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, December 31, 2009

2009 drawing to an end...

Happy New Year.

We will have a major '2009 - A Year In Review' post sometime very early in the new year.

During 2009 we have made more than 800 posts.

In general and approximate terms, the 'Batting Average' for this blog (being absolutely and demonstrably correct) is running something close to .850 (roughly).

One mistake I made was that I had assumed that things would calm down a bit. In fact, the daily post rate is about 21% higher during 2009 as compared to 2008. Oops, my bad.

Another error I have made is underestimating how slow the legal system moves.

Taser International is squarely in the legal crosshairs, their nifty black turtleneck romper suits lit up like Christmas trees with the laser-sights of the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The very recent statement by the Maryland AG that Taser International has "SIGNIFICANTLY" understated the risks of taser use is not going to be missed by any lawyer worth their salt. And I suspect that Daubert motions have run their course. It'd be a massively ill-informed plaintiff's lawyer to fail to preempt such trickery next time.

The other trend that I enjoy observing is the growing trend of law enforcement folks expressing frustration and annoyance with the antics of Taser International. I suspect that there's gonna be a "Protest" notice found nailed to the front door of the Church of Taser one fine Arizona morning.

Yes, it has been a very interesting year for Taser International during 2009.

And 2010 is going to be even interestinger.

Nightmare continues for Cincinnati and Officers

The daughter of Cincinnati City Councilman Cecil Thomas is suing the city of Cincinnati and two police officers following an August traffic stop of her boyfriend that resulted in one of the officer's stunning her with a Taser gun. Celeste Thomas' lawsuit against the city and Cincinnati police officers Anthony Plummer and Jennifer Myers was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, two weeks after Thomas was cleared on a charge of obstructing justice related to the traffic stop. [LINK]

Root causes: Obviously-defective training (Hey! Judging by results!), a device that appears to promise God-like powers but is more likely a tool of Satan, a device that clearly induces illegal behaviour, and is itself a lawsuit magnet.

You might have a different opinion; but if so, it'd be wrong.

Headline: "Officer Accused of Abusing Toddlers with Taser" (sic)

This will keep them busy...

"A spokesperson with the Stark County Jail tells Fox 8 News that a part-time police officer has been charged for allegedly abusing his girlfriend's young children with a weapon similar to a Taser." [LINK]

Apparently, the device was not actually a Taser brand taser.

But I wonder if he was trained within the Taser International training and certification scheme? Hey, I'm just asking....

UPDATE: Fox updated the headline to "Taser-like". LOL.

Note: The entire point of this post is the "Taser" versus "Taser-like", which is why the post title includes the disclaimer "(sic)".

UPDATE: Hey! Here's another one!

"Police Officer Accused Of Using Taser On Girlfriend's Kids" (sic)

Here, I'll be nice and provide a [LINK].

Don't blame them for the error. They see electo-torture evil and they just naturally think: "Taser". It's an establish characteristic of the brand name. Sort of like as with "Nazi", "Satan", that sort of thing.

Maybe it's time for a rebranding exercise.

Taser International sockpuppet "Wisewon" attempts to mislead public

Taser International sockpuppet, recently operating under the name "Wisewon" (sic), has been spreading misleading information about the record of the Ninth Circuit Court. The allegations are typical extreme rightwing, raving, foaming at the mouth, lunacy.

The claim is that this court is "the most overturned" court in the USA.

It's a lie. A bald face lie.

In fact, the 9th is middle of the pack in comparison to other courts. See [LINK].

Rightwing nut-jobs may not immediately understand the type of information presented at the above link.

They're called "facts".

UPDATE: Let me explain. The SCOTUS reviews appeals and elects to hear those that are more likely to require review. So quoting "15/16" is a childish mistake. The correct denominator is not 16, but should be the total volume of cases heard by the that court. The 9th is middle of the pack by that more-logical basis. It's all explained in some detail at the link above.

That "Wisewon" would make such a trivial error to propagate a lie is perfectly typical. Rightwing nut jobs are often heavy with bad info and fairly light on simple logic. It's a brain-stem issue, and not really their fault.

Taser: Most-Succinct Editorial Exerpt of the Week

"...there is a temptation to use [tasers] more than necessary. Indeed, there is ample evidence of people being stunned merely for being uncooperative with police. It’s a handy tool to force compliance. However, such usage is an abuse of police power..." [LINK]

That's one of the most succinct problem statements I've seen in a while.

In the nomenclaturism of this blog, it's called "overuse".

By truncating the overuse of tasers, it probably also addresses the misuse and abuse of tasers, at least to some hypothetical extent.

All these problems have their roots in Scottsdale, AZ. The law enforcement community have been misled and provided with clearly-defective training material.

Those that are Taser trained and certified via the Taser International vertically-integrated propaganda system are the worst possible source for reliable and ultimately correct information. Police and civic leaders need to start sharply poking certain people in the chest with a sharp finger. These on-staff "experts" (Taser moles) have been the conduit for bad information. This infiltration needs to be straightened out ASAP.

Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinnes. spouts nonsense

Sheriff John McGinnes expouses his faith and belief in the Church of Taser, reads Chapter and Verse... [LINK]

"I absolutely believe [the taser] is a very effective tool."

Within the past few days there have been numerous reports of ineffective tasers. Putting too much FAITH in tasers and the assurances of the stun gun salesmen is inadvisable. They've been wrong too many times.

"...temporarily incapacitates a subject and affords officers an opportunity to handcuff and restrain them."

Five seconds affords an opportunity to stand around watching. After five seconds, having failed to do anything, and the subject having failed to handcuff themselves, the only obvious option is to wash, rinse, and repeat in an endless loop. Effectively, it's used as a torture device. Rarely does it actually get used to allow handcuffing while the "immobilized" (sic) subject is rolling around on the ground screaming in agony.

"I never heard of a case where someone has died just from being shot with a Taser. You can't kill them with it. The voltage is akin to a hospital defibrillator. It's just not a deadly weapon."

Wrong on so many levels. Pure ignorance. A survey of about 150 autopsy reports found that the taser was listed as a cause or contributor to death in about one-third. I don't see any reason why this ratio wouldn't apply to all 450+ taser associated deaths. Do the extrapolation in your head. And this is in spite of the extraordinary efforts by Taser International to promote alternate explanations. It can only be a low ball estimate. The Maryland AG concluded that Taser International has SIGNIFICANTLY understated the risks of taser use.

Many have died of "cardiac arrest" just after being tasered. There's a 'Curious Temporal Asymmetry' that allows only one rational conclusion.

When updating your Taser Use Policy, don't miss this detail...

Carlsbad's Taser Use Policy says that "the officer should only choose a Taser if other options won't be effective or will present a greater danger to the officer or the subject..." [LINK]

Highlighted above is a discrapancy that should be explicitly and prominently addressed.

Taser International, in one of the many examples where their opinions differ from the final consensus, has claimed that the taser is less dangerous than other forms of force. They make this insane conclusion by neglecting the puncture wounds and burns entirely, ignoring the mental trauma caused by the torture, and explain away any resulting deaths as being just a coincidence. And yes, by this insanity, tasers are nearly harmless - provided the subject doesn't crack his head open and die.

Problem is this. The 9th clearly and explicitly stated that tasers are "a greater intrusion than any other" less-lethal weapon they have ever encountered.

So if your department's training is traceable back to Taser International, then all the trainees will be under the erroneous impression that tasers are a safer (and thus lower) form of force.

Court disagrees.

"The physiological effects, the high levels of pain, and foreseeable risk of physical injury lead us to conclude that [tasers] are a greater intrusion than other non-lethal methods of force we have confronted," Wardlaw wrote.

Fix your policies.

Drunk deputy at stripclub, etc.

You couldn't make it up.

"Multnomah County corrections deputy Steven Cowles, 45, was sentenced to two years probation for tasering a man in a strip bar." Reportedly off-duty, fully hammered, and with his very own taser. [LINK]

Another inherently stupid reaction to The Decision

I found this tidbit of insanity as a sub-headline at the Christian Science Monitor, but they're just quoting some crazy loons.

"Local police departments said the ruling puts officers' lives in danger." [LINK]

Utter nonsense. Insanity-by-the-ton. Crazy propaganda. What a crock.

The court ruling simply told the law enforcement community to stop tasering folks THAT PRESENT LITTLE CREDIBLE THREAT.

