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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

File under: 'No Sh_t, Einstein'

Headline: Tasers 'less dangerous than guns' [LINK]

Wow. Really? Are you sure that you're keeping up there, Gomer?

Seriously, talk about missing the point...

The above-quoted statement is technically true in the duh!-obvious sense, but the argument it supports is the refuge of taser-debate newbies and plain fools. (Anyone need a badge? [LINK])

Even Taser International has been forced by circumstances, and by their goal of increased sales, to walk away from this original taser lie - that tasers have anything to do with replacing guns. They want tasers to replace pepper spray, the baton, hands-on, talking, waiting, and burning hot cigarettes pressed into flesh...

Tasers are used far, far, far and away more often than the police have historically and generally-acceptably used their guns. The ratio of overuse varies with both jurisdiction and almost certainly over time as well.

It would be ridiculous to try to put too accurate a number on it. But it's generally much more than ten, and generally much less than a thousand. I've decided to call it approximately one-hundred (as a rough order of magnitude estimated average). You can argue about the ratio here or there, or then and now, but 100x is a fair and reasonable number.

Given this ratio of overuse, it can be seen that any claim that tasers replace police gun fire is approximately 99% Bull Sh_t. Essentially, it's a damn lie.

The facts are that tasers are used to replace other (apparently safer, with respect to risk of death [LINK]) weapons, basic de-escalation techniques, and perhaps even simply waiting the subject out.

So, right off the bat, the taser would have to be at least 100 times safer than the gun, SIMPLY TO BREAK EVEN in a simple (amoral) body count.

(And when I use the word 'safe', I'm most concerned about DEATH. Injuries are obviously important, but they're not even on the same page as death. Let's sort out the taser-death issue before moving on to discuss injuries.)

The researchers compared the results with firearms, which had a mortality rate of about 50 per cent. [ibid]

Guns are 50% deadly. Perhaps not as high a mortality rate as some people might think.

Therefore, given the overuse ratio of 100x, just for a basic (amoral) body count break-even, the taser needs to be at or below a 0.5% risk of death.

And it meets that goal.

435+ taser-associated death out of some 700,000 (?) deployments is 0.06% risk of death.

That's about ten times better than required for (amoral) body-count break even.

You may be surprised by this relatively low ratio (just 8.3x) of first-order improvement. You might have assumed that it's many thousands of times safer. But not when normalized to make the comparison fair.

But wait... ...there's more to consider.

The mortality rate for firearms (guns) almost certainly only includes cases where the bullets actually hit the subject. I'll bet that (for example) a shot fired that does not contact the subject does not enter into the calculation of firearm mortality.

But Taser International are professional denominator washers [LINK]. They include almost everything in the denominator. They absolutely, positively include the incidents where the taser is applied in the Touch Torture mode. The certainly include the essentially-FAKE training and demonstration hits into the BACK. I'm not sure if they include 'display'.

A few of these inflationary denominator-washing factors, each of which is individually in a several-to-one ratio, brings the actual oranges-to-oranges comparison much closer to unity once adjusted for the overuse ratio.

And we've not even touched on the Karma issue [LINK] of moving from a scheme where those that attack police are subjected to a significant risk of death, to a scheme where anyone might eventually be subjected to a low to moderate risk of death. Bad karma. Very bad. Evil. Which is why I kept mentioning "amoral" above with respect to the raw body count.

Taser International's rebuttal would be that tasers cannot possibly be responsible for any of these 434+ [LINK] taser-associated deaths. Unfortunately for Taser International, that argument has now been officially rejected. [LINK]

So what are we left with?

Can we make the taser safer? Perhaps the new X3 has a waveform that eliminates the apparently-dangerous DC pulse after the arc phase? That would be interesting...

But it's not our job to design tasers.

So the only handle we have is to vastly cut back on the insane 100x ratio of overuse as compared to guns. This needs to be cut back by about 95% to 99%. And the 95% is being generous by potentially allowing about five times more taser incidents than the usual rate of police gun fire. Generous and trusting is what that is.

This sort of massive cut-back imposed by new sweeping restriction on the use of tasers is exactly what Judge Braidwood has recommended. Given that he couldn't bring himself to recommend a moritorium (at this time), then it was the only reasonable way forward.

He's a very smart man.

Bless his heart.

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