflicts torture on any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

Definitions

(2) For the purposes of this section, "official"
«fonctionnaire »

"official" means

(a) a peace officer,

(b) a public officer,

(c) a member of the Canadian Forces, or

(d) any person who may exercise powers, pursuant to a law in force in a foreign state, that would, in Canada, be exercised by a person referred to in paragraph (a), (b), or (c),

whether the person exercises powers in Canada or outside Canada;

"torture"
«torture »

"torture" means any act or omission by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person

(a) for a purpose including

(i) obtaining from the person or from a third person information or a statement,

(ii) punishing the person for an act that the person or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, and

(iii) intimidating or coercing the person or a third person, or

(b) for any reason based on discrimination of any kind,

but does not include any act or omission arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

No defence

(3) It is no defence to a charge under this section that the accused was ordered by a superior or a public authority to perform the act or omission that forms the subject-matter of the charge or that the act or omission is alleged to have been justified by exceptional circumstances, including a state of war, a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency.

Evidence

(4) In any proceedings over which Parliament has jurisdiction, any statement obtained as a result of the commission of an offence under this section is inadmissible in evidence, except as evidence that the statement was so obtained.

R.S., 1985, c. 10 (3rd Supp.), s. 2.

By the way, are the Taser products FCC & IC approved?

After all, they do use radio frequencies (50 and 100 kHz). I bet they didn't think of it.

They do have a reputation of playing fast-and-loose with approvals. There was some sort of incident where they got caught mentioning UL approval that reportedly did not exist.

Link= Taser and UL

I'll have to check the FCC and Industry Canada databases. If nothing is listed under Taser, then time for a couple of nice e-mails. We can't have their products polluting the precious radio spectrum.


Update: Oh my. FCC:check. Industry Canada:check. Nothing listed. E-mails sent (copied below).

This is actually a very good test to see if the quasi-political influence of Taser extends into these branches of government. I'm sure it doesn't. Even the military has to obey the spectrum regulators.

The fact that these devices are apparently not listed is very interesting. Even if they had a waiver, then you'd still expect to see a record in each of the databases, and the assigned approval numbers.

And even if there is a special dispensation for governments and police forces, this would not apply to selling unlicensed products to the public, bounty hunters, security people in Best Buy stores, and so on.

Well, they got Al Capone on tax evasion; maybe the good old FCC will bring down Taser.

If this actually plays-out the way I hope it does, then I won't be able to stop laughing for years.

UPDATE: Not going well... See reply from Industry Canada below.
UPDATE: FCC replied again... (see bottom of post)

=======================================

Hello FCC,

TASER International Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ manufactures and sells a range of Conducted Energy Weapons ('Tasers') that are known to employ radio frequencies, such as 100kHz (Taser model X26) and 50 kHz (Taser model M26). The waveform of the X26 is not narrow-band; the M26 may be better in this regard.

Worse yet, these radio frequencies are conducted along long trailing wires that would likely act as antennas to some degree. These wires are not radio frequency shielded and do not remain as a closely-spaced pair for RF suppression. The stated voltages are as high as 50,000 volts, and currents as high as 15 or 18 amperes have been mentioned. This burst of RF repeats essentially continuously at either 11-25 Hz (M26) or 19 Hz (X26). Please note that although the manufacturer recommends only a five second burst, repeated as required, there have been reports of continuous activations as long as 2 minutes and 49 seconds. Also the manufacturer has reported that these devices are used about 620 times per day (211,300 times per year, primarily in the USA) and this rate of usage is likely to increase. Apparently they've sold hundreds of thousands of these devices.

The potential for radio frequency interference is obvious.

I did a quick search of FCC for the keyword 'taser' and nothing applicable was found. There are a couple of Taser FCC-ID files mentioning 433.92 MHz, but they obviously have nothing to do with what I'm asking about.

Can you please double-check to make sure that this manufacturer is following all the FCC rules, and that these products (X26 and M26, that quite obviously use radio frequencies) have been properly designed, tested, certified and licensed for sale and use in the USA?

Based on what I've seen, I can't believe that they are.

[REDACTED]

Best wishes and thank you very much.

[REDACTED]

//signed//
[REDACTED]

CC: [REDACTED]

===================================

Dear [REDACTED],

Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This is an automated message to confirm that we have received your correspondence. We will review your information to determine how we can best serve you.