PS: If you reach around to the other side of your belt, you'll find a good old fashioned gun. If your life is ACTUALLY in danger, feel free to use it IF NECESSARY.

Taser Spokespuppet stands on hind legs and howls at the Moon

Taser International spokespuppet Steve Tuttle said the California ruling applies only to that case. "The court's holding does not establish any new law for use of a taser..." electro-torture device, Tuttle said in an e-mail message. [LINK]

Now, I'm not a lawyer (let me repeat that: I'm not a lawyer), but that statement from Mr. Taser-4-brains may set a world record for the worst legal advice from anyone, anywhere.

Fact is that this ruling DOES set a new standard. Use a taser under similar circumstances (very very common up to now) and it is excessive force. The only other jurisdictions that might be considered "safe bets" would be certain unnamed overseas clients with dark dungeons and brisk sales of replacement battery packs.

Face facts - a certain Coronado police Officer named Brian McPherson, presumably a fully "trained" and certified "expert" in the proper and what-he-was-told-was-legal use of the less-than-(or-equal-to)-lethal weapon, is now facing legal ruin. His obviously-defective taser training is almost certainly traceable, in large part, back to these same folks at Taser International.

It certainly turns the 'Dirty Harry' situation around: Officer armed with a taser, facing a non-cooperative subject; contemplates tasering him. Subject looks the Officer square in the eye and asks, "Are YOU feeling lucky?"

Even before this ruling, the settlement cheques have been flying. Why? Because it's common sense. You DO NOT taser EXCEPT when it's obviously a rational response to an immediate threat.

This is what the Canadian Braidwood Inquiry concluded.

It's essentially what the Maryland AG concluded.

Taking legal advice from the "brain trust" at Taser International, when they have clearly been in the wrong so many times, would be a very stupid move.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taser "safety margins" and pre-existing medical conditions

Taser International (Kroll) explicitly claim that the (X26?) taser is "safer than Tylenol" and provides (according to them) "a 15-to-1 safety margin" for any imaginable cardiac effect from the electric shock.

But when someone is tasered in the chest, immediately shows a serious medical reaction, and then subsequently dies, Taser International et al are extremely quick to leap onto any evidence of any pre-existing medical condition, no matter how slight and/or unrelated. They'll claim that the subject was drunk, or suffering from alcohol withdrawl, or had taken drugs, or was tired from travel, or anything at all.

Nobody has yet called them on this insane leap of illogic.

Where does it show that people that are drunk, or on drugs, or are tired from travel... ...where does it show that these people are FIFTEEN TIMES more susceptible to electrocution compared to people in perfect health?

Either the claimed 15-to-1 safety margin is utter BS (bingo!), or the brain trust at Taser International is aware of some new 'science', roughly equivalent to spontaneous human combustion or ESP.

Children and elderly - hardly credible threats .: excessive force

If you contemplate the fundamental message arising from the recent 9th Circuit Court decision, it's clear that it will be extreme legal jeopardy for an officer to deploy his taser against young children or the elderly.

And before those involved start to regale us with tales demonstrating the potential for extreme danger when dealing with cranky toddlers, it might be worth trying to find a copy of Monty Python's "Killer Bunny Rabbit" skit [Here: YouTube] to put things into perspective.

Real world limits from 9th Circuit decision

"A California court stated in a 3-0 ruling that the tasers should only be used in times of extreme danger when the officer has fear of being harmed by the suspect. ..." [LINK]

I've written it before and it's worth mentioning again.

If a police officer is actually in danger, keyword ACTUALLY, then there's little moral hazard in him using any available response.

Unfortunately, some police have been incredibly badly trained. I've read news reports where they claimed that the subject's "clenched teeth" represented a threat, when in fact it more often is body language for simple frustration. Exact same thing applies to "clenched fists" at the end of rigidly straight arms => more likely it's simple frustration.

You only need to look at the many famous taser incidents on YouTube to see that tasers have been commonly used outside these (new) guidelines. From back talking speeders, to "Don't tase me bro", to 14-year-old little girls, to 82-year old men, to 10-year-old bath time reluctance, to grumpy old ladies, etc., etc., etc.

Court: tasers go above pepper spray

"...the judges established legally binding standards about where tasers fall on the spectrum of force available to police officers, and laid out clear guidelines for when an officer should be allowed to use the weapon. The judges, for example, said tasers should be considered a more serious use of force than pepper spray -- a distinction that runs counter to policies used by most law enforcement agencies in California and elsewhere..." [LINK]

Because the frequency of use of force is shaped like a pyramid (at least it should be), moving up the spectrum should have the effect of reining-in much of the overuse. And this should, in an ideal world, also reduce the misuse and abuse.

By any standard, this decision is a huge step in the right direction.

The only people that would be upset by this ruling are TASR shareholders, management, minions, and of course the extreme right wing, "law and order" (sic) nut jobs that frequent the comment boards.

Taser QotW: tasers "...are a greater intrusion..."

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - "The physiological effects, the high levels of pain, and foreseeable risk of physical injury lead us to conclude that the X26 and similar devices are a greater intrusion than other non-lethal [sic] methods of force we have confronted." [LINK] (page 16741, near bottom)

"...greater....than..."

Being a US Circuit Court of Appeal, I'm fairly sure that they're familiar with all police weapons and tactics. And this statement clearly indicates that their opinion is that tasers are a greater use of force than any other method they have confronted.

See also Footnote 7:

7 We recognize, however, that like any generally non-lethal force, the taser is capable of being employed in a manner to cause the victim’s death. ... [ibid]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taser overuse, misuse and abuse - set for sharp decline in USA?

What a week.

What a year!

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed that the sadistic, trigger-happy, taser-torture party is now OFFICIALLY over.

And if you thought that tasers were a lawsuit magnet before... LOL.

My guess is that this decision, when applied to tasers in US prisons and jails, will lead to them being used less often as a pain compliance device. The niceties of dart deployment versus the Touch Torture (a.k.a. Drive Stun) mode are probably too fine a point. Oh well, there will still be a market for electo-torture devices in various unnamed overseas dungeons.


The USA is clearly a litigeous society. In these circumstances, that's a very very good thing. This ruling will IMPOSE a much needed chill on the worst examples of taser overuse, misuse, and abuse.

And there's almost certainly a retroactive liability that should give municipal comptrollers nightmares over the next few months and years.

This ruling draws a line that should have been drawn many years ago. It's common sense to anyone with any common sense.

Political leaders and police decision makers need to implement immediate changes. Memos will be issued by the pallet load over the coming days.


For those keeping score, this decision is a massive loss for Taser International and their unthinking fan-boys, and a massive victory for taser critics.

The Progressive audio report on The Decision

The Progressive - Finally, a Court Limits Stun Gun Use [MP3] (about 1m30s)

Reportedly, the Court's decision was unanimous.


See also [KCBS].

Braidwood can find fault against four RCMP officers

Geesh - it's as if all the courts want to rush out their judgments before the new year.

VANCOUVER (National Post) -- A finding of misconduct may be considered against four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled.

Constables Bill Bentley, Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundel and Cpl. Monty Robinson had earlier applied to the courts to have the notice of misconduct quashed, arguing the head of a provincial inquiry into Mr. Dziekanski's Tasering and subsequent [almost instantaneous] death has no authority over members of a federally regulated police force.

The case was dismissed initially by a B.C. Supreme Court judge. In a written decision released Tuesday, the Court of Appeal unanimously agreed to uphold the lower court's decision. ... [LINK]

How many lawsuits can now proceed?

OMG.

Police may not taser an individual simply because he or she is acting erratically, nor may they taser someone simply because they are not obeying.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that police can't zap someone with a stun gun unless the suspect poses an immediate threat. The ruling sets police standards for use of the taser, saying stun guns must be used only when "substantial force" is needed. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said officers can't taser a person simply for acting erratically or disobeying orders. ... [LINK]


Dear Taser International,

Happy New Year.

I told you that 2009 would be an interesting year.

Between the Maryland Attorney General concluding that you have "significantly" understated the risks of taser use, and now the court ruling that an extremely common application of your torture device is unconstitutional, what a great way to end the year.


Anyone, anywhere (in the USA) that was tasered under circumstances that align with this ruling should seek immediate legal counsel with a view towards launching a lawsuit.

There should be many tens of thousands of such cases.

Hopefully Taser International can be dragged in due to their vertically integrated training and certification scheme.

