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, January 30, 2010

"Inconclusive pending toxicology and additional studies."

Patrick Burns, 50 - tasered, deteriorated, died, and inconclusive autopsy. [LINK]

Previous related post: [LINK]

Friday, January 29, 2010

"purely to inflict wanton, unnecessary and excessive force, pain and injury"

The lawsuit alleges: ...Jan. 13, 2008 incident that started in the marsh off Savannah Road near Fisherman’s Wharf. Tylecki, while waiting for his mother to pick him up, was confronted by Lewes Police Department Cpl. James Azato and Delaware State Police Cpl. Matthew Blakeman. The officers violently threw Tylecki to the ground and pushed his head and face into the asphalt. "This was done without giving plaintiff [Tylecki] any request that he get down to the ground, and plaintiff in no way resisted being taken into custody." Tylecki was handcuffed behind his back and his legs were shackled. As a result of facial lacerations, injuries to his teeth and a nasal fracture, Tylecki was taken in a police cruiser to Beebe Medical Center. At some point while he was in an examining room, Azato told Tylecki he wanted a blood draw, and Tylecki said he would not consent to one. "At this point, upon hearing of the plaintiff’s refusal to allow defendant Azato to take his blood, plaintiff, while still handcuffed and legs shackled, was subject to multiple Taser shocks from Azato, who was using a conducted energy weapon manufactured, designed and sold by defendant Taser International Inc. The use of the Taser stun gun device by Azato was not done for any legitimate law enforcement purpose but was done purely to inflict wanton, unnecessary and excessive force, pain and injury." [LINK]

Bias and independence test for coroners

...50-year old Patrick Burns of Grandview was repeatedly tasered, taken to hospital to have cuts treated, but his condition deteriorated, and he died several days later. ...Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone ... said her office is “...absolutely independent. ...The coroner’s office is the balance between the medical profession and the legal profession. We are the unbiased, neutral person in the middle. I do my own investigation. I don’t have anything to do with Springfield police or the sheriff’s department or state police.” [LINK]

Another question that should be asked is concerning the involved coroners' views on the taser as a possible cause of, or contributing factor to, death.

Quite literally, Taser International has already gotten to many, perhaps most, coroners and medical examiners with their proactive propaganda about "excited delirium" and their false claims of safety.

Keep in mind that (for example) the AMA concluded that tasers can cause death "directly or indirectly", and the Maryland AG concluded that Taser International has "significantly" understated the risks of taser use.

So the simple bias test for coroners, to see if they've been corrupted by the one-sided propaganda from Taser International, is the following simple question:

Do you accept that tasers can sometimes cause, or contribute to, death?

It's a very simple question.

And the answer will reveal if they've already been brainwashed by the false claims of safety propagated by the liability-evading manufacturer.

See also the sort of mixed-up illogic that is sometimes applied in such cases. [LINK]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Annual restraint deaths - compare the numbers...

"...approximate number of annual restraint deaths of 25..." [LINK]

See paragraph 8 referring to Mumola (2007) concerning 2003-2005 data.

"25" per YEAR?

Isn't it strange that the taser-associated in-custody death rate is running about SEVEN (7) PER MONTH (!), the starting point of the obvious ramp-up in 2003 being being strangely coincident with the introduction of the more-dangerous X26 taser in 2003. See graph below.

And not even asking if the non-taser ICD rate has shown a compensating decline.

This kinda..., sorta..., seems to... set an upper limit on how many of the taser-associated deaths might reasonably be attributed to "sudden ICD" based on this historical data (25 per year being about TWO per month, maximum). Leaves about FIVE per month, minimum. (Hey - I told you that the one-third was a low-ball. [LINK] and elsewhere)

See previous post:  Taser-associated deaths 1999-2009

Science, liability, use of force, and restraint asphyxia

So there's this article on the PoliceOne website...

"Science, liability, use of force, and restraint asphyxia" [LINK], written by Dr. Darrell L. Ross.

The entire article does not mention the word "taser" nor "ECW". Not once. But the article is about those pesky and mysterious sudden in-custody deaths.

Just past the article is the following offer:

"Interested in this product? Request information from TASER International"

Weird - very weird.

(To be perfectly clear, this cintelligent designism type of slip-up speaks more to the PoliceOne website and their relationship to Taser International, than is it necessarily a negative reflection on Dr. Ross.)

Below is a very small screen capture extract [FAIR USE / FAIR DEALING claimed], showing just the top and bottom (big snip trim shown by the black dots) to show the strange juxtaposition, and to preserve it for posteriority.

Yeah, you're still fired.

Glenrock, WY - The Glenrock Town Council voted Monday night to uphold last year's terminations of Officer Michael Kavenius and Sgt. Paul Brown, the taser-wielding town police officers who tasered a 76-year-old Bud Grose who was driving a tractor in the town's annual Deer Creek Days Parade. Reportedly, Mr. Grose was shocked five times with Kavenius' taser. ... [LINK]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

33-year-old Joe Spruill Jr. - tasered-and-died

"...Deputy ... used his department issued Taser to subdue him. One barb hit Spruill in the neck and the other in the lower back. Deputies then called for EMS - which is standard when a Taser is used. While they waited, they noticed Spruill was unresponsive. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. ..." [LINK]


Another example of the taser's "Curious Temporal Asymmetry" (Google it).

Neck to lower back. It's worth noting that one recent study found that tasers actually disrupt the central nervous system. Not simply the peripheral nervous system as some of Taser International's so-called experts seem to think.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gascón's Golden Gate Tasergate

Previous post - "San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón, who ordered the study shortly after coming on the job in July 2009, wants to bring tasers into his department’s arsenal." [LINK]

The above sequence makes me wonder what's going on. Gascón arrives on the job, immediately orders up a "study" to "prove" that tasers are "required" in San Fransisco, receives a report that actually indicates that tasers might save perhaps two lives per five year period, while the inherent overuse of tasers would result in daily taser deployments and an ill-defined number of taser caused or contributed deaths (as high as 7 using Taser International's own claim), all the while bringing endless new problems.

Even from here, I can detect some unknown force acting on Chief Gascón. Is it internal or external?