If you need to send additional information, you may reply back with this email, leaving the case number ([REDACTED]) in the subject line, or contact us at our toll free phone number 1-888-[REDACTED] (1-888-[REDACTED]) and reference the case number.

The Federal Communications Commission

=====================================

Hello Industry Canada's Certification Bureau,

TASER International Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ manufactures and sells a range of Conducted Energy Weapons ('Tasers') that are known to employ radio frequencies, such as 100kHz (Taser model X26) and 50 kHz (Taser model M26). The waveform of the X26 is not narrow-band; the M26 may be better in this regard.

Worse yet, these radio frequencies are conducted along long trailing wires that would likely act as antennas to some degree. These wires are not radio frequency shielded and do not remain as a closely-spaced pair for RF suppression. The stated voltages are as high as 50,000 volts, and currents as high as 15 or 18 amperes have been mentioned. This burst of RF repeats essentially continuously at either 11-25 Hz (M26) or 19 Hz (X26).

Please note that although the manufacturer recommends only a five second burst, repeated as required, there have been reports of continuous activations for as long as 2 minutes and 49 seconds. Also the manufacturer has reported that these devices are used about 620 times per day (211,300 times per year, primarily in the USA) and this rate of usage is likely to increase.

Apparently they've sold hundreds of thousands of these devices primarily in the USA, but also Canada. The number of the devices already in Canada is unknown, but the RCMP have admitted to 3000 uses in the six years up until December 2007. That's 500 times per year, or nearly twice per day. These devices may be in the hands of other organizations in Canada as well. So the actual usage in Canada is significant.

The potential for radio frequency interference is obvious, [REDACTED].

I did a search of the Industry Canada [REDACTED] for the company name 'taser' and nothing was found. This implies that perhaps they have overlooked their responsibilities to ensure that devices that use radio frequencies (including 50 or 100 kHz) and approved and licensed for sale and use in Canada.

Can you please double-check to make sure that this manufacturer is following all the Industry Canada rules, and that these products (X26 and M26, that quite obviously use radio frequencies) have been properly designed, tested, certified and licensed for sale and use in the Canada?

Based on what I've seen, I can't believe that they are. In fact it seems likely that they violate many EMI/EMC design principles.

[REDACTED]

[REDACTED]

Best wishes and thank you very much.

[REDACTED]

//signed//
[REDACTED]

CC: [REDACTED]


PS: [REDACTED]

============================================

In the interest of being as accurate as possible, here is the bad news (received late today 7-Jan-08) from the ever-efficient, quick to respond, Canadian spectrum regulator:

============================================

Dear [REDACTED],

The use
[and possession I believe, I hope...] of Tasers in Canada is prohibited except for Law Enforcement agencies.

[REDACTED]

Tasers are considered as unintentional radiators and since they are operating with frequencies above 10 kHz, they would normally have to comply with the standard ICES-003 (Interference Causing Equipment Standard - Digital Apparatus) but they are exempted from compliance by section 1.2.2 (i) of ICES-003.

[This standard and section basically states that the device is an unintentional emitter, not a transmitter, is battery powered, not AC powered, and is less than 1.7MHz. I'll pay $10 to the first person to 'do a Marconi', span the Atlantic with a taser-generated signal. I'm offering only $10 because I don't think that it would be all that difficult. Anyway, back to IC's response...]

Therefore Tasers do not have to be certified under an Industry Canada standard and/or be licensed to be used by Canadian Law Enforcement Agencies.


[REDACTED]

Best regards,

[REDACTED]

[REDACTED]
Industry Canada
[REDACTED]

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Oh well, it was worth a shot.

My sincere thanks to I.C. for their detailed and quick response. Hey! Any chance of reconsidering the taser as a 'medical device' that needs to put under the ISM rules? After all, it is often used by First Responders to 'help' (sic) people that are in medical distress. It certainly affects the bodily functions, even the heart on occasion. This is something to keep in mind if the definitions allow the reconsideration and a change is required or desired. Or how about opening up the spark ignition section to include tasers? Quite similar in many ways.

UPDATE: FCC is on the case (if any).

==========================================

Dear [REDACTED]

You are receiving this email in response to [REDACTED].

Thank you for contacting the FCC Consumer Center.

Your information has been passed to [REDACTED] for further review. Enforcement actions that may or may not be pending is sensitive information and supplied only on a need to know basis.