Idiot deputy to cost El Paso County $56,000

El Paso County Sheriff’s deputy Jerome Mercado-Vargas pulls over Jiles Theron Bennett, 48, and his wife, Jill, because he was doing 33 mph in a 45 mph zone. Yes, you read that correctly. Bennett reported that the roads were snow covered and slick. (The El Paso County Court ruled that Mercado-Vargas did not have probable cause to stop Bennett. Not one of charges against Bennet stuck. Not one.)

During the incident, Deputy Mercado-Vargas foolishly mistook Bennett's perfectly natural frustration - perhaps at being forced to deal with an idiot on a power trip - mistook the perfectly normal body language of frustration as a threat, and basically went ape-sh_t. Bennett was tasered twice and seriously roughed-up. Read the details here [LINK].

All the arguments about who was in the wrong in this stupid incident are resolved by the clear fact that all the charges against Mr. Bennett were tossed, and it is the El Paso County Commission that is currently rummaging around in their desk drawer looking for their cheque book.

One wag suggested that tasers make bad cops much worse. This incident seems to back up that opinion.

UPDATE: $56,000 $161,000 !!!

El Paso County commissioners voted today to pay $56,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit involving a Peyton man who was shot twice with a stun gun in 2007 by an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy following a traffic stop.

The $56,000 settlement, which will be paid to Jiles Theron Bennett, 48, and his wife, Jill,  is only a portion of what the case will actually cost county taxpayers. In addition, El Paso County paid approximately $105,000 in legal fees and other costs associated with the federal lawsuit, El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose said today. The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office also incurred the cost of two trials in county court involving the traffic citations and a misdemeanor stemming from the incident, as well an appeal. Bennett said he prevailed in both a trial before a judge and in a jury trial ...
[LINK]

A frankly stupid series of bad decisions leads directly to huge settlement expense. And it seems clear to me that the deputy in this mindless incident would have been much less likely to escalate if he had not been equipped with a taser and brainwashed as to its appropriate application. Your opinion may vary, but I don't believe the deputy would have used any other weapon in the circumstances described. The taser is essentially unique in this regard, which makes it a very dangerous and financially expensive device.

Perfectly typical taser deployment judged to be unconstitutional

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit concluded that Officer McPherson's use of a taser in these circumstances "...violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force." [TNT]

Excellent!

Anyone that downplays the significance or impact of this ruling is not being completely honest. It's huge.

See also [LINK].

Officer killed in Ottawa

CBC - An Ottawa police officer has died after being stabbed at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital early Tuesday morning. ... [LINK]


This tragic death (murder?) of a police officer in Ottawa is, as far as I know, not directly related to the taser issue.

But it worth noting that it is, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), the first death by violence of a police officer in all of Canada since 2007 (when there were four). I believe it is worth distinguishing between deaths by violence (gunfire, assault) and, for example, automobile accidents.

CANADA

2007 Line of Duty Deaths: 4 (Gunfire: 3, Vehicular assault: 1) [ODMP 2007]

2008 Line of Duty Deaths: 2 (Automobile accident: 1, Heart attack: 1) [ODMP 2008]

2009 Line of Duty Deaths: 3 [+1] (Automobile accident: 3, [+Stabbing: 1]) [ODMP 2009]

It's a sad end to a good run of relative non-violence in Canada for the past two years.

UPDATE: There's a very strange twist to this incident.

CBC News - A former Saskatchewan RCMP officer has been arrested in the stabbing death of an Ottawa police officer. Kevin Gregson, 43, was arrested at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital early Tuesday after an Ottawa officer was stabbed while writing notes in his cruiser outside the emergency room doors. ... [LINK]

Taser cams - a very poor concept

"...teaching officers they need to keep the taser pointed at the subject in order to make sure the audio and video are actually of the subject at the time [and before, right?] of the taser use. That’s different from officers pointing sidearms at subjects, as they’re trained to point the deadly-force weapon down instead of at a subject unless and until they’re ready to use it..." [LINK]

Gee, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Hints:

1) Taser aimed at head may be quite reasonably interpreted, by the subject/plaintiff, as an unjustifiable escalation in violence. Subject may quite naturally react badly. It's a stupid concept.

2) In some jurisdictions (Canada), a taser is legally considered to be a (Prohibited) Firearm. Pointing a firearm at someone's face simply to record video is probably a criminal offence. There's an explicit section in the Criminal Code of Canada that says exactly that. And just because the stungun salesmen dream it up doesn't make it legal.

3) Under pressure, pulling the taser trigger may be a natural next step after aiming. After all, isn't the recording started when the SAFETY is armed? What's the point of recording the subject "bouncing around on the ground like a basket ball" if you don't capture the behaviour that alledgedly justified the taser deployment?

4) Under pressure, being trained to aim one weapon at the subject and being trained to aim down another weapon could cause confusion (cough BART cough cough).

This post is not to be interpreted as an advertisement for the AssOnline (or something like that) video system from the same bunch. That system is stupid on a whole 'nother level. See Evidunce.com for some initial observations.

Kaua‘i Police Department’s taser policy requires update

The Kaua‘i Police Department reportedly classifies tasers as a "less than lethal force". [LINK]

The Maryland AG's report goes out of its way to explicitly address this false term.

The false aspect is most clearly highlighted by the corrected version "less then OR EQUAL TO lethal force". [HT to Nateo blog]

The MD AG's report suggests calling them "less lethal".

The "...than guns" is implied. The way some taser trigger-happy officers use them it's obvious that they have been (mis)led to believe that tasers are perfectly safe. The 'new' (not really) message is that tasers can cause death, directly or indirectly [AMA], through a variety of mechanisms, even in healthy adults [Braidwood Inquiry].

For the Nth time: taser incident ends in gun fire, subject will be okay

{ROLLS EYES}

Kingsport Police: Officers fired taser before...

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into an officer-involved shooting in Kingsport.

Kingsport, TN - "...When officers arrived, Keith Tomlinson rushed them with a large club, Kingsport Police Chief Gale Osborne said. Officer Martin Taylor fired one shot, hitting Keith Tomlinson in the shoulder... He is expected to recover. ... [The involved officers] were armed with at least one taser. 'They used it before the shooting,' but Chief Osborne would not say if that taser connected with Keith Tomlinson. ..." [LINK]

Safe to say that Taser International's various tasers are probably not in the running for Law Enforcement 'Product Of The Year'. LOL.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Taser QotD: On what "...responsible leaders..." do

From a private email exchange with a thoughtful Chief of Police.

"...responsible leaders do not get information 'from one side,' as you stated. It is through exhaustive research and real-life experiences that key decisions and policy are made."

Keyword: "responsible" police leaders.

There are far too many irresponsible police "leaders" (sic) that have naievely bought into the promises and assurances made by the stun gun salesmen. These jurisdictions are, one-by-one, learning the painful lesson that relying on draft Taser Use Policies supplied by the manufacturer that still promotes these weapons as inherently safe (with respect to internal risk factors such as, for example, cardiac effects) is a huge mistake with life-and-death consequences and a quagmire of moral and ethical issues.

Consider that Taser International has formally denied supplying draft Taser Use Policy to any police force. Meanwhile a survey revealed that 95% of jurisdictions surveyed used Taser Use Policies supplied by Taser Intetnational.

Recommending policy - what's the truth???? [LINK]

No one has ever sorted that question out. One possible explanation is that the Chairman of Taser International made a bald-face lie to the Canadian House of Commons committee (SECU) investigating the issue of tasers. [LINK] Another explanation is that he was playing word games with past tense versus present tense. Or perhaps the survey was wrong. See also [LINK][LINK].

By this measure, responsible police leaders are outnumbered by 19-to-1 by the vast majority that have Taser Use Policy that is based on information provided by Taser International.

And that's why the MD AG's report needs to provide a reported SIXTY (60 !!) recommended changed to those policies.

Gold Coast (Australia) police force to shoot man in leg

Gold Coast - ...The 38-year-old man, who has a history of mental illness, is recovering in Gold Coast Hospital from a gunshot wound to the left leg. ...Police said the man was standing in his driveway yelling at them to shoot him but he then ran inside before rushing out a side gate wielding a knife. He came within metres of the two police, before the senior officer, a sergeant, shot him, causing him to fall to the ground. ... He sustained a non-life threatening bullet wound to the leg, needing 10 stitches. ... [LINK]

See also [LINK].

The local media is making much of the reported fact that the police lacked holsters for their reassuringly-expensive tasers, and thus were left with no option except to shoot the man as he ran towards them with a knife.