Wiki - George Gascon is the current chief of police of the San Francisco Police Department. He has held the position since August 7, 2009, succeeding Heather Fong. Gascon previously served as chief of police with the Mesa Police Department for three years...

Mesa? Isn't that in Arizona? Taser International is based close by. Coincidence?

So, how many taser "associated" deaths have they had in Mesa, AZ?

1 - #69 on The List [TNT]: July 23, 2004: Milton Salazar, 29, Mesa Arizona

Autopsy Links Taser To Death In Mesa

Arizona Republic (Jan 14, 2005) - The Maricopa County medical examiner says shocks from a Taser stun gun contributed to the death of Milton Salazar, 29 in Mesa, ... Maricopa County Medical Examiner Phillip Keen said Thursday that Taser was one of several factors that contributed to Salazar's death. He called it "part of a triggering event." [LINK]

2 - #265 on The List [TNT]:February 11, 2007: Stephen Krohn, 44, Mesa, Arizona

3 - #440 on The List [TNT]: August 20, 2009: Francisco P. Sesate, 36, Mesa, Arizona

This is a more recent taser-associated death of Francisco P. Sesate, 36. He was tasered-and-died on August 20, 2009, in Mesa, Arizona. [LINK][LINK]

That's THREE in SIX years.

The city of Mesa, AZ likes to remind everyone that it has a larger population than you might expect, but it is still only about half that of San Fransisco. Also, Mesa is a bedroom community, not a metropolis. And yet they've had at least three taser associated deaths in just over five years. And in at least one of those, in spite of all efforts to the contrary, the taser deployment was listed as a contributing factor.

If you adjust for population size, then it's indisputable that the rate of taser associated deaths in San Fransisco could very easily be in the range of about six in a five year period. And statistics have indicated that tasers are explicitly named as causes or contributing factors in about one-third of all taser-associated deaths. That's a low ball ratio considering that Taser International actually launches lawsuits against Coroners to keep them in line. The real honest ratio can only be higher. Probably much higher.

Chief Gascón's own attempt at a pro-taser study clearly indicates that it's only reasonable to estimate that tasers might save about two lives per five year period. His report found five "opportunities" per five year period, but only about two of those would actually save a live (adding a layer of common sense to the sound bite "five").

Even if we're generous, at best, it's pretty close to "a wash" (no lives saved, net). Might be worse.

Which leaves only the massive expense, the innumerable legal problems, the moral and ethical problems, and the immoral redistribution of the risk of death from the most violent to all.

Any informed observer should know all this, instinctively. So what's going on?

Political leaders need to button hole Chief Gascón and ask him straight out if he is proposing that tasers would only be deployed about five times in five years (about once per year). Just a quick sanity check on his cute little report and his pro-taser arguments.

Related posts:

Taser pros and cons - do the math

Taser pros and cons (short version)

Attn: San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón

Update - see subsequent post: [LINK]

Repost: Taser "safety margins" and pre-existing medical conditions

This is a repost from 30 December 2009.

Taser "safety margins" and pre-existing medical conditions [LINK]

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.

[Comment for repost: Their various safety claims sometimes sound reasonable when viewed individually, but when the claims are all put on the table at once, the contradictions become obvious. The same situation exists with their claims of safety for the older 1999-era model M26 as compared to the newer 2003-era X26. The waveform features that they had claimed as the basis of safety for the M26 were removed from the X26. And then watch the monthly taser associated death rate start to climb in mid-2003. The point is, their claims are best attacked by comparing them with their other claims.]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Attn: San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - ... San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón, who ordered the study shortly after coming on the job in July 2009, wants to bring tasers into his department’s arsenal. ... [LINK]

The study in question, using the numbers provided in the report itself, reveals that tasers might save approximately two (2) lives per five year period.

There might be five (5) "opportunities" to use the taser (per the report), but tasers would only actually save about two (2) lives per 5-year period. It's important to be clear about such roughly 2-to-1 errors in logic, or lack of clarity.

Unfortunately, it is very likely that tasers would be used approximately 1500 times during the same period (almost every day). Perhaps this inherent overuse ratio could be adjusted downward slightly by good policy and good (non-OEM) training, but it's simply not rational to make unrealistic promises. If tasers are introduced to San Fransisco, they WILL be used well over a hundred times per year.

How many people would be killed by those 'extra' taser deployments is the subject of debate, but using even Taser International's own promises, the taser death toll could be as high as seven (7) during a 5-year period. It's even more likely that it will be at least two.

Mesa, AZ, where Gascón was previously Police Chief, has had THREE taser associated deaths in a period of approximately five years. [LINK] So it's not rational to presuppose that San Fransisco would be immune.

A key change that tasers bring is that the very real risk of death is redistributed from the most violent people (those whose lives we're talking about saving), to non-violent people (those who get a good solid tasering because the officer is having a bad day). Very bad karma.

None of this is particularly complicated. You simply start with a smidgen of skepticism. And review the claims carefully.

Note - all above is just a summary, please see the following previous post for complete details. [LINK]

Baron "Scooter" Pikes - preliminary hearing to preempt Daubert motions

Town Talk (23 January 2010) - Winn Parish District Attorney R. Chris Nevils has submitted preliminary motions to the judge in the manslaughter case of former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent. In the motions, Nevils asked District Court Judge John Joyce to rule on various types of video and documentary evidence that he intends to introduce in the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 9.

Nugent was indicted in August 2008 for the Jan. 17, 2008, death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes, who died while in police custody after being shot with a Taser stun-gun nine times by Nugent, authorities said.

Among the evidence Nevils asked Joyce to rule on were Pikes' autopsy report and statements made by Nugent to State Police investigators. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1 where Joyce is expected to rule on Nevils' motions and also to make decisions about expert witnesses each side wants to use.

In this case of manslaugher-by-taser [LINK], it looks like the District Attorney is making moves to preempt any surprise-surprise Daubert motions (to exclude any expert witnesses except those 'chosen by' Taser International). Well done Attorney Nevils!

If Scott Nugent is convicted of manslaughter-by-taser, then Taser International will be convicted right along with him. The main trial is scheduled to start on 9 February 2010.

This case should have some very interesting "direct" implications for Taser International and their claims.