Information supplied by tips may be passed on to the appropriate office/bureau for action without acknowledgment to the originator of that information.

IEC 479-1 applicable to Taser X26 ???

Mr. Max Nerheim, Vice President of Research and Development for TASER International, Inc., stated:

"Mr. Ruggieri's assertions are predicated on published safety guidelines in International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 479-1. Unfortunately, the standards published in IEC 479-1 are only applicable to low frequency, continuous duty cycle, AC electrical currents of less than 100 Hz, such as one would experience from an electrical wall outlet and not the output one would receive from a TASER device."

Here is the somewhat-redundant list of criteria mentioned:
1) 'low frequency''
2) 'continuous duty cycle'
3) 'AC electrical currents'
4) 'less than 100 Hz' (as opposed to low frequency?)

The Taser X26 waveform contains significant spectral components (current) at the low frequency (1) of 19 Hz and harmonics of 19 Hz. This component is 100% continuous duty cycle (2) for as long as the trigger is held down. The 19 Hz is created by the pulsating DC and is, by definition: AC, electrical, and a current (3). And the fundamental (19 Hz) through to the 5th harmonic (95 Hz) are all less than 100 Hz (4).

The M26 also has to have some amount of low frequency component in its frequency spectrum, but it isn't clear if the absolute amplitude is greater than or less than the X26. On the one hand the stated peak current is five times higher, but on the other hand a nicely damped sine wave probably minimizes the pulse frequency (at 11-25 Hz*) component somewhat. I suspect that the M26 is 'less than' the X26.

Has anyone checked to see if the Taser X26 is more dangerous than the M26? I mean, assuming that Taser is correct about some of their claims regarding the M26, then everything that is good about the M26 (perhaps a more pure 50 kHz), reflects badly on the X26 (appears to have a higher amplitude low frequency component, at 19 Hz).

I'm sure that the 'Conducted Energy Weapons To-Be-Used-On-The-Public' Regulating Agency (Oh Hello?) will be on-top of this issue.

*PS: Why does the pulse rate of the "Advanced" M26 have such a wide and sloppy tolerance? One thing to watch out for is to determine if they're using a quasi spread-spectrum technique to muddle accurate measurements of the low frequency spectral component. Would engineers actually do such a thing? Hell yes! There are even special clock chips that provide this sort of function. Or it can be implemented in software. But there are ways to put Humpty Dumpty (the data) back together again so that such a ruse would only end-up looking bad on the engineers that tried to get away with such a silly trick. On the other hand, it might just be a cheap, simple, and sloppy RC design. It's just something to watch-out for...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ratio of 'use' to 'misuse' indicates the falsehood

Many taser fanboys will constantly harp-on about how being tasered is better than being shot by a police revolver. While this is obviously true, let's review the numbers to see how valid this excuse really is in the reality of day-to-day use (and misuse) of the taser.

Taser proudly claims that tasers are used 620 times per day. That works out to 226,300 times per year. Primarily in the USA (I think obviously).

So, would the police and security guards really be killing 226,300 people per year in the USA if it weren't for the 'life saving' taser?

That is many times the death rate for all USA motor vehicle accidents. It would become a leading cause of death if the police were really killing citizens at that rate before the wide deployment of the taser. After a decade at that rate it would start to affect the overall census population numbers (Hey we're two million short! Where'd everybody go?).

Same thing in Canada where the figure of 3000 taser uses (including taser misuses) in six years was mentioned (just by the RCMP, other forces in addition to this). This is an obvious sign that the taser is not simply being used as a replacement for a pistol. If the police killed 500+ people per year in Canada, then there would be a revolution. The total murder rate is barely that high.

It is utter nonsense to claim that a taser deployment saves a pistol deployment. Nothing but whimsical propaganda.

Obviously, the taser is FAR MORE often being misused, than used (as a replacement for a pistol). The ratio of taser misuse to taser use appears to be well above 10:1, and may be approaching 100:1 in some jurisdictions.

The numbers tell the tale.

And YouTube occasionally provides the video.

On the subject of "...continuous duty cycle..."

On reviewing the Ruggieri controversy surrounding the taser waveform, it becomes clears that Taser is also claiming an escape clause under the topic of 'continuous duty cycle' because the high frequency (50 or 100 kHz) component is cycled on and off with a relatively low duty cycle.