First of all, given the unacceptably high rate of taser misses and ineffective deployments, using a taser when a mental man with a knife is rushing towards you could be the last mistake you ever make.

Second, this incident ended reasonably well. The police are to be credited with achieveing a reasonably good outcome in the face of an extreme situation.

Third, for those that are overly-concerned that the subject's leg needed ten stiches, and thinking that a taser wound cause less damage... ...consider the case of the fourteen year old girl that was tasered and required EIGHTEEN STAPLES AND SIX STICHES to close the gapping head wound. [LINK][LINK]

Rather than providing an example where a taser would have been handy, this incident is actually an example where using a taser would have been extremely risky and might have resulted in several officers being stabbed and the subject being shot to death anyway. As it is, given the extreme nature of the incident, things turned out just fine.

Attempting to turn this incident into pro-taser propaganda is just that, propaganda.

Attn: Does your Taser Use Policy allow this sort of evil?

Courthouse News - A suburban Chicago police officer alledgedly tasered Prospero Lassi (who was having a diabetic seizure) eleven times for nearly a minute. ... Reportedly, he has suffered permanently scarring and the taser has caused him neurological damage that has not abated. [LINK]


The permanent scars give some indication that the taser is quite simply an instrument of torture and there is little practical difference between a taser used in Touch Torture (a.k.a. Drive Stun) mode and just using a cigarette lighter to torture and burn the victim.

This incident seems like one where a seven or eight figure settlement might be appropriate.

Ozark chief: "Tasers saving lives" (eg. the 10-year-old girl that wouldn't take bath ?)

The full article is only available to subscribers [LINK].

It seems to me that the Ozark police chief needs to shake-off the corporate propaganda and realize that more use of tasers leads to more problems. The sub-headline indicates that his jurisdiction has a higher rate of taser use than even some large cities. This is evidence of taser-use policies cut-and-paste from Taser International.

Positive suggestions: Ozark Police Chief should read the MD AG's report on tasers and consider adopting the stricter taser-use policies. Also, if his attention span will allow it, he should review the Canadian Braidwood Inquiry report into tasers.

His education will be complete when he can correctly answer the following question: Can tasers sometimes, almost randomly, directly or indirectly kill the subject?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taser "...was ineffective..."

{ROLLS EYES}

CASPER — ...Colbey Emms exited and fled the wrecked Cadillac he is accused of stealing, officers shot him with a Taser, but it was ineffective. He was eventually subdued by multiple officers... [LINK]

At least the police in this incident were more-or-less heroic in their ability to subdue the subject using reliable non-lethal methods. Too often an ineffective taser leads to use of deadly force.

I wonder if this rate of ineffective tasers is going to lead the police to a new arms-length relationship with the stun gun salesmen.


Update: Here's another one. "...When police arrived, they deployed a taser on Powell however, that didn't stop him from taking off again. ..." [LINK]

Another ineffective taser deployment results in shooting

To be honest, I'm having difficulty keeping all these incidents straight. When I see yet another "taser ineffective" headline or news report, at least the third one in about as many days, even I (the world's greatest skeptic) have difficulty believeing that the new headline represents yet another ineffective taser incident. I have to check the details several times to convince myself.


LEOMINSTER — Authorities continue to investigate the shooting Friday of a man who allegedly brandished a knife at police officers. Authorities said a police officer shot the man about noon Friday after an attempt to subdue him with a Taser electroshock weapon didn’t work. ... [LINK]

See also [LINK].

UPDATE - The Worcester district attorney's office has identified the man shot Friday by Leominster police as Joseph Graham, 19, of Fitchburg. ... [LINK]

The public safety issue here is that the police often have a wide choice of options available to them. But having swallowed the hype that the taser is "safe and effective", they often turn to it too quickly. This choice is often an escalation in the level of violence. Then when the taser is ineffective, they're left with fewer options. This is how rates of police gun fire can go up with deployment of tasers.

Tasers that are ineffective can be extremely dangerous.

It is certainly something that should be tracked and considered when calculating the karmic balance of weapons that are proving to be neither reliably safe nor reliably effective.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tentative Taser Quote of the Year

There's still a few days left, but this one is set to be a top contender for taser Quote of the Year (due to the potential impact on the liability of Taser International).

"Training materials provided by the manufacturer of these devices and early law enforcement training tended to significantly understate the risks associated with ECW use." [LINK - MD AG Taser Report, Executive Summary, page 2, paragraph 3]

In other words:

Taser International has significantly understated the risks associated with taser use.

Read that again and let it slowly and deliciously permeate into your consciousness.

Don't miss the word "significantly".

This isn't some random blogger making this statement. It's the ECW Report from the Office of the Attorney General of the state of Maryland.


Taser International has a total market capitalization of about $273M. I don't think that even if every penny of that was converted into available cash that it would be enough to deal with the enhanced liability provided by this sort of formal (state government) conclusion. But worse still is that the stock price will plummet when the full impact of this significant understatement of the risks is addressed through the courts.

And this formal conclusion points the finger of the "junk science" label in the correct direction.

And this two-step logic (their junk science concludes that tasers-R-safe - now shown to be wrong)  might help to put an end to those junk Daubert motions [LINK] so loved by Taser International. The possibility of such motions should be proactively raised by the plaintiffs and dealt with at the outset. Given this MD AG report, it should be a simple matter to have such insane Daubert motions excluded by the court before the hearing even gets underway.

Tasers for self-protection...

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Police are investigating a homicide on the northwest side of Indianapolis in the 9300 block of Waldemar Road. A body of a man in his 30's was found around 7:30 Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Extended Stay Deluxe hotel. Police say the victim was shot in the head and police found a taser in his hand. According to authorities, snow is helping the investigation because footprints were left behind. [LINK]

Walking away from your own crime scene and leaving your foot prints in the fresh snow is quite stupid. But it's nothing compared to relying on a taser for self protection...

Perp pulls gun, sheriff's corporal pulls taser ??!!??

File under "What were you thinking?"

TAMPA — ...Richard Longstreet, 34 ...jumped back in the car and pulled a pistol from under the seat. ...Sheriff's Cpl. Mark Clark responded by pulling his taser and jolted Longstreet in the leg ["Hey, stop that! It hurts!" (?)]. Longstreet reacted to the shock, but managed to kick the taser away. He continued to struggle and wave the gun around at Clark, Warren and the children. Clark finally pulled his pistol and fired once, hitting Longstreet in the upper body, killing him. ... [LINK]

Authorities really need to have a close look at the corporate brainwashing (that masquerades as "Taser Training") that has resulted in an officer reaching for his stupid taser when the subject has just clambered back into the car and reappeared with a gun.

Taser International's gift to the world...

Chicago Sun-Times [LINK]
Chicago Tribune [LINK]

Summary:

Chicago Police ...responded to a domestic disturbance ...found a man (Alvin Nash, 44) holding a knife to his own throat... Officers ordered him to drop the knife, and a taser was deployed when he did not comply. He was not affected by the taser. He simply pulled the wires out. Because the taser was ineffective, the subject was then able to move and subsequently held the knife against the neck of a woman, reportedly his wife. Strike one against taser.

Officers again ordered him to drop the knife. When he failed to comply again an officer discharged a taser for a second time. Again, the taser did not affect the subject. He again pulled the wires out with his hands. Strike two.

The man then lunged at officers with the knife, prompting an officer to fire his weapon, fatally wounding him. Strike three.


Just like the immediately-previous post [LINK], the taser as a weapon is proving to be ineffective and unreliable. And this lack of effectivity is endangering the lives of everyone involved: the police, bystanders and victims, and even the subject.

The outcome in this incident is the worst imaginable, with a taser-induced detour towards an outcome that might have been even worse.

What's going on with all the ineffective tasers?

I have read that certain tasers (such as the X26) can be loaded with new software via their overpriced battery packs.

Pure speculation: I wonder if Taser International has released new software to turn down the power output in order to improve the inherent cardiac safety; and now we're discovering that there's no overlap between "safe" and "effective".

I've got no evidence on this possibility, but it's something that the Federal Regulators can add to their list of things to check when they finally take an interest in the ECW Industry of essentially one.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Taser dangerously ineffective (twice)

Officer shoots man - Police: "Tasers didn’t stop him"

The suspect [UPDATE: Anthony Donald Chavez] was combative with the officers, refused to comply, and was tasered twice. He continued to resist actively, tried to gain possession of one of the officer’s guns. He was very aggressive toward the officers. One officer fired his gun during the altercation, he said. The 38 year old man is expected to survive his injuries. [LINK]

See also: Taser ineffective, Longmont cop shoots suspect [LINK]

Taser ineffective. Twice. Situation escalates. Officers' lives endangered. Man shot, but he is expected to survive.