I believe it was this incident that led them to add wording to their safety claim that tasers will not kill if used "lawfully". They had to add the word to exclude this case of death-caused-DIRECTLY-by-taser.

Background info:

...He recently examined a case in which 21-year-old Baron Pikes was stunned by a Taser after he tried to run from police in Winnfield, La., in January 2008. Pikes' death was ruled a homicide, and then-officer Scott Nugent is charged with manslaughter. Baden concluded Pikes' death "was directly caused by the cumulative effects of approximately nine 50,000-volt electroshocks from a conductive electric weapon administered during an approximately 30-minute time period after he had been handcuffed." According to the coroner's report, Pikes stopped twitching after the seventh time he was shocked. Winnfield police said Taser officials had told them multiple shocks didn't affect a person. ... [LINK]

See also: [LINK] [LINK][LINK]

Taser pros and cons (short version)

Regarding: Tasers seen as option in 1/3 of police shootings


Original long version of my response is here: [Taser pros and cons - do the math]

Short version is as follows:

1) Police guns and bullets are (as shown by this study) lethal about 50% of the time.
2) Tasers are ineffective about 30% of the time.

Combine these factors, and these five potential opportunities to use a taser to actually save a life becomes about TWO. In 5 years.

["5 opportunities" times ~50% bullet-lethality = 2.5 opportunities for a taser to actually save a life. Next, 2.5 times 70% taser effectivity rate = 1.75 lives saved per five year period covered by study. Rounding thus up to "two" is generous.]

But if SF Police had been 100% equipped with tasers in 2005, then they would have actually used tasers not once per year, but probably about ONCE PER DAY!

Most jurisdictions use tasers at about 100x the rate of gun fire. It varies, but it's a good number.

And even with a taser-associated death rate "that can be rounded to zero" (percent), you're still looking at more deaths by taser (perhaps 7) than the lives that might be saved (2).

Not even mentioning the karmic balance problem of redistributing the risk of death to non-violent people.

Not to mention the vast expense of tasers and lawsuits.

Taser QofW by 'squeedle'

squeedle - 1/23/2010 9:55:33 AM [LINK]

Maybe that should read, "5000% of NON-shootings by San Francisco police over a five-year period might have been avoided had officers been equipped with Tasers."

Taser pros and cons - do the math

SFGate - (Unlike many departments, San Francisco police officers are not equipped with Tasers...) One-third of shootings by San Francisco police over a five-year period might have been avoided had officers been equipped with less-lethal options such as Tasers, a police study suggests. ... The study focuses on the 15 shootings by San Francisco police officers from 2005 through August 2009 involving serious injury or death. Eight of the targets were killed, and seven were wounded. ... In five of the....shootings, the study suggests, officers needed something to incapacitate a suspect not armed with a gun "in order to stop the immediate threat." The suspects had knives or had charged the officers. [LINK]

At first glance, the above-quoted study appears to provide support for the introduction of tasers. In fact, that conclusion is paper thin, and upon further analysis it's clear that the study actually supports maintaining the status quo (no tasers).

What follows is just a bit non-intuitive. I hope that I've explained it clearly enough that readers will be able to follow. Feedback welcome.

First, note that this study confirms what has been noted previously in this blog. When police shoot a subject with a normal gun (bullets), the actual death rate (typically assumed to be 100% by many) is actually only about 50%. In this study, the death rate was 8 of 15 (53%, or perhaps even lower depending on how one interprets what's included in the denominator). Many pro-taser folks will base their arguments on the false assumption that "every taser deployment is a life saved". Even ignoring every other aspect of the larger debate, such claims are immediately off the mark by a ratio of about 2-to-1 based on this single factor alone.

(And although serious injuries are important, they're not even on the same page as death. If you don't mind, let's sort out the death issue before being distracted by discussions of injuries. I'd love to get the debate moved along to that point, but we're not there yet. Not even close.)

So the five cases where tasers might have actually been useful to prevent a police shooting, it would have actually saved a life (on average) in about 50% or three (3) of those cases, generously rounding up. So far, based on this study covering five years in the life of a fairly-large city, we're actually talking about actually saving perhaps three (3) lives.

But we're far from having a complete analysis.

The next factor to be considered is the relatively high rate that tasers are ineffective. One report had the effectivity rate at about 70%, or rate of deployment failure or taser ineffectivity of about 30%. I've seen worse figures mentioned, but the 30% is probably more indicative. Again, one can argue about the exact rate, but this seems to be a reasonable adjustment to apply.

The taser ineffectivity rate of about 30% means that if San Francisco had been equipped with tasers since 2005, and had attempted to use their tasers in those five appropriate incidents during that same period, then their tasers would have been ineffective about twice. Using their implied logic, that "tasers save lives", then the five (5) attempted deployments would actually be, due to the approximate 30% rate of taser ineffectivity, much closer to three (3) effective deployments.

Combining the two previous points, the three (3) lives actually available to be saved, combined with the 30% ineffectivity rate, means that tasers might actually save two (2) lives in San Fransisco during the five year period covered by the study.

To review what's been covered so far: five (5) opportunities to use a taser (per the study), but bullets are actually about 50% lethal (per the study), less 30% for the rate of tasers actually being effective (per reports), is about two (2) lives that might have been saved, over five years, by a city-wide roll-out of tasers in San Fransisco.

It's really important to clarify that the news report of this study was speaking of five (5), but using self-evident adjustments, the actual lives that might be saved is probably about two (2).

The above paragraphs also reveal the next important factor. Do you really think that San Fransisco police, assuming that they were all (!) equipped with tasers so that they'd actually be available to save lives at each of these opportunities, do you really think that the entire police force (combined!) would use their tasers only those five times, or only about ONCE PER YEAR for the entire force?

Obviously, such an implicit assumption would be insanity-in-a-can.

It is self-evident that tasers, when introduced, are used far far and away more often than those ONCE PER YEAR live-saving opportunities.

In fact, as has been shown by all the taser usage statistics I've seen, tasers are actually used about one hundred times as often as police have used their guns. In other words, if they had been equipped with tasers since 2005, they would have deployed tasers about 1500 times during that 5-year period. Almost every single day on average.