But the X26 waveform is also periodic at 19 Hz (the M26 is similar) and Taser recommends (but does not limit) the duration of the application to five seconds. There have been cases where the torture was applied for durations approaching three minutes.

So the overall taser waveform (at 19 Hz) is continuous 100% duty-cycle for as long as the trigger is held down. And it appears that even Taser admits that these frequency ranges (19 Hz and harmonics) are far more safety-critical than the higher frequencies they keep going on about (50 or 100 kHz).

It would be fair for Taser to claim that the 100 kHz pulse at the leading edge of the X26 DC pulse is of a very low duty cycle, but it is not fair to ignore the 19 Hz component that is continuous duty cycle for as long as the trigger is held down and the batteries hold out.

Essentially, they're denying the existence of the 19 Hz component for purposes of calculating safety margins.

Smells like a huge error.

All because they apparently failed to perform a Fourier Analysis on their taser waveform.

PS: Watch out that when they finally do provide this information that they don't square the currents to calculate power (or energy) because by such a trick the higher peak amplitude of the high frequency leading edge will be given a boost while the lower peak amplitude of the DC component will be minimized. In short, make sure they keep the vertical axis as current (not power, not energy). We want the frequency spectrum of the current.

PS2: They might also try to slip in a log scale for the horizontal frequency axis so as to spread-out the lower frequencies (thereby reducing the amplitude values per frequency bin). Don't let them.

Taser of the (not Stockwell*) Day blogs

Link= Taser of the Day
Link= The Daily Tase


* For those that don't know about Stockwell Day, he's the Canadian Minister of 'Law & Order' (or 'Public Safety', or something like that...). He's been keeping a fairly low profile since the wave of taser-associated deaths in late-2007. I mean, as opposed to being outraged like the vast majority of Canadians.

Link= Inside the mind of Stockwell Day
Link= Stockwell Day on wiki

This man is ultimately responsible for the safety and security of all Canadians.

This blog is not in any way against Stockwell Day, but if his thought processes are muddled-up with strange and archaic ideas then it may slow down the rate at which required changes are actually implemented. Being slow to make necessary changes could well result in unnecessary deaths, and that would be a real sin.

Some taser-abuse examples all gathered up...

As if we needed more examples of taser-abuse from YouTube:

Link= The Tasering Will Continue Until You All Submit

UK News...

Another fine example of how 'Tasers Save Lives'.

Police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the head of a 45-year-old company director who later proved to be unarmed and innocent. Daniel Sylvester, the owner of an east London security firm employing 65 staff to guard council offices, pubs and nightclubs, was driving home on October 20 when he was stopped by armed police because of "firearms related intelligence".

According to Sylvester, he got out of his car and was surrounded by officers, at least two of whom were carrying automatic weapons. Without warning, one officer fired a Taser into the back of his head which made him drop to his knees, he said. A second shock caused him to fall on his face, breaking a front tooth. A further six shocks made him wet himself and left him lying in the road in pain while the officers and sniffer dogs searched the car and found nothing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has started an investigation and David Lammy, Sylvester's MP in Tottenham, north London, has written to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, to say he is "deeply concerned".



Look at the sort of idiot behaviour elicited from the police because the taser provides them another option, I guess instead of simply yelling, "Keep your hands in plain sight sir, you're under arrest!" It's always good to have options.

Oh well, it's nothing a $20 million dollar settlement won't sort out. Mr. Sylvester should be sufficiently compensated that he never has to work another day in his life and can retire in luxury to the south of France if that's what he wants.

American-style cowboy stupidity deserves American-style settlements.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Significant DC Component in Taser X26 Waveform...

Taser, in response to Ruggieri (Reference A below), have stated that the taser waveform is high frequency (50 or 100 kHz), and because of this factor (among other factors such as duty cycle) it provides a 100:1 safety advantage over the electrocution standards applicable to normal AC power-line frequencies as quoted by Ruggieri.

Reviewing the X26 waveform graph released by Taser (LG-STND-TECDBEC-001 Rev: C) makes it obvious that there is a significant Direct Current (DC, is zero Hz) component during the pulse (which would produce a significant 19 Hz component, and harmonics, on a longer time scale).

The graph below (graphically-edited for clarity) has been extrapolated to the right according to the textual description of the decay factor time constant to capture more of the obvious DC component (red) contained in the relatively long decay tail.