A bit too much faith in the promises (safe, effective, reliable) made by the stun gun salesmen?

Motley Fool admits '07 TASR buy recommendation was foolish

Motley Fool writer Rick Aristotle Munarriz has acknowledged [LINK] that his recommendation [LINK] of Taser International has not worked out for anyone foolish enough to invest.

Company, Rick's Call, Price Now, Loss
TASER, 9/20/07, $15.65, $4.50, (71%)


Notice the date: 20 September 2007.

Mr. Munarriz can't be blamed. There's no way that he would realize at the time the sh_t storm that was about to descend on Taser International.

14 October 2007 - Vancouver Airport, Robert Dziekanski, 40, tasered five times by X26 taser and died of cardiac arrest almost immediately. And critically, incident captured on video.

UPDATE: Motley Fool writer Rich Duprey repeats history. [LINK] I recommend that Mr. Duprey read his collegue's column.

And the MD AG's report.

"Training materials provided by the manufacturer of these devices ... tended to significantly understate the risks associated with [taser] use." [Executive Summary, page 2, paragraph 3]

Not just '...understate the risks...', but "...SIGNIFICANTLY understate the risks..."

Tasering for passive non-compliance - think!

Related previous post [LINK].

Taser hot-spots show largest decline in public support for RCMP

The provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are, in my opinion, the #1 and #2 taser hot-spots in Canada.

CBC Taser-death database [LINK] lists BC with eight taser associated deaths, and Alberta with five. Ontario has had six taser-associated deaths, but it has almost twice the population of BC and Alberta combined.

If you need more evidence, the rate of taser use in Victoria, the capital city of BC, has been 3.8 times higher than Toronto. [LINK] This is amazing when you realize that Victoria is probably the lawn bowling capital of Canada (many elderly ladies enjoying their afternoon tea, etc.) It is less surprising when you realize that the Canadian distributor for Taser International is located in Victoria. See also [LINK][LINK][LINK].

Keep this in mind as you read the following.

Canadians' confidence in the RCMP's "...internal operations and leadership has dropped by 61 per cent among B.C. respondents over the past two years. Albertans recorded the second-largest decline in confidence at 36 per cent, while, nationally, 32 per cent of respondents said their opinion of police had worsened since 2007." [LINK]

British Columbia (#1 taser hot spot): -61%
Alberta (#2 taser hot spot): -36%
National: -32%

More tasers and naïve trust in Taser International, more bad outcomes, and thus less public confidence. And that makes police work more difficult.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And speaking of "textbook" examples...

Textbook - Business Ethics: Case Studies and Selected Readings
By Marianne Moody Jennings
Unit 10 "Business and Government"
Case 10.15 "Taser and Stunning Behavior"

The narrative describes how Taser International essentially infiltrated [my choice of word] police departments and used TASR stock options to buy access to decision makers. The textbook then asks four potentially-awkward questions that many eight year olds would be able to answer correctly.

When 'a certain company' literally (!) becomes a case study in business ethics, it's really time for governments at all levels to start backing away.

You really couldn't make this sh_t up.

Calgary police highlight "textbook" taser deployment - the inherent irony escapes them

Canwest News (22 Dec 2009) - Calgary Police are crediting the use of the Taser for the peaceful resolution of a chaotic and potentially deadly incident. "Clearly, here is a textbook example of why our officers have these tools. You've got an individual who's agitated and not listening to the officer's demands, engaged in extremely violent behaviour," said Staff Sgt. Chris Butler, the service's use-of-force expert. "Serious assaults had occurred, he was acting extremely irrationally. Other than use of lethal force, the most appropriate device was used to take this guy into custody." [LINK]


I agree that this incident is newsworthy - primarily because it is so relatively rare. The vast majority of taser deployments replace lower forms of lawful force (they’re used roughly a hundred times more often than lethal force).

When one incident like this actually matches the original justification for tasers, it is such a relatively rare event that even the pro-taser folks feel it is newsworthy.

But they fail to note the inherent irony that this type of "successful taser incident" is sufficiently rare that they feel the need to trumpet it.

If only – OH IF ONLY – taser deployments were restricted to these sorts of incidents, then they could avoid much of the controversy.

Officer.com provides balanced report on MD AG report

Md. Report Calls for More Taser Restrictions
(22 December 2009)

...
Barry Kissin, a Frederick lawyer..., faulted the report for not putting more blame on Taser International. "The report also states that 'training materials provided by the manufacturer of these devices tended to significantly understate the risks associated with [Taser] use,'. The report stops short of referring to this 'understatement' as unscrupulous fraud for the sake of maximizing sales. I believe an appropriate recommendation would be to terminate all business with Taser International and to demand refunds." [Officer.com (!)]


I wonder what sort of biased whitewashing of the Maryland AG's report will emerge from the "Sponsored by Taser International" spokespuppet that writes on PoliceOne? LOL.

USLaw on tasers

"Tasers and stun guns are high-voltage, low-current stimulators that can cause involuntary muscle contractions, loss of body control, and sensations such as pain and extreme fatigue. They are known to cause a suspect to suffer cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, malfunction of pace-makers, damaged eyes, injury to the central nervous system, and death. And Tasers can cause a miscarriage when used on a pregnant woman (police would find it difficult to determine whether a female suspect is pregnant)." [LINK]

Geesh. "...cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, ...and death."

Now what? Taser International going to sue a law firm? LOL.

Beer. Popcorn. Chair. Feet up. Okay - go!

Taser QotW: "I smelled like roast beef..."

Matthew Gray, 47, a retired soldier with some mental health issues, was repeatedly burned with a glowing hot cigarette [correction] tasered in June of 2003. The RCMP repeatedly burned him with a red-hot cigarette lighter [correction] tasered him because the stun gun salesmen said it was okay [correction] they feared for the safety of ambulance attendants, police officers, other drivers on the road and Gray himself. And the taser worked perfectly [?] - in that it did cause extreme pain and left obvious burn marks that reportedly smelled like roast beef. And the police only had to deploy it once twice four times maybe eight times about six times.

[LINK 2007-11-21]
[LINK 2009-05-19]
[LINK 2009-11-13]
[LINK 2009-12-21]

See also the "Glowing Cigarette Taser Challenge" [LINK].

Monday, December 21, 2009

BBB reports Taser Foundations fails six charity standards

Better Business Bureau states that the "TASER Foundation for Fallen Officers" (TASER Foundation) does not meet six (of 20) Standards for Charity Accountability. [LINK]

"This charity does not meet one or more [six] of the 20 standards for Charity Accountability."

BBB reminds us that this conclusion was based on the findings at the time. Since that time the situation may have improved. Then again, perhaps it got worse.

[HT CM]

Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) - gone silent?

We've met the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) before.

Previous posts:
7 January 2008 - Canadian Police Research Centre (another report) [LINK1]
17 August 2008 - RESTRAINT - Risk of Death in Subjects That Resist [LINK2]
26 August 2008 - DRDC pulls plug on non peer reviewed CPRC taser "study" [LINK3]
18 September 2008 - CPRC makes massive oversight [LINK4]



Well, where have they gone?

According to their Publications webpage [CPRC Publications], they've not had a single publication since 2008. I've browsed around their webpage, and it's essentially dormant. Maybe I'm missing something...

They had previously announced that they were going to gather data for one year starting on 1 January 2008 and write another report. [ibid1] Well, gathering data for one year starting at the beginning of 2008 should have been completed almost a year ago. It shouldn't take a year to write a report.

Not to mention the report that was pulled... [ibid3]

Amazing how the pro-taser 'science' dries up when it's put in the spotlight.


If they're looking for something to do, perhaps they could answer the great unanswered question about the death rate per taser deployment, comparing the M26 vice the X26. See [LINK].

An ideal opportunity for redemption.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Repost: ...M26 vice X26 death rate per deployment

Since this blog now has nearly 1500 posts, it's not likely that anyone is going to stumble across the most important findings. For that reason, I will occasionally 'repost' previous posts to highlight important topics.

