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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

IEEE Spectrum - How a taser kills

Before you read the article, keep in mind the following facts:

Mark W. Kroll is a Director of Taser. He just (10/26/07) sold 25,000 shares and raked in $413,500. He still retains another 20,833 shares. So he has sold off more than half of his holdings of Taser stock. Keep this in mind so you understand where he is coming from.

If what he is saying were perfectly true, then nobody would EVER die from being tasered - no matter what. His arguments PROVE (sic) that death by tasering is well nigh impossible. But the facts are that people have died from tasering under some circumstances. Even ONE example proves the point, and arguably there have been many more than one. So, unfortunately that leaves a rather large smoking hole in the 'air-tight' (sic) logic presented by Mr. Kroll.

That's the really nice things about facts. It only takes one single solitary counter-example to leave the expert standing in a bucket of turds.

The other fallacy overlooked are the numbers. These guys do a few experiments on a few pigs (exact number NOT mentioned) and they try to extrapolate this to "...according to Taser, its guns are now fired more than 620 times a day and have been used a total of more than 680,000 times worldwide."

Well, other people have tested a few pigs and ended up with two loads of fried pork. Refer to posting below titled "Acute Effects of TASER X26 Discharges in a Swine Model" to see another rigorous experiment.

Taser has (more-so in the past) claimed that the taser is perfectly safe. Once this lie became obviously incorrect, they've retreated from this position a bit. But along comes Kroll again making the same old (wrong) argument that it is by-design perfectly safe. Which it ISN'T.

If they were to claim that the taser is mostly safe and that it would probably kill only a few (few hundred?) people a year, then that would be more honest.

Here's the article (3-pages), come back here after you're done.

Link= IEEE Spectrum

Note the section:

"Even so, we were comforted to learn that stun guns do not normally pose any cardiac risk. The full length of the Taser dart tip would have to embed itself into the skin and chest-wall muscle of a relatively small, thin person to get within the range of distances where we found the heart to be most vulnerable. Furthermore, the most sensitive region for the induction of fibrillation covers just a small area. And it is unlikely that two darts would land there."

Update - I just noticed this: "...unlikely that two darts would land there..." Really? "two". All it takes is one dart to land in the critical area and Gustav Robert Kirchhoff's law will ensure that what goes in one dart will come out the other dart. (Pssst! That's why it's called a 'circuit'.)

The 3rd page is a very cautious criticism of Taser. I suspect that there's more than one off-design mode, but let's pretend for the time being that this is the only issue.

Did they mention that "unlikely" multiplied by 226300 usages per year ("620" x 365) equals certain death at least several times per year?

That's the thing with statistics:

'unlikely' times big numbers becomes CERTAINTY.

So they have unintentionally made my point. Tasers are mostly safe, but will (as a statistical certainty) kill several (several hundred?) people per year.

Now that we've established a common understanding, then the lawsuits should start going the other way more often.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Four comments on IEEE Spectrum article from their website:

1 - Allan Gillard

This article has missed the most important point - how does the Taser compare in terms of dangers relative to the other means for restraining subjects and bystanders. When the lethality of clubs, pepper spray and especially guns are considered, the Taser would compare very favourably as a non-lethal means.

Posted by Allan Gillard
December 4, 2007 1:17 AM

2 - Jerry Goerz:

A armed Taser in close proximity to a 2-way radio can fire unexpectedly.

Posted by Jerry Goerz
December 5, 2007 10:39 PM

3 - Fred Mallard:

This test is totally bogus.
They never tested a taser. Read it again!
Skin resistance on humans exposed to high voltage is generally understood to be 75 ohms not 400 ohms.
Pigs are not humans they have much more fat surrounding there hearts.
The winner is that graph. Take these numbers of a real test done in the UK and plot them on that graph. Plot
51.8 mA ( M26) and 27.1 mA ( X26 ) on those graphs.

In that corner over there we have tests like this.
In this corner over here we have 310 bodies.
Any Questions?

Posted by Fred Mallard
December 24, 2007 9:14 AM

4 - Concerned citizen:

The section written by Mr. Kroll is very misleading. It amounts to corporate propaganda and I'm ashamed of IEEE Spectrum being associated with it.

Please note that Mr. Kroll is not simply a director of Taser; he also recently sold off about half of his Taser stock pocketing $413,500. This level of financial involvement in the company should be made very clear.

If what Kroll is saying about taser safety were true, then we wouldn't be seeing the relatively large number of 'unexplained' deaths associated with being tasered, and the flurry of lawsuits and other legal maneuvers by Taser to try to keep them that way.

If what he is saying was true, then you could manually insert (fully) the X26 barbs into Mr. Kroll's chest with the positioning shown to be most lethal in pigs, duct tape the trigger down, and let it run until the batteries wear out. I suggest that we try this experiment on all Taser senior staff as soon as possible. I'm sure that they'll all be fine.

These concerns are back-up by independent studies that tend to find more problems than those studies where Taser is involved. There have been several recent studies that indicate that ventricle fibrillation can occur in swine when the barbs are positioned across the chest (Valentino et al, and several others).

Why does the Spectrum article step so carefully around the actual peak current? I calculated it to be at least one ampere, but then read somewhere else that the peak current is actually several amperes (3A in the case of the X26, 15A in the case of the M26). Even this is apparently based on a human model (simple 400 ohms) that probably doesn't reflect the worst case.

If tasers were actually being used as a strict replacement for an officer's gun, then all this concern about the exact level of safety would be completely irrelevant. But, as everyone knows, the taser devices are commonly being used as a pain-compliance device, or as an on-the-spot extra-judicial corporal punishment devices. This misuse stems from them being falsely marketed as being perfectly safe.

This conclusion is backed-up by a CBC News investigation that revealed that tasers do not actually reduce the number of police shootings.

The RCMP watchdog (Kennedy) issued a stern report recommending significant changes in the allowed usages of tasers in Canada. The Canadian public is pretty much up-in-arms about the recent taser-related deaths in Canada. There have been 20 so far, and several in quick succession in late-2007.

There are also other questions that Taser will have to answer sooner or later:

Why does Taser design the devices so that they can be triggered continuously for 2 minutes and 49 seconds as in the case of the late Maurice Cunningham?

Why does Taser assert that "...the taser is safe for use on anyone weighing 60 pounds or more..." (children)?

In a recent case, "...Taser argued that it did not know that the muscle contractions produced by the weapon were strong enough to cause a fracture." So the public are part of the beta testing process?

Why does the article not acknowledge that 'unlikely' multiplied by 226,300 usages per year (620 per day x 365) equals certainty at least several times per year? That's the thing with statistics: 'unlikely' times big numbers becomes CERTAINTY.

Did you (Mr. Kroll) ever write an e-mail that stated, "...apparently solved the energy problem by getting 704 watts out of a TASER device powered by a 30 watt pack of 8 AA cells."? If so, then back to school.

I could go on all day, but this rant should be sufficient to make the point.

I am not going to provide my name nor e-mail address because Taser has already been shown to be lawsuit-happy. I don't want to be dragged into that mess if I can avoid it. But I will not remain silent in the face of this sort of propaganda.

I trust that my points and questions remain valid even in the desire to avoid being sued.

Posted by Concerned citizen
January 3, 2008 8:23 PM