The amount of this DC component can be visually estimated by imagining the amount of negative offset (in the vertical current scale) that would be required to equalize the red and blue areas. It is obviously significant.

Many electrical engineers would probably describe this waveform as a DC pulse with a bit of 100kHz noise on the leading edge.

Taser X26 DC Component (click to enlarge)

[Copyright Note: Fair Use is claimed for a variety of reasons including but not limited to education, criticism, public safety, etc.]

The precise amount of the DC component can be calculated by performing a Fourier transform (or something similar) on the data extracted (manually, a big job) from the graph. The time scale becomes an issue and the expert making this calculation should be extremely careful to distinguish between averages and peaks, and the various time scales involved. For example, to include the spectrum component at 19 Hz (the pulse repetition frequency), it becomes necessary to run the analysis over much longer periods (probably five seconds).

Obviously, for legal purposes, the person making these calculation should have a name that starts with 'Professor'. I am not qualified to make any such statements except to note that, "Golly, there sure is a lot more red than blue, eh?" The experts can take it from there.

In conclusion, the taser X26 waveform (for example) appears to contain a significant DC component during the 19 Hz pulse. The waveform cannot be fairly described as simply 50 or 100 kHz.

Taser will probably find it difficult to walk away from some (or most?) of a '100:1' safety factor. I'm not sure, but I don't think I've seen anything that indicates that their claimed safety factor was even that high to begin with. If true, then there won't be much left after this.

Taser makes no mention of anything but 50 or 100 kHz. But it appears that they must have failed to properly analyze the waveform because it seems apparent that the waveform contains a significant percentage of much lower frequencies such as DC or 19 Hz. Has anyone ever seen a spectrum chart (frequency domain) of the X26 waveform?

This is the sort of information that a government regulator (hello?) might ask to see before approving (hello?) such a device for sale.

Holy sh_t. I think that I've found a smoking gun...


Reference A:

02/25/2005

Analysis Claiming 'TASER™ Danger' Miscalculates Safety Threshold by Factor of 100

Report Applied Incorrect Standard to Evaluate TASER Output

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq: TASR), a market leader in advanced non-lethal devices, today responded to a report presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in New Orleans wherein Mr. James Ruggieri presented an erroneous paper claiming that the electrical output of the TASER M26 is above the fibrillation threshold for 50% of the population.

"Mr. Ruggieri made a significant miscalculation, leading him to an insupportable conclusion," noted Max Nerheim, Vice President of Research and Development for TASER International, Inc. "Mr. Ruggieri's assertions are predicated on published safety guidelines in International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 479-1. Unfortunately, the standards published in IEC 479-1 are only applicable to low frequency, continuous duty cycle, AC electrical currents of less than 100 Hz, such as one would experience from an electrical wall outlet and not the output one would receive from a TASER device. Rather, the TASER M26 output is a pulsed, damped sine wave current with a frequency equivalent to 50,000 Hz. High frequency and pulsed outputs are covered under IEC 479-2, which indicates that the fibrillation threshold for currents similar to the TASER M26 are 100 times greater than the standard in IEC 479-1 errantly used by Mr. Ruggieri," continued Mr. Nerheim.

"In fact, there are three separate methodologies within IEC 479-2 which demonstrate the TASER M26 output to be significantly below the IEC fibrillation threshold. The appropriate standards under IEC 479-2 are consistent with data from both animal experiments and over 100,000 human volunteers, including myself and every other senior manager and engineer at TASER International, without a single incident of ventricular fibrillation. This is also backed by the over 66,000 actual field use applications by law enforcement. His misrepresentation was further evidenced by the remarks and questions raised by medical experts in attendance. It is disappointing that Mr. Ruggieri chose not to allow us to provide this technical feedback by reviewing his opinions before presenting them in a public forum."

"Furthermore, I was surprised that Mr. Ruggieri did not notice the error with his results as they are diametrically opposed to the dozens of independent studies of numerous government agencies that have concluded the TASER system, while not risk free, is generally safe. We invite interested readers to download a more in-depth analysis of this topic at http://www.taser.com/savinglives," concluded Mr. Nerheim.


PS: The 100,000 volunteers probably didn't have the taser shock applied to their chest with the barbs placed in the worst case positioning. This makes those 100,000 examples irrelevant to the discussion. If they're relying on barb positioning statistics for their actual field safety, then they should admit it. And stop claiming a higher level of inherent safety.

All 'in my opinion'.