If 'tasers-R-safe' and they have no lethal impact on the subjects, then there should be zero difference in the raw death rate per deployment between the older 1999-era M26 and the newer 2003-era X26.

Wanna place any bets?


Unanswered question: M26 vice X26 death rate per deployment
(20 August 2009) [LINK]

See a previous post from 7 April 2009: 'Call for Data (M26 vs. X26)' [LINK]

The limited (Canadian RCMP) taser usage data available suggests that there was a period during which the older (1999-era) M26 was actually deployed far more often than the newer (2003-era) X26. Another Canadian data set seems to suggest that during this same period the taser-associated deaths were dominated by the perhaps less-frequently deployed X26. These data sets [LINK] do overlap - but one is just the RCMP taser usage, and the other includes all taser-associated deaths in Canada (all police agencies). But even so, it is still very curious...

For "some reason", the later taser reports that I can find don't seem to mention which taser model was used during taser-associated death incidents. Combined with the previous observations, my suspicions are raised.

If this taser model / taser death imbalance is supported by a proper, complete, statistically-rigorous review of all the taser-associated deaths in Canada, then it may prove to be damning evidence that could be used to cut through the claims made by Taser International.

[Mathematically: T claims M=0 and X=0 (or X=M=0). If it can be shown that X>M (or perhaps even X>>M), this would prove that X and M are not equal and therefore their claim that both are zero simply cannot be true.]

And if it could ever be proven that they ever had access to such information, and then suppressed it, while continuing to market the X26 as "safe", then those involved might be facing more than just civil actions.

It is inexplicable on its face that such simple data is not readily available to the public.

There's nothing more that I can do on this question. Someone in the proper position needs to gain access to the complete records for all the taser-associated deaths in Canada and confirm which model of taser was involved. Then compare this against the deployment rates already gathered (for the RCMP at least) by RCMP Watchdog Kennedy. Then crunch the numbers.

It only takes one small pin to pop even the largest balloon.

This sort of observation, once firmly established, could be that pin.

Repost: Blood pH and the significant difference with the taser

Some recent e-mail correspondence with a new friend reminded me that the Blood pH taser death mechanism is still an issue worth highlighting. Note - it is only one of several taser death mechanisms.

There is an obvious and significant difference that the taser brings. Even when someone is acting agitated or insane, it seems obvious that they still have limits of exertion that are enforced internally. No matter what "super human" strength they may exhibit, it is extremely unlikely that they will independently kill themselves through over-exertion. The many and multiple feed-back loops within the human machine work to prevent that.

The taser respects no such limits. It would probably lock-up the muscles of a fresh corpse.

It is as if the subject were walking along near the edge of a cliff. Left to his own devices, he is more likely to fall down at the edge of the cliff. On the other hand, if someone rushes in and pushed him in the wrong direction, then the chances that he will fall over the cliff are obviously increased.

Kroll et al: "It is known that profound acidosis will lead to rhythm disorders and subsequent cardiac collapse."

Note the wording that implies a time-delayed death: "rhythm disorders" and "subsequent cardiac collapse".

Here are the two re-posts related to this subtle point:


Blood pH - which direction would be good? (27 June 2009) [LINK]

RCMP Commissioner said: "The RCMP's revised [Taser] policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals." [LINK]

Now, I'm not a doctor. But there's nothing particularly complicated about the following.

In an 'acutely agitated individual', assuming that they've worked themselves into a state of over-exertion, and their blood pH is possibly at dangerous levels, then does it seem like a good idea to shoot them with a taser, that "can" (I guess, assuming it works at all) cause extreme levels of muscle lock-up - which is a form of massive physical exertion - which can only make things in the 'Blood pH' department much worse?

Which way do you want to go? One step closer to death?

And significantly, the taser totally bypasses any built-in survival mechanisms that might naturally keep the subject from actually (i.e. in the real world) killing themselves through over-exertion.

That's a key difference - between what the subject might be ALMOST doing to themselves (naturally limited by built-in survival mechanisms), and what boundary the taser can push them right through and beyond.

The taser lacks any such natural limiting feed-back signals. It just stupidly and blindly locks-up the muscles (a massive form of over-exertion).

The taser could probably lock-up the muscles on a fresh corpse.

The operator might have been "trained" (if you can call it that) to hold the trigger down until the victim stops "fighting" (i.e. stops moving).

The outcome, in the worst cases, is perfectly obvious.




[NEXT RE-POST...]


The significant difference... (27 June 2009) [LINK]

Every now and then I mention something in passing, and it later occurs to me that it's an important enough point that it's worth posting again, on its own, to make sure that the point doesn't get missed.

This is one of those times:

From the post Blood pH - which direction would be good? [LINK]

...And significantly, the taser totally bypasses any built-in survival mechanisms that might naturally keep the subject from actually (i.e. in the real world) killing themselves through over-exertion.

That's a key difference - between what the subject might be ALMOST doing to themselves (naturally limited by built-in survival mechanisms), and what boundary the taser can push them right through and beyond.

The taser lacks any such natural limiting feed-back signals. It just stupidly and blindly locks-up the muscles (a massive form of over-exertion).

The taser could probably lock-up the muscles on a fresh corpse.

The point here is that humans have who-knows-how-many? built-in feedback loops. These 'negative feedback' (self-limiting) mechanisms would include: conscious awareness, discomfort, fatigue, pain, and so on - right down to utter collapse (loss of consciousness).

These feedback signals, which exist in multiple layers at every possible level of the human-machine, almost always prevent people from killing themselves through over-exertion.

Where a person is operating under their own command (even if acting 'insane'), they will eventually reach their limits. If they exceed those limits, there's a very good chance that they'll become unconscious and thereby avoid death by some margin.

My assumption here is that there exists a margin (possibly a small margin) between the point where a person would become unconscious (thereby providing life-saving rest), and the point where they're destined to die. I believe that this is a reasonable assumption. If you disagree with this argument, then you need to disprove this assumption, because everything else flows logically from it.

The taser simply bypasses many of these natural self-preservation limits. Even if the person has a Blood pH level (for example) which has rendered them unconscious, the taser keeps going and going and going. It will not stop.

The taser respects no ultimate limits within the subject.

There's no feedback loop (except the operator, possible defectively-trained).

And there's not necessarily any safety in being unconscious, especially if the taser makes the victim's muscles continue to twitch in a "fighting" and "threatening" manner.

This lack of feedback and lack of respect for the subject's ultimate limits perfectly explains the significant difference in the real-world outcomes between the subject just over-exerting themselves, versus them also being given a good solid tasering.

This simple hypothesis bridges the 'taser-science' (sic) knowledge gap surrounding "excited delirium" (the arguably-mythical condition), and trying to explain all those many "excited delirium deaths" (the all-too-convenient excuse for a 'taser-associated' death).

If 'excited delirium' is a problem, then the taser is not the right solution. In fact, it seems to be the worst possible approach.

It's as if the subject is walking along the edge of a cliff, and the suggested solution is to push them over the edge.

Even the RCMP acknowledged this plain fact: "The RCMP's revised [Taser] policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals." [LINK]

Behavior that some people call "Excited Delirium" is a clear-cut indicator to put away the taser.

PS: Scientific American reference: [LINK] (Thanks Critical Mass)

Blog hit of the week - "Is that my name?"

Blog hit of the week:

Victoria, Minnesota arrived from email01.secureserver.net on "www.Excited-Delirium.com: Interesting list of names found in MD AG's report". 14:20:36

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Taser-associated death results in probable $1.8 million settlement

#136 - June 13, 2005: Shawn Pirolozzi, 30, Canton, Ohio [LINK]

CantonRep.com (Dec 18, 2009) - ...A U.S. District Court jury earlier this year awarded Shawn Pirolozzi’s family $2 million stemming from his death in June 2005. City police subdued him with punches, kicks, pepper spray and a Taser gun. The award has been delayed while the city appealed the court ruling. A settlement for $1.8 million is close to being approved. ... [LINK]

I wonder if the settlement includes an apology?

[HT CM]

Interesting list of names found in MD AG's report

...identified the following persons as serving, or previously serving, in an external review board position, or as having acknowledged stock ownership in or receipt of honoraria from Taser International: Jeffrey D. Ho, William Bozeman, Donald M. Dawes, Mark W. Kroll, Hugh Calkins, Charles Swerdlow, Michael Graham, William Heeggard, and James Sweeney.  (Footnote 118, page 45, [LINK])

See also [LINK].