Feel free to argue about the precise rate of taser overuse, but it would be insanity to claim that tasers would only be used about once per year by a major police force. The overuse ratio of tasers is just as likely 200x as it is to be 50x. As a round number, 100x is good.

The next directly-related question is the risk of death with taser use.

Taser International likes to claim, or perhaps they like to pretend to claim, that the risk of death is close enough to zero that it can be rounded to zero.

Well, 0.49% risk of death per deployment could be "rounded to zero." Since they're systematically unwilling to discuss actual numbers, let's use this one to see where it leads...

0.49% of the estimated 1500 taser deployments would still be about seven (7) taser deaths!

And seven (7) is much greater than the two (2) lives we were (realistically) trying to save.

[Technical note for those interested. This mathematical situation is very similar to the issue of false positives in medical diagnostic tests of rare conditions. In short, when you think that you're presented with what is a rare condition, and you over-prescribed diagnostic test with their own non-zero false positive rate, then the cure can - quite literally - be much worse than the disease. This is a well know issue in medicine.]

The actual rate of taser "associated", caused or contributed death is still an open question, but the assertions and implications made by Taser International that the taser are incapable of ever causing death have been roundly rejected by any observers that are both informed and honest.

(For reference, refer to the recent Maryland Attorney General's report on tasers that concluded that concluded that Taser International has "significantly" understated the risks of taser use.)

It can be seen that their claims of safety, precisely bounded by 0.49% (can be "rounded to zero"), are well within the range that their product - even purely mathematically - can cause more deaths than it prevents. Any reasonable set of numbers results in the conclusion that tasers bring about as many, if not more, problems as they might actually solve. Note the keyword "actually", because the slick-talking stungun salesmen will be happy to test the limits of your skepticism.

But, even assuming the numbers are close, there's still a karmic balance problem.

Presumably and hopefully, most of those eight fatal police shootings were morally, ethically and legally justifiable. Or, if they were not, then hopefully the police formally apologized and provided a reasonable package of compensation to the families.

With tasers, because they're actually used far more often in cases where lethal force would not be appropriate, they impose excruciating torture and random death on non-violent citizens. That's evil on its face.

And in cases where death results, the evil false assurances of safety are used to protect profits and prevent justice. Compensation is rarely provided, for all the complex reason that we've previously explored. That's another layer of evil.

In my opinion, it's not just a numbers game. One does not balance the karmic books by saving the occasional life of someone that might be in a situation where potentially lethal force is a perfectly ethical response, while hundreds of other non-violent citizens are being taser tortured and exposed to a unjustifiable risk of death.

See also:

Attn: San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón

Gascón's Golden Gate Tasergate

Vancouver police "beat wrong man"

A blog visitor arrived from google by searching for "Cdn police beat wrong man".

This search relates to the following recent news:

CBC - The Vancouver Police Department has issued an apology after a man said he was beaten by officers who knocked on the wrong door while investigating a report of a violent domestic dispute. Plainclothes officers arrived at the right house at 2 a.m. PT Wednesday near Knight and 49th Street in East Vancouver, but they were at the wrong suite, police admitted in a news release Thursday.

Speaking through a translator, Yao Wei Wu told CBC News that as soon as he opened the door the officers pulled him out of the house and beat him. He was hit multiple times on the back, head and face, said Yao, 44. He said he did not resist because the men had guns.

It was only after they handcuffed him and asked his name that they appeared to realize they had the wrong man, Yao said. The officers then called for an ambulance and a Chinese-speaking police officer. Yao was taken to hospital where he said doctors found fractured bones around his eye and multiple bruises on his back. ...

An initial statement by police claimed that Yao had resisted. That statement has been retracted. [LINK]

This incident isn't directly associated with the taser problem, but it is worth posting here for several reasons.

1) The search I mentioned at the top of this post implies that the police beat-up the wrong man. This may be news to some, but it's not the role of police to go around beating people up, not even the right man. So the Google search, not to mention the incident itself, reveals that there is a percentage of the population, not to mention the police themselves, that have entirely the wrong idea about the proper, legal role of the police and the courts (and where good solid beatings fit into that process [answer - they don't]).

2) Seeing what (almost certainly) happened in this incident, provides a useful data point for other incidents. If this sort of incident is indicative of what's going on (and why shouldn't we assume it is?), then it's the tip of a very ugly iceberg.

3) Now, take this incident, and consider tasers. What if this sort of apparently out-of-control police squad arrived at your house in error, rough you up, and then tasered you - to death? All this nonsense about "just obey the law and you've nothing to worry about" is exposed as ill-informed nonsense.

This is exactly why the police are not supposed to act in this manner (for those that require a crystal-clear case). In fact, even actual criminals are not supposed to be beat-up by the police.

This is as serious as it gets.

Heads should roll.

People should not only be fired, they should be charged with criminal offenses.

And it seems likely that thus sort of behaviour might have been going on before (What are the chances it's the first?). Previous reports should be reexamined. Any cover-ups should result in more criminal charges.

Much of this is supported by the Blue Brotherhood of Silence. Which itself must be considered criminal.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Knock-Knock. This is your wake-up call.

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A convicted drug dealer who should have served 50-years for his crimes had his sentence overturned because an Appeals Court found Lubbock Police Officers used tasers excessively. [LINK]

Officers arrested Anthony Hereford in May of 2007 for evading an earlier traffic arrest when they noticed he had something in his mouth, possibly drugs, which he refused to spit out. "They threw him on the car, choked him out. He still wouldn't open his mouth. They tased him again," said Hereford's attorney, Susan Rowley. 

The officers involved, Williams, Arp, and Holmes, then took him to the hospital where Rowley says the incident continued. "They tased him another 8 to 10 times, mostly in the groin, while he was hand cuffed, while the medical staff was there, at the hospital," said Rowley. 

Officers eventually got the drugs out of Hereford's mouth, which a Lubbock court used to find him guilty of possession with intent to deliver in May of 2008. However, last month a District Appeals Court let him off. "They agreed that evidence should never have been let in. That it should have been suppressed because it was illegally obtained. When you torture someone to get evidence. You can't do that," said Rowley. 

