Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

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


The primary purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet for my observations and analysis about tasers, taser "associated" deaths, and the behaviour exhibited by the management, employees and minions of Taser International. In general, everything is linked back to external sources, often via previous posts on the same topic, so that readers can fact-check to their heart's content. This blog was started in late-2007 when Canadians were enraged by the taser death of Robert Dziekanski and four others in a short three month period. The cocky attitude exhibited by the Taser International spokespuppet, and his preposterous proposal that Mr. Dziekanski coincidentally died of "excited delirium" at the time of his taser-death, led me to choose the blog name I did and provides my motivation. I have zero financial ties to this issue.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Advice for TASR investors

This is free advice. It is simply my opinion. Take it or leave it.

Based on my analysis (see the blog), I believe that - sooner or later - one of those seemingly-endless product liability lawsuits will stick. Even if Taser was as pure as the driven snow, they'd probably eventually lose a case just on the odds. But when there are as many controversial issues as there are, then the odds are just that much worse. And when one of those lawsuits finally sticks, and when all the appeals are finally exhausted, then all hell will break loose.

Every sale, every deployment, hangs above Taser like yet another Sword of Damocles. From a risk point of view, these swords block out the sun. The sale shows up as 'a positive' for one quarter's results, but then the risk remains for as long as that product is in the field.

Taser likes to make deals with their insurance company. What happens is that, at Taser's suggestion, the insurance company will simply pay Taser a few hundred thousand dollars and walk away, leaving Taser to defend themselves. Taser seems to do this because they don't want to have any settlements being made by their insurance company. So when that inevitable day finally comes, it'll be Taser having to bear the full costs of the eventual settlement.

The issue isn't that their products are dangerous. After all, companies sell guns and knives. The issue is that they've claimed, to varying degrees, that 'the taser' is safe. At times, their claim has been almost: 'The taser is perfectly safe.' If and when this claim of high or perfect safety is proven to be false, then the full force of American Tort Law will descend on Taser like a perfect storm.

Companies that make police hand guns don't suggest that a shot to the leg would be a valuable addition to the training regime. Companies that make flame throwers don't send out brochures to every Medical Examiner and Coroner in the land suggesting that 'Spontaneous Human Combustion' is a more-likely explanation for the burnt bodies. These sorts of actions are like those of someone as mad as a hatter.

And it really doesn't help that Stinger Systems makes similar products that use much lower currents. I'm not exactly a fan of Stinger Systems, but the apparent fact that their products reportedly perform the same function with perhaps 75 or 750 times less dangerous current than Taser's products smells like very bad news for Taser. I'm not sure if Stinger's claims are true, but if they are true, then the real impact will be in a product liability lawsuit against Taser.

In fact, if Stinger wants to 'take out' Taser, then they only need to show up at the next Taser product liability lawsuit and offer their services to the plaintiff as an (obviously hostile to Taser) expert witness on design of such products. If the plaintiff lawyer can find even one other truly independent expert witness to nod his head at the right time, then Taser's goose will be fully cooked.

So, you want to put your Navy Pension into this stock? Are you fricken insane? Geesh. At the very least, purchase a counter-balancing hedge in the form of a Long Put with a strike price of a few dollars (a very few dollars). As the Long Put expires, then buy another one. Cheap insurance.

Disclaimer: This is just one person's opinion. You do whatever you want. YMMV.


Nate said...

This is a great post. You're right that every deployment is the sword of Damocles hanging over Taser's head. Sadly, every one is also a potential death sentence, with no judge or jury, for every person on the receiving end of a firing.

Anonymous said...

The problem is multifaceted and complicated.

Taser created the M26 which used a 50,000 Hz (frequency) waveform. According to the science, such moderately high frequencies are relatively safer by 100:1 than power line frequencies.

Then, in 2003 Taser released the X26 which has a burst of 100kHz noise on the leading edge of the waveform. This high peak amplitude burst of high frequency seems to have distracted their experts (sic), and they appear to have failed to note (duh) that the X26 waveform is basically 19 Hz and is continuous duty cycle.

Even though the 19Hz amplitude is only about one ampere, it is 100% continuous duty cycle and is not high frequency. The net result is that the former 15:1 inherent safety margin has evaporated.

I believe that this is a huge error.

Many recent studies have shown that the X26 will affect the heart.

The only significant safety margin is barb placement and luck.

Their training and demos never place the barbs across the chest. These are useless data.

Field deployments aim at the victims chest! Canadian cops are well trained (sic) and must be good shots because our 'coincidental' death rate is pretty high.

TASR is f_cked.

Nate said...

Considering that muscle tissue can experience tetanic contraction at frequencies ranging from 15-150Hz, and that household current at 50-60Hz can be deadly in the mA range, the 1A/19Hz figure is scary indeed!

Anonymous said...

Well, the 19 Hz component of the X26 waveform is not even an ampere. But it seems like it might be well over the range considered to be safe.

Nate said...

Ah, I see. It would be interesting to see the waveforms.

I'm wondering if that recent study from the UK, the one that utilized simulation and ex vivo preps of guinea pigs hearts, and one of the latest TI is citing, has waveforms in the paper. I can't recall. I'll have to dig it up again.

Anonymous said...

The waveforms are shown in the blog (below). Just look for the post entitled 'Significant DC Component in Taser X26 Waveform...' posted on January 3, 2008. There are some additional related posts. Also, you can Google the taser specification document number mentioned in these posts to get the full 2-page .pdf file of the M26 and X26 specification.

Keep in mind that you need to extrapolate the X26 graph to include the long tail to the right.

The presentation used by Taser focuses in on the 100kHz burst and doesn't even include most of the DC pulse. It smells like maybe they sort-of didn't notice what they've done in terms of switching from 50kHz to only 19Hz.

They used the high frequency 50kHz to escape from Ruggieli, and then the X26 is only 19 Hz. WTF?

Sorry the blog is so long, but this is a complicated topic. If you're really interested, then you have to start at the very bottom and read everything.

Nate said...

No, I'm loving the blog. It's extremely informative and I'm learning tons. I appreciate the pointer to that Jan post. I'll definitely give it a thorough read. The Jan 1st, IEEE Spectrum dissections are really informative too.

It's interesting that many of the studies I've read through don't explicitly state trying to model taser application to match usage by police or model taser usage that was followed by death (Although I can see how data might be tough to come by and I can understand the fear of not wanting to appear to politicize your science). I think that the Chicago study tried to do this and found delayed arrhythmias and death in pigs up to 140lbs.