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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do the math...

Taser and their fan boys claim that the taser is essentially perfectly safe (other than external risks such as 'falling down and banging head').

Some Taser fan-boy idiots have 'calculated' (sic) or promoted the idea that the risk of death from internal factors is either 'zero', or 'one-in-millions'.

I believe that these claims of near-perfect safety are full of crap.


Let's examine the available data in the case of the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

A recent investigation into the Access To Information process requested "all reports prepared by police officers in 2007 and 2008 after their use of tasers." Reportedly, there were 150 taser incidents in Winnipeg during the time in question. [LINK]

But we need to adjust for the denominator washing. (Actually we don't need to, but it's a moderately large factor and we'll be closer if we take a stab at adjusting it out.) Here's what I mean: Not all taser incidents are dangerous. If a police officer holds up his taser and triggers it to emit a spark in order to threaten the subject, then no reasonable person would claim that such a taser display carries any direct and significant risk. Also, it seems reasonable to assume that a taser applied in Touch Torture mode to an extremity, or anywhere such that the current doesn't pass in the area of vital organs or pathways, is probably much safer than full-on taser shocks to the chest.

Without complete access to all the information, it is not possible to make very accurate estimates, but rough guesses are completely possible. Let's assume that one-third of these taser 150 incidents in Winnipeg involved full-on taser hits to the chest. That makes roughly 50 full-on taser hits to the chest during the two year period. We'll take the full two year period - perhaps it should be some other period (perhaps more, perhaps less).

You can pick your own number of you don't like mine.

And Winnipeg has had one taser-associated death: Michael Langan, age 17, Winnipeg, MB - on July 22, 2008.

1/50 = ~2%

This result is in the same ball-park as previous estimates that I've made. They're all in the low end of the single digit range. 3%, 5%, 2%. For a rough guess, these are all in the same ball-park.

So we can conclude that a full-on taser hit is not very 'high risk'. But since we're talking about life-and-death, it's fair to call it a moderate risk (of death!) when all external risk reduction factors don't enter into the equation, and all the misleading denominator washing is removed.

Now obviously, if the taser was really replacing the gun, then a 2% risk of death is far better than a ~100% risk of death.

But since tasers are used roughly 100 times as often a police have historically used their guns (for example, do you really think that the Winnipeg police would be shooting 150 citizens dead every two years - geesh...), then we have a major problem...

Taser: 2% risk times 100 use-ratio = 200
Gun: Almost 100% risk times unity = 100

Annoyingly - CBC previously reported that police gunfire was not even reduced by tasers anyway. So it's actually 100 + 200 = 300 if you catch my drift.


Obviously those claims of near-perfect safety (with respect to internal risk factors) are simply not true. They're not even close. They're off by several orders of magnitude.

Unless you still cling to the belief that all these taser-associated deaths are simply coincidental deaths. And those 50-odd coroners that attributed partial cause to the taser were wrong. And that case where Taser was found 15% responsible for the death is wrong. And that the Earth is flat...

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