The Appeals Court's Opinion claims one would only have to recall their first year of law school to see this violation, and then listed several cases that set precedence. The Appeals Court also called the attitude of the officers "cavalier" towards "The use of a weapon known to inflict pain, cause burns, and always involves risk of death."

The Opinion also said, "No one accused the defendant of being violent or physically aggressive." State Representative Delwin Jones said there is a distinct difference between self-defense and non compliance, and tasers should be used in self defense. He feels policies should restrict and guide taser use, and he hopes law enforcement steps up to make those policies. "I think they're the ones that have a responsibility, and if they refuse that responsibility, that's when legislative action occurs. Hopefully they will develop guidelines that are strong enough," Jones said. 

Rowley agrees the police department should examine their taser use, but isn't confident that will happen. "They kind of laughed about it in court. They were smug about it. It was not an issue to them, and maybe with this decision coming down they'll understand," she said.

Reliance on unreliable taser leaves officer facing shotgun

COLORADO SPRINGS - ...19-year-old Jonathon Pino, who stayed on the scene, resisted police control. An officer attempted to deploy his taser however the probes did not deploy. Pino raised a shotgun in the direction of the Officer who was able to close the distance, taking the suspect to the ground and disarm him. ... [LINK]

I'm glad it turned okay.

But geesh!! Relying on the unreliable taser, when the suspect is holding a shotgun, is clear-cut evidence that the so-called training is more an extension of the deceptive marketing than anything else.

One report I saw recently was that taser deployments in the real world are ineffective about 30% of the time. Not even including the recent guidance from Taser International to stop aiming towards the chest.

Me thinks that the taser has been oversold.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wired.com Danger Room notes parallel messages

The article at Wired.com Danger Room [LINK] notes that Taser International and PoliceOne have similar interpretation on the recent 9th Circuit Court ruling on taser overuse.

"There’s a similarly robust view on PoliceOne..."

Posted by: ExcitedDeliriumBlog | 01/21/10 | 3:38 pm:

You shouldn’t be surprised that PoliceOne provides the same misinformation as Taser International. A while back, when I contacted the ‘Less Lethal’ columnist Greg Meyer to challenge him on a technical point, he ran off to check the details with his friends at Taser International. When I saw that I was very disappointed, but not really surprised. Also, his column is sponsored by Taser International. I consider his column to be little more than a corporate spokespuppet outlet, as you have now discovered for yourself.

Note that the exact column referenced in the Wired.com article was written by "PoliceOne Staff". But the "Less Lethal" column is still proudly sponsored by Taser International.

Root cause of taser overuse, misuse and abuse identified

All the rules in the world are inadequate when put up against a corporate program of departmental infiltration and a so-called taser 'training' program that obviously is leaving the wrong impression that tasers are fun-filled toys.

Policy insufficient to overcome fun-filled taser "training" (13 January 2010) [LINK]

Wired.com Danger Room (21 January 2010):

Taser to Cops: Never Mind the Courts, Keep on Zappin’ [LINK]

(Image Fair Use claimed.)

Look at the fun that they're having... Laugh-a-minute these tasers are, eh?

The attitude displayed by these guys, with their mindless grins, explains the root cause of so many problems.

This demands significant corrective action. It is a systemic problem because the entire attitude on display here originates from Taser International. There's no point speaking with these individuals. The corrective action needs to be top-down.

If this tasers-R-fun attitude is permitted to continue, then the overuse, misuse and abuse of tasers will continue. And people that did nothing to justify potentially-lethal force will continue to die. And lawsuits and massive payouts will continue.

It's stupid. It's evil.

And even if you disagree with those, it's expensive.

Taser - the gift that keeps on giving

The Daily Journal (21 Jan 2010) - A third lawsuit, filed Wednesday in connection with a police officer using a Taser gun on students, alleges the officer shocked three other students as far back as March 2009, while being supervised by the school's principal. "This case will show that, contrary to the school's statement, these tasings have been an ongoing problem," said James R. Rowe, the attorney representing the parents of the alleged victims Monday. And the lawsuit, seeking $33 million in damages, also foreshadows more legal issues as it alleges that school resource officer Lonnie Netzel -- the same officer named in the two lawsuits filed last week -- used a Taser gun on students suffering from traumatic brain injuries at Kankakee Junior High School. [LINK]

Previous related posts:

Policy insufficient to overcome fun-filled taser "training"All the rules in the world are inadequate when put up against a corporate program of departmental infiltration and a so-called taser "training" program that obviously is leaving the wrong impression that tasers are fun-filled toys.

Tasers are essentially unique "tool"

Taser Use Policy countermanded by marketing

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Imagine that - The Federal Government announces a moratorium on tasers

Effective immediately, the Federal Government is imposing a total moratorium (*) on use of any and all Electronic Control Weapons (Tasers) manufactured by Taser International, Inc. The moratorium includes the M26 Advanced, the X26, the X3, all Shockwave systems, and the XREP projectile. This moratorium will be in effect for at least three years while the safety claims made by the manufacturer are studied.

* Note: The above is pure fiction. In other words, it is not true at this time. The above is intended to invoke an emotional reaction in some readers that may be useful in understanding the point of this post.

There's something that I just clearly noticed for the first time today.

I noticed that many police officers are very frightened that someone is going to “take their tasers away”.

FOR EXAMPLE – Someone dares to suggest that perhaps school children shouldn’t be tasered just for laughs (not really a controversial position, is it?). And suddenly the comment debate is populated by self-professed law enforcement personnel preaching the manifold benefits of tasers. [LINK]

FOR EXAMPLE - Someone dares to suggest that perhaps the claims of utter safety are actually not completely true, and that perhaps the taser should be treated as a serious weapon, as opposed to a toy (not really a controversial position, is it?). And suddenly the phones lines light up with police officers calling in with all the stale arguments about how tasers are replacing guns and saving lives. [LINK]

It would be funny except that the resultant irrationality spills over into the on-going debate.

Why do these police officers feel compelled to take these irrational positions?

My guess is that police officers are not only frightened to death for their own safety, many of them are also extremely frightened that they'll be forced to kill another human being.

I know that seems perfectly obvious in hindsight, but it's not often explicitly mentioned in terms of being an actual nightmare-level fear. They rarely speak of it in those terms.

And because they've been indoctrinated by the propaganda-based taser training, they honestly believe that tasers provide an alternate form of force that is "perfectly safe" (as they've been "trained").

Therefore they're scared that if their tasers are "taken away", they'll be forced to kill someone.

This is their nightmare.

And this is why they so vigorously and irrationally defend tasers.

Problem is... ...their approach is counter-productive. Not only to their goals of keeping the taser option available to them, but also to the universal goal of saving lives.

If they defend every taser deployment, even those that are clearly stupid, then they're destroying their own credibility.

FOR EXAMPLE - Those two other callers to the Nick Dial interview. They came across as idiots that weren't even on the same page. Even the talk show host shut them down. And then Mr. Dial had to explain his utterly-reasonable position on taser policy again.

Here are my common sense suggestions for those that want to keep their tasers:

1) Stop providing unlimited and unwavering support for tasers, including obvious cases of overuse, misuse and abuse. If a police office deploys a taser in a non-violent encounter, then do not defend him. Either be highly critical, or silent.

2) Avail yourself of the latest information from sources other than the manufacturer, and stop parroting the old nonsense about how perfectly safe tasers are.

3) Bring yourself up-to-date with where the debate presently is. Stop dragging up old 'strawman' arguments that were already stale in 2008.

4) Acknowledge that tasers are dangerous and potentially-deadly weapons, and they should only be used in violent confrontations.

5) Admit that the manufacturer has significantly understated the risks of taser use. Admit that many in the law enforcement community have been played like dime-store trumpets by the slick-talking stungun salesmen.

6) Agree that most Taser Use Policies requires a significant tightening up.

To be honest, the prospect of a government-mandated moratorium is extremely unlikely.

Much more likely is that the false claims of safety, the "significant" understatement of the risks of taser use, their 'Cardiac Safety' webpage that compares taser hits to being hit with a ping-pong ball, their numerous contradictory claims, etc. ...All these factors are vastly more likely (than a moratorium) to result in Taser International being successfully sued into the next galaxy.

By actively discouraging overuse of tasers, you (as a law enforcement officer) can directly cut back on the number of taser-associated deaths. See this graph [LINK] for how things are going in Canada. Note how taser-associated deaths in Canada have ramped sharply down almost-perfectly coincident with the new rules arising from the Braidwood Inquiry and other policy direction.

If tasers were only ever used to "save lives", then I would not have bothered to start this blog.

Nick Dial interview on The Terry Gilberg Show, KFYI

Nick Dial (previous post, [LINK]) was on the Terry Gilberg Show with KFYI Fox News Radio Phoenix, AZ on 24 October 2009.

Mr. Dial was asked to speak about the issues surrounding the taser, its marketing, and its appropriate use by law enforcement.

The audio podcast is available here: [MP3] (40 minutes duration, file size about 12MB).

My observations:

Being a talk radio program, and affiliated with Fox, and located in Taser International's own backyard (Phoenix, AZ), these circumstances ... make me very happy to see some conservative folks on the taser-critical side of the debate. It proves that this moral and legal issue doesn't have to be a Left versus Right debate. I've actually stated that the Right-leaning folks with 'Law and Order' inclinations should be the first ones to complain about corporate malfeasance.

It's clear that the other two callers were very frightened that police officers "will have their tasers taken away". This fear is not completely irrational, but their response isn't exactly rational. [A temporary taser moratorium is certainly an option to push the big reset button, and start fresh with a new approach and a new attitude. And a permanent moratorium (recall) on the most deadly version (the X26) seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable suggestion.]

But a moratorium on tasers is unlikely, at least in the USA. The rather extreme and misdirected reaction from these callers ("Please don't take our tasers away, wah wah wah...") is something worth exploring further when time allows. More later on that topic...

But a total moratorium on tasers is not what Nick Dial is calling for!

Nick Dial just wants the risks to be stated clearly, stop the mixed-up messages, treat the tasers as serious, dangerous and potentially deadly weapons.

These views are about as controversial as apple pie.

The host, Terry Gilberg, gets it.

But the two other callers to this show displayed very poor listening and comprehension skills. They both demonstrated a mindless knee-jerk reaction to any criticism of the false assurances of safety and deceptive marketing approaches used by Taser International. It was excellent that both Ms. Gilberg and Mr. Dial explicitly identified the error in their statements, and moved the discussion back on-topic.

Taser-associated deaths in Canada 1999-2009

The following is a year-by-year plot of all taser "associated" deaths in Canada from 1999 to 2009 (inclusive).

The data has been extracted from The Canadian List in the right hand column of the Truth...Not Tasers blog [LINK].

Comparing this graph to the one in the immediately-previous post [Line of Duty deaths of Police Officers in Canada 1999-2009] it is clear that reining in the overuse, misuse and occasional abuse of tasers in Canada has not led to a wholesale slaughter of police officers in 2009 (see previous post [LINK]).

Line of Duty deaths of Police Officers in Canada 1999-2009

The following is a year-by-year plot of all Line of Duty deaths-by-violence of Police Officers in Canada from 1999 to 2009 (inclusive). Accidental deaths are not included.

The data has been extracted from the Officer Down Memorial Page, Canada section [example: 2009].

Obviously a bit of a violent period 2004-2007 (inclusive)...

Taser-associated deaths 1999-2009

The following is a month-by-month plot of all taser "associated" deaths from 1999 to 2009 (inclusive). The black line is a 12-month running average.

The data has been extracted from the 'The List' [LINK] at the Truth...Not Tasers blog [LINK].

It's worth pointing out that the X26 taser was introduced to the market in 2003.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

TASER: An Officer’s Perspective and a Jolt of Reality, By Nick Dial

Nick Dial is co-founder of circle the wagons.net. Nick is a certified police officer in the state of Arizona, graduating from the police academy in 2006 with a 4.0 GPA. ... [LINK]

TASER: An Officer’s Perspective and a Jolt of Reality, By Nick Dial (6 Jan 2010)

Here: [LINK]

I graduated from the police academy in 2006, and worked both as a deputy for a sheriff’s office and police officer for a municipal city. ...

...the TASER must be respected as a serious tool that can cause harm, or even in some cases, kill. Therefore, it should be deployed tactfully in appropriate situations. Using the TASER as a compliance tool is simply bone-headed and dangerous to the general public. ...

...With the many cases of misuse, one must ask, why? The answer is pretty simple – training. ...

...TASER states in their bulletin that “the available research does not support this”
[causing ventricular fibrillation]. This is another complete false statement and misleading. ...

...Again, however, we see more hypocrisy on the side of TASER International. ... Evidently, it’s ok for TASER International to promote testing with pigs when it’s in their favor, and to dismiss it when it is not. So far much of TASER’S positions on the issue have been nothing more of double talk and misinformation. ...

...The number of officers injured during “safe” taser training must be taken seriously. ...It is not a toy...

...The longer this device is used without proper testing, study, care, and respect, the longer people will unintentionally suffer unwarranted injury or death as a result. There are now many cases pending regarding people who died shortly after being hit with the TASER – and it was in situations where lethal force would not have been used or permitted.

One thing should be remembered above all else - as law enforcement officers, we commit to protect the public and to serve. It is a cause greater than ourselves. The TASER is a tool, not a symbol of loyalty. We are loyal to the oaths we take and that includes getting to the bottom of how safe this device truly is before we subject someone to its use unnecessarily.


Deputy Dawg needs help with Google

Deputy Dawg: "Unless things have changed in recent years, every officer that undergoes taser training submits to being tased. I have never heard of any one of those officers suffering any injury from doing so...."

And later: "...You’re making a claim that officers have been injured during taser training. ... Is it too much to ask you to provide a link to that report?" [LINK]

This was my reply:

Here ya go…


I really hope that this helps.

Example of a Taser Certified "expert"

How many watts/ volts do police carry in a stun gun/ or taser? How many volts/watts could injure somebody?

Trooper3316 wrote (about halfway down the page as this is written): ...Tasers have less than .02 amps, which is 30 times less than the lethal dosage of .7 amps. Source: 16 years law enforcement, Taser Certified [LINK]

Note: The above link leads to Yahoo Answers. The "answer" in question, written by Trooper3316, who claims to be "16 years" in law enforcement, and adds that they're "Taser Certified".

Humans must be evolving if the lethal "dose" of current has crept up to "0.7" amps (that's 700 mA) {ROLLS-EYES}. This reportedly Taser Certified ignorant idiot is off by at least an order of magnitude.

And ignorant "Taser Certified" folks like this might end up on the witness stand, in some backwater court, clutching their little Taser Certificate, presenting themselves as an expert on the subject.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Taser defence converts 'grab' into 'repeated punches'

"...A woman responded to being grabbed by a 20-year-old man [Aaron Crutcher] at the downtown [Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County] library by ... firing her Taser stun gun at her alleged attacker, only to be repeatedly punched in the chest by the man. ..." [LINK]

I wonder how he was able to repeatedly punch the victim while being "incapacitated"?

As they say on the Web: FAIL

Q: How many amps in a police taser?

A: "2.1 mA."


The above answer is a vast oversimplification and is thus misleading.

There are two tasers in common use by officers. The M26 was introduced in 1999, and the X26 was introduced in 2003. There are others, such as the XREP projectile, and the X3 released in 2009.

There are several ways to measure complex waveforms. The "2.1 mA" mentioned above is the Average. In general, electrical engineers do not use simple averages, even if rectified, because they most often provide a misleading number.

It's fair to state that Averages in this context are the mark of a newbie, or someone with something to hide. They're that misleading.

The most common method of measuring complex waveforms is something called RMS (root mean square). For example, the voltage in your house is probably 120 or 240 volts RMS. This concept is explained in first year EE courses. All reputable brand digital meters in common use by EEs provide the RMS function.

Both the M26 and X26 are about 150 to 160 mA when measured using RMS.

This 150+ mA range might raise eyebrows, because it's clearly a number that is well above the safe limits of around 30 mA.

Part of the safety claim made by the manufacturer is that the output waveform consists of very short pulses (100us) of high frequency (50kHz), and these two waveform characteristics provides an increased level of safety margin.

Problem is... the X26 waveform has a DC pulse after the arc phase. This DC pulse is low frequency (19 Hz) and continuous 100% duty cycle. So the X26 taser is clearly less safe than the older M26 (even the manufacturer's own expert confirmed this fact). I believe that their in-house experts forgot about Fourier transforms and neglected to account for this DC pulse. They continued to proclaim "short pulses" well past 2003.

So the real question being asked is: What's the Effective current?

By the effects, the taser's Effective current is well above "2.1 mA". The taser usually does much more than just a harmless tickle. As I said, "2.1 mA" is misleading. The implicit claim that the Effective is the Average is simply preposterous.

The Effective current is self-evidently well above the level of excruciating pain (way above and beyond). It's also obviously well above the level where muscle lock-up occurs (that's the whole point). And there's growing evidence that the effective current might be enough to sometimes affect the heart (this is the very next step on the scale, right next to muscle lock-up).

The manufacturer claims that the waveform has special (magical?) characteristics to ensure safety. This seems unlikely since the M26 and X26 waveforms are so different. And there's a newer X3 model that reportedly emits about 40% less charge than the X26. So that claim is falling apart for numerous reasons (inconsistent, obviously preposterous).

It's worth noting that the taser-associated death rate was much less than one per month up until 2003. Starting in 2003, strangely coincident with the introduction of the X26 taser, the taser "associated" death rate ramped up to about 7 per month and has been at about that rate ever since.

It's also worth noting that the taser, assuming it did kill, would leave no explicit postmortem clues. So some folks would be able to invoke alternate explanations such as "excited delirium" to explain the deaths. They could enforce this by means of lawsuits against coroners that dare to find the taser a cause of death.

The whole issue is extremely complicated and there's a lot of history.

But the claim that the taser current is "2.1 mA" is very very wrong.

Taser Use Policy countermanded by marketing

"...The [two] lawsuits [seeking a total of $20M] name the police officer, the city of Kankakee, Kankakee School District 111 and two teachers. ..." [LINK]

"Misuse or abuse of the Taser by any police officer is strictly prohibited by the rules and regulations of the Kankakee Police Department..." [ibid]

Obviously, the rules and regulations are being completely countermanded by the deceptive and misleading marketing and the defective "training".

A recent news report stated that Taser International was still handing out taser shocks for fun at the Consumer Electronics Show. This sort of "playing around" with what is potentially a dangerous weapon obviously leaves a stronger impression than mere "rules and regulations".

So even with the best of intentions, the local government and school district find themselves in serious legal jeopardy thanks, in large part, to the marketing approach used by the stungun salesmen.

This incident has happened before [ibid] and will almost certainly happen again.

Police officers are getting a mixed message, common sense contrasted against the drumbeat that tasers-R-safe and tasers-R-fun. Part of the solution will be for leaders in the law enforcement community to tell the stungun salesmen to shut-up and stop fooling around, or else.

Your Taser Use Policies don't stand a chance in competition with the louder marketing message.

And government regulators should consider finding an existing law that might allow them to jail those that hand out taser shocks just for laughs.

Tasers are essentially unique "tool"

URBANA, Ill. — Two federal lawsuits, each seeking more than $10 million on behalf of two 12-year-old boys who allege a Kankakee police officer shocked them with a stun gun [a 'taser' according to most reports] during an in-school [unauthorized, illegal and stupid] demonstration. ... [LINK]

Try to imagine this sort of incident happening with any other police weapon.

"Hey kids, you want to try pepperspray in your face?"

"Hey kids, anyone like to try a rubber bullet in the belly?"

"Hey kids, who wants to be sleeper-choked?"

"Hey kids, anyone wanna get shot in the leg with a .357?"

None of these seem to happen at the frequency of children being tasered "for fun".

There's something disturbingly unique about tasers and ECWs. There's something in the marketing and "training" (one-in-the-same, which is another aspect of the same problem) that results in there being a much higher than expected rate of the officers honestly believing that tasers are much closer to a harmless toy than a potentially-deadly dangerous weapon.

This is exactly what happens when the 'industry leading' manufacturer is allowed to "significantly" understate the risks associated with use of tasers. And is permitted to mix such false claims and dangerous attitudes into the vertically-integrated "training", certification and departmental-infiltration scheme.

Police leadership should not treat this as a one-off incident. This tasers-R-safe and (even worse) tasers-R-fun attitude can be trace back to Taser International.

And the entire taser chain-of-command are suspected carriers of these defective and dangerous attitudes.

The larger version of this problem calls for major corrective action to purge these attitudes from the ranks.

Otherwise you'll spend half your life in court, and the other half writing huge settlement checks.

I told you months ago that the taser party was over.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

$50,000 settlement for "appropriate" (?) taser use

Elon, NC, in what is reported to be its THIRD taser-use settlement [moth+light], is paying 55-year-old John W. Paylor a settlement of $50,000 in relation to an incident in June 2006. Elon Police Chief Lavell Lovette said she felt that the police actions during the incident were 'appropriate considering the circumstances.' [LINK]

So if it's $50,000 for an "appropriate" taser deployment, then how much is on offer for an inappropriate taser deployment where the subject survives, and how much if he doesn't survive (YIKES!).

"...As part of the settlement, Lovette said she agreed to review the use-of-force policy and add language specific to Taser use."

Elon, NC reportedly has a population of about 7000. [Wiki]

Three taser settlements.

Population 7000.


So where did the original Taser Use Policy come from?

Still friends with the stungun salesmen, are we?

Any taser-brainwashed heads roll yet?

Hey, I'm just asking questions...

Policy insufficient to overcome fun-filled taser "training"

WLS-TV Chicago - A police officer at (visiting?) Kankakee Junior High School was reported to have said: I'm giving out free runs for the Taser to try it out. The off-duty Kankakee police officer entered the classroom at and shouted, "Who wants a Taser?" It's reported that the officer then went around the room and Tasered at least three boys, one in the buttocks. It's also reported that this officer is friends with the teacher, and last week the same officer came to the classroom and tasered some of the students in their fingers. [LINK]

My gut instinct tells me that this idiot is a hard-core disciple of The Church of Taser. Almost certainly fully trained and certified. And better-than-even odds that he's a Certified Fully-indoctrinated Taser Master Trainer (pure speculation on my part).

"...Misuse or abuse of the Taser by any police officer is strictly prohibited by the rules and regulations of the Kankakee Police Department and is subject to discipline. ..."

All the rules in the world are inadequate when put up against a corporate program of departmental infiltration and a so-called taser "training" program that obviously is leaving the wrong impression that tasers are fun-filled toys.

This incident is clear cut evidence that the problems with tasers run very deep.

Simply printing the local Taser Use Policy with a larger font isn't going to fix it.

The whole stinking mess requires explicit corrective action.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taser International facing numerous high profile lawsuits

I've heard through the grapevine that Taser International is facing several high profile lawsuits in the coming year. These are cases where 8-figure judgments would seem perfectly reasonable.

In my personal opinion, I believe that Taser International's use of "the science" (their use of the word makes me want to gag) as a blunt weapon, and their too-clever-by-half use of Daubert motions has probably run its course. No informed attorney will be caught out, and no reasonable court would truncate an interesting case based on Taser International's interpretation of the state of "the science" (gag).

2010 should be a good year.

Time to review the basics...

Tasers are, far too frequently, overused, misused and abused.

They're often described as "less lethal", which leads to the obvious question: Less lethal than what?

The obvious answer is 'guns'. In fact, providing an alternative to guns was the original promise (even according to the official corporate founding fables). But they're not often used to replace more lethal forms of force (guns); they're far more often used to replace lower (and arguably safer) forms of force.

The arguments about 'safety' can be sidetracked by rates of injury, as opposed to rates of death. I can't speak for others, but I've always considered death to a more important consideration than injuries.

Taser International expends huge amounts of time, money, and effort in addressing the question of taser safety. Some of their approaches have been short-sighted, of questionable ethical standard, thus damaging to their own reputation, and extremely counter-productive with respect to their own goals. Some of their methods could only have been suggested by imbeciles.

The direction of history is crystal clear. From the RCMP Watchdog, to the