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.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fatal shooting in Vancouver

See also the later update here [LINK].

Police fatally shoot knife-wielding man in downtown Vancouver

A Vancouver police officer shot and killed a man on Friday after he refused orders to drop a knife and advanced on police... "We know that the suspect advanced on the officers with the extended blade of an X-Acto utility knife and did not comply with orders to drop the knife. The two officers held the man at gunpoint, but as he advanced he was shot." [LINK]

I've received correspondence from someone that I will describe as a rabid pro-taser fan-boy (fan-girl?) seemingly immune to reasonable logic and ill-equipped to contribute to the debate.

Here is what they offered as their point:

Wow I see another police shooting in Vancouver to day
Guess you guys are happy with the new no taser policy

There are several problems with this failed attempt at presenting a logical argument.

First, given the fact that there is a significant real-world failure rate for tasers (combining equipment failures and operational limitations), even the most reasonable, liberal-minded person should not begrudge the police the option of using their gun in the sort of circumstances described. Using a taser when someone is advancing on you with a knife would put your own life at risk. And those that espouse the view that they are 'very concerned' about the safety of our police should have even less reason to complain.

By way of crystal-clear example, it was only a day-and-a-half ago that I left the following comment on the Truth...Not Tasers blog:

If someone is threatening you with a knife then you cover them with a gun. Pull up a chair, call for back-up. If they advance, feel free to plug them. [LINK]

Please read that again to make sure you get it. I wrote it.

Based on the news report, this is almost exactly what happened! (except for the chair)

Both sides of the taser debate (excluding those that are completely ignorant of the state of the debate, such as our correspondent) are now in agreement that tasers are not a replacement for the gun. But they have the same position for different reasons. The pro-taser folks want to be able to justify use of tasers at a rate that is about one-hundred times the historical rate of police gun-play. The taser critics have little concern about those very few and rare incidents where the taser actually does replace a gun; we tend to focus on the other 99% of the issue where the taser (and its "risk of death") replaces talking, or simply waiting, or other de-escalation techniques.

Perhaps the tasers should be withdrawn, and the police issued with those fold-out chairs... (note - this does not apply to this most-recent incident in Vancouver where it appears, based on the news report, that the police did display more-than-adequate patience. )

If tasers were actually used to only replace police gun-fire, then I might have started a blog to celebrate their use and track the lives saved. But that's not what's happening about 99% of the time.

Second, even if this [updated] life in Vancouver could have been saved, it still does not justify the other 99% of taser use and imposing the risks (which "include the risk of death") on those that are not presenting the level of threat displayed in this incident. It's bad karma, and poor ethics, to randomly redistribute the risk of death. Leave such risks where they (unfortunately) belong.

Third, incidents where police in Canada shoot-to-death people are not very common. I've searched for exact figures, and I've seen numbers in the range of 12 to 20 per year. I would welcome pointers to more authoritative data. It's reasonable to assume that the vast majority of such incidents are perfectly justifyable and have zero ethical issues. In other words, there's not much of a 'problem' that requires solving (and I do NOT intend to devalue the lives that are lost).

In summary, trying to link this particular police shooting to the taser debate is an example of the pro-taser folks (I'm including even the most ignorant) trying to play both sides of the "replace guns" argument.

If you still believe that tasers are a useful replacement for guns to "save lives everyday", then please join with those of us that criticize the misuse, overuse, and abuse of tasers the other 99% of the time. But this gun-replace position is well past its Best Before date. Even Taser International has been forced to walk away from this stinker (although they continue to use the slogan).

On the other hand, if you're taking the position that tasers are simply a "perfectly safe" Force Option that can be used many thousands of times per year in Canada, then you can't really claim that police gun-play has anything to do with the taser debate.

And in closing - a major study showed that police gun-play was increased by 2.3x when tasers were first introduced to a police agency, and this then dropped back to normal (no reduction) after officers shook the Taser Training out of their heads after a year. And CBC noted that police gun-play was not reduced by tasers.

Shredding this pathetic attempt at a pro-taser argument has taken many words. But it was hardly an intellectual challenge.

PS: This correspondence actually accused me of being someone that I'm not.

You never replied which law firm you work for
Cameron, why are you hiding behind a blog site????


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