Sydney, Australia - Career of Police Sgt. damaged by taser

Sydney, Australia - Judges advises that he will find the actions of Sergeant Timothy Devitt "unlawful and improper" in connection with an incident where Sgt Dewitt assaulted Ali Alkan using a taser. Not only that, but the Judge also advised that the various charges against Mr. Alkan will be dismissed. And Mr Alkan is suing NSW Police over the arrest. [LINK]

It is my personal opinion that the clearly-defective taser training, and taser use policies that were probably cut-and-paste directly from propaganda-laced documents written by the cowboys at Taser International, have led directly to a good police officer going bad.

It is essentially inconceivable that Sgt Dewitt would have considered it appropriate to shoot Alkan in the back with his service revolver, or to suddenly become too-obviously violent and whack Alkan with a baton, or to (without provocation) spray him with pepper spray, or even lay a hand on him.

But the oh-so-clearly defective taser "training" (brainwashing) has somehow left Sgt Dewitt with the dangerously-false impression that the taser is in a different category, and somehow the taser deserves to be 'given a pass' with respect to common sense, common decency, and basic human rights.

If you are reading this and disagree, too bad. Because the judge in this matter has made findings that disallow any rational alternate explanation. Sgt Dewitt's use of the taser was "unlawful and improper". In other words, bad. And the blame for this must obviously be shared between Sgt Dewitt and his taser training.

Government decision makers and police leaders must realize that the police have been given a dangerous (potentially deadly) false impression. That tasers are some sort of high tech miracle (sic) that can be freely used without justification and without consequences.

That a police Sgt can be brainwashed is clear cut evidence that the information being promulgated by the stun gun salesmen is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong. Naively accepting this obviously-false information from the stun gun salesmen has put a massive dent in the career of one Australian Police Sergeant.

Calgary police facing $100,000+ lawsuit for stupid taser incident

Short version: In December 2007, Nicholas Ashe was attending a staff party at a sports bar He stepped outside for a smoke. Police arrived, made stupidly-incorrect assumptions, and violently arrested him. He was tasered twice for no apparent reason. He was then charged with "assaulting a police officer" and "obstructing justice", but those classic taser abuse 'cover charges' were dismissed in court. Judge explicitly stated that he believed Ashe's version of events over that of the police. See [LINK].

[Based only on what I have read about this incident and my understanding of human nature, I doubt that the police would have benefitted from wearing video recording equipment.]

Calgary Police are now facing a $100,000 or more lawsuit. Given the findings to date, they find themselves in a position where they can only negotiate the amount.

My advice to Ashe is to offer a moderate discount ONLY if the settlement cheque is accompanied by an open letter of apology that includes a specific admission of wrong-doing.

Governmental leaders and police decision makers need to realize that tasers and taser training seems to make police officers more violence prone and, frankly, stupid.

Quite some time ago I theorized that since the human central nervous system essentially runs on electricity, the taser trainees who experience a demonstration shot into the back end up with a short circuit from their buttocks to their brainstem. Post taser training, their thinking process appears to originate from their arse. Although it's just a joke, it seems to be a good working hypothesis to explain the real-world outcomes.

More seriously, where is it written that the police are permitted to brush off the serious implications of legal rulings? The judge ruled that he believed Ashe's version of the incident. And the criminal charges against Ashe were dismissed. Therefore, the most likely explanation is that there was serious wrong-doing by the police, and those criminal charges against Ashe were an attempt to cover up the police wrong-doing. If this simple logic is true, then these police actions are crimes multiplied by crimes.

Why are the police allowed to brush off these rulings?

Without consequences, there is no justice.

And at this stage, it shouldn't just be left up to a civil lawsuit to pursue financial compensation. The Attorney General (or similar) should get in there and investigate. And press criminal charges if appropriate. Of course, police and prosecutors often consider themselves to be playing on the same team. So asking them to apply the law equally is a tall order.

More details of Bernie Kerik's crimes

A 28-page letter (pdf format) detailing some of Bernie Kerik's crimes. [LINK]

Note - There is nothing to suggest that these criminal activities have any direct relationship to Mr. Kerik's time spent as esteemed member of the Board of Directors of Taser International. The fact that one former member of their Board of Directors has been convicted of criminal activities that spanned roughly the same period of time (1999-2004) as his membership on the board (2002-2005) should not be interpreted as besmirching the fine reputations of any other individuals involved with Taser International.

Celeste Thomas acquitted of taser-related 'cover charges'

CINCINNATI -- Celeste Thomas, who just happens to be the daughter of a Cincinnati city councilman, has been acquitted of "obstructing official business". Thomas was arrested on August 23 after a traffic stop. She was shocked with a taser portable electrotorture device by Officer Anthony Plummer after she got out of the car. An investigation found that the officer was wrong to use the taser on Thomas. Thomas had also faced an open container charge, but a judge dismissed it earlier this month.

See [LINK].

PLEASE REVIEW -> Previous related post on the same incident: [LINK]

UPDATE: Officer Plummer so very, very fired.

Taser used twice on man, effective neither time

...During a struggle, officer Rochford used a Taser to subdue the man, but the Taser malfunctioned. Two other officers responded to assist but the man continued to resist and allegedly kicked and fought officers despite being stunned with a Taser a second time. ... [LINK]

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taser QotW: "...significantly understate the risks..."

What a great year 2009 is turning out to be.

The Maryland AG's report into tasers has some conclusions that basically walk straight up to Taser International and slap them across the face.

This one is about as devasting a quotation as might be imagined, and with potentially huge liability consequences when brought into taser-death lawsuits.

"Training materials provided by the manufacturer of these devices ... tended to significantly understate the risks associated with [taser] use." [Executive Summary, page 2, paragraph 3, LINK]

Not just '...understate the risks...', but "...SIGNIFICANTLY understate the risks..."

Exactly as I've been telling you for the past two years.

Taser procurement in the face of fundamental disagreement

As was reported in the previous post [LINK], the Maryland Attorney General has concluded that tasers can kill, and should therefore be treated as dangerous weapons.

Taser International strongly disagrees.

How on Earth can procurement of tasers be permitted to continue between a buyer that has formally concluded that taser are capable of causing death, and a vender that continues to deny that tasers can kill?

Procurement contracts are based on a description of the product. By any rational measure, there has to be a common understanding of the primary characteristics of the product - for example, if a weapon is potentially lethal or not.

If there exists a clear disagreement on such a fundamental characteristic, then it is insanity to permit procurement to continue in such circumstances.

The problems that will inevitably arise are real. It's not just Contract Law theory.

For example, if a vender supplies tires to the state. And the vendor claimed that these tires would never, never-ever, skid. State employees believed the claims, and the rate of vehicle crashes increased. Employees die in violent crashes (always on curved roads). Memos are issued. Procurement continues. Internal battles break out. Vendor blames "excited driving" and maintains the lie that his tires never skid. More folks die. Lawsuits. Vendor manufactures studies that "prove" his tires simply will not skid, even at 750 miles per hour into a hairpin turn. Lawsuits are thrown out. Vendor become cocky. State tries to gain control of the driving schools to control the message. Vendor website still claims skid-free tire technology. It spirals into endless lawsuits - all because the Procurement Department turned a blind eye.

You've been warned.

Maryland AG's conclusions on tasers echo Braidwood Inquiry

File under "Now what? Sue the Maryland AG?"

UPDATE: Report in pdf format [LINK].

WJZ.com - ...The landmark, new report ...found officers have an over-reliance on tasers; while police are under-educated on how they should be used. ... "They have to be trained and told that this device can and does, in certain circumstances, cause death or serious injury," said Cary J. Hansel, III, report panel member. [LINK]

A taser "...can and does, in certain circumstances, cause death..."

"The report says police should treat tasers just like guns -- as deadly weapons..."


When the Canadian Braidwood Inquiry made essentially the exact same conclusion, Taser International launched a lawsuit. Are they going to sue the Maryland AG next?


Hey Taser International - nice strategy... LOL!!

Guardian (UK): Why deploy tasers?

"...weapons that leave the police open to claims of abuse..." [LINK]

Most people remember that electricity and magnetism are closely related.

The taser proves the same point - it uses electricity to create a lawsuit-magnet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Taser QotW - "None of us is going to light up a kindergartner..."

Florida Times-Union - Glynn County school police want tasers, but some school administrators say they’re unnecessary. County school board members want to hear from parents and teachers before deciding whether to equip school police with tasers, and whether to reinstate capital corporal punishment. ...

... "At my school, we probably could have deployed tasers four or five times already if we’d had them," said Sgt. Robert Kocour, who is assigned to Brunswick High School. "None of us is going to light up a kindergartner, but what about the irate parent who comes in all out of control? … A taser basically saves a life. You can energize them, but don’t have to shoot them," Kocour said. [LINK]

Follow the "LOLgic" carefully. Sgt Kocour claims that "a taser basically saves a life", and that he "could have deployed tasers four or five times already". If your brain is switched on, then you'll hopefully see the insanity of these two self-contradictory claims. Either at least one of these two claims has to be completely false, or Sgt. Kocour has actually killed four or five irate parents in his career as a school resource officer (not likely). I suspect that both of his claims are false or highly exaggerated.



For your decision, here's some useful info you need:

Search this blog for recent taser deployment settlements. [LINK] They're way into the high end of 5-figures now. Some are 6-figures. And these are for cases where no one died.

American Medical Association (AMA) - "...[tasers] may contribute to the death of suspects, either directly or indirectly." [LINK]

What about others that have studied the issue of tasers and DEATH? See [LINK]. I'm not making this up. Follow the links and you can fact check for yourself.

What about the NIJ? What did their interim report actually say?


Inmate gains control of asylum - two detention officers tasered

File under "ROLLS-EYES".

...officer then attempted to taser the inmate through the door opening, however the taser did not affect the inmate and he pulled one of the taser probes out of himself. Then armed with a replacement taser cartridge, the detention officer deployed it onto the inmate and entered the cell. Inmate ... forced the taser device from the officer's hand while the device cycled and pressed it to the officer's upper right chest "drive stunning" him. The officer then struck the inmate, causing him to drop the taser which then slid under the bunk in the cell. The inmate then grabbed the device, reactivated it and tasered the other detention officer in the upper torso. [LINK]

Sooner or later, an officer is going to coincidentally die of "excited delirium" immediately after being repeatedly tasered in the chest by an offender.

Perhaps the inmates should be reminded that detention officers are not to be tasered in the "upper chest", nor in the "upper torso". Such locations are not in accordance with the recently-updated taser targeting guidelines.

A sternly-worded memo needs to be issued to all inmates and offenders.


Geesh - it's like herding cats...

The new B.K. (Bernie Kerik)

OMG. Cityfile New York reports [LINK] that former member of Taser International's Board of Directors, and recently-convicted 8-count felon, has undergone an incredible physical transformation. He's shaved off the trademark mustache, and it looks like he has lost some weight. Good so far.

Now, what's with all the booze and the sword? An all-liquid diet can certainly cause weight loss. Are convicted felons permitted to have weapons (such as swords)? Booze, more booze and a sword - geesh - what could possibly go wrong with that? It could all end in an ugly taser incident. And that would be way too much irony even for this observer.




Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thin Skull Doctrine meets "excited delirium"

Christopher Beckman 34, was in jail accused of DUI. He becomes involved in some sort of "struggle" with jailers. During the incident, his head is injured. He dies in a hospital on May 28, 2007. The Medical Examiner (the one that actually performed the autopsy) cites Beckman's head injuries as cause of death.

Former guard, Gavin Douglas Littlejohn, 26, of Oklahoma City, is accused in a criminal charge of violating the inmate’s civil rights by using so much excessive force against the inmate that the inmate died. He has admitted striking the handcuffed inmate three times, but said he "...didn’t even hit that dude hard.

Defense team brings in a $400-an-hour expert who reviews the files, and who then suggests "excited delirium" as a possible cause of death...  [LINK]


From a post made almost two years ago: [LINK]

...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. ... The judge demands, "How did the victim die?" You tentatively offer the suggestion, "It was Excited Delirium, m'Lord."

Sometimes my ability to foresee the future frightens even me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Arse hit in arse by taser fired by arse

The South Australian Opposition Leader, Isobel Redmond, has been voluntarily hit with a Taser shot. ... Four people, including a doctor[!!!], were present at Liberal Party headquarters in Adelaide when she was hit on Monday. ...George Hateley, who fired the full-powered shot, says Ms. Redmond did not even fall down, "...which happens sometimes..." ...Mr. Hateley said he fired the Taser into her "...lower back and back side, the buttock..." [LINK]

George Hateley is the Australian distributor for tasers. He has been found making outrageously false statements. [LINK]

Pro-taser twit Isobel Redmond has been mentioned before. [LINK] She had a complete medical, brought the doctor along, and has now been tasered in the arse, all to prove that she has ...complete confidence in the safety of tasers...'

I wonder if she had to sign a waiver that included a mention of the risk of death?

With all the CYA (cover your ass) going on (medical check up, doctor in attendance, probably a legal waiver), it's amazing she was still hit there.

[Sometimes these posts just about write themselves...]

Taser deployment leads DIRECTLY to $75,000 settlement

Even ignoring the whole taser-death issue, the fact is that taser deployment settlements are coming thick and fast.

Today's news: Audra Harmon, tasered by Deputy Sean Andrews [LINK][LINK], may be offered $75,000 settlement. [LINK]

UPDATE - Settlement approved and will be fully funded by taxpayers. [LINK]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Memo to Officers: Smile, you're live to the Internet

OMG. It's here. Right now. Sooner than I expected (related post [LINK]).

The 'Ustream Live Broadcaster' app [US][Canada] is available for the iPhone, right now. It looks like it was released on Dec. 9, 2009.

By the way it's a free app, but it will obviously consume some bandwidth.

Live streaming video from the iPhone to the Internet. For example, straight to Facebook. Automatic Twitter alerts. Automatic geolocation. On device recording. Many more very clever features.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Slightly discrepant reporting of ME statements in the matter of Derrick Humbert

Regarding #448 - September 28, 2009: Derrick Humbert, 38, Bradenton, Florida [LINK]

A recent article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune [LINK] would leave one with the impression that is has been concluded with absolute certainty that the taser played no role whatsoever in the death of Derrick Humbert.

However, when I looked for other related news items, I found the following:
Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega said it appears the Taser did not cause Humbert’s death. “If it did, it appears to be have been a minor role or none. There’s no way to confirm that,” Vega said. “We simply couldn’t find any evidence the Taser played a role.
[LINK]

This statement is much more open-ended and more accurately reflects the state of the "science" surrounding taser deaths.

Another point worth mentioning is this extract:
Vega, a medical examiner with a solid reputation, says he thinks Tasers probably have contributed significantly to some deaths elsewhere. ... That doesn't mean Vega thinks stun guns are perfectly safe. They aren't. ...
[ibid]

There's nothing wrong with the findings of Dr. Vega when taken in whole. But keep in mind that the absense of evidence is hardly clear cut proof considering that public inquiries have found that there may be several (ill-defined) taser death mechanisms. And the fact that Dr. Vega allows that taser can cause or contribute to death is worth highlighting.

The only unreasonable and irrational position on the issue of taser safety is the false claim that tasers are essentially perfectly safe with respect to inherent internal risk factors such as cardiac effects.

For example, comparing repeated taser hits to being hit with a ping pong ball. [Kroll, "Cardiac Safety" (sic), Taser International's website] That's the ultimate example of junk science, and it summarizes the apparently official position of Taser International. Even the NIJ panel noted the apparent risk of repeated taser hits.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My advice is...

I was recently contacted by someone that told me their story of an incident where they were being beaten up, and when the police arrived they were then repeatedly tasered. If the story is reasonably accurate (and I have no reason to think that it isn't accurate), then the police are so into the wrong side that they can't even see the moral high ground from their position.

My advice to my correspondent was to immediately find the best lawyer in town; one that will work on a percentage basis. I advised that my new friend be 110% honest in every detail with the lawyer. And, of course, sue the bastards.

Sue for an amount that will remain appropriately-large even if negotiated down. Large enough to make headlines. Large enough to send a crystal clear message.

I also advised offering a moderate discount if the settlement cheque is accompanied with an explicit, unequivocal, heartfelt, public apology and admission of wrong-doing. This advice is intended to have two results: add entertainment value for the plaintiff (watching the defendants squirm), and to add some humanity to what might otherwise become a pure legal and financial exchange.

Someone, somewhere - sitting in their little office - is going to be getting a lawyer's letter in the very near future. A letter that is going to ruin their entire year. A letter that will eventually result in their employer issuing a very large settlement cheque. Or a slightly smaller cheque accompanied by an open letter of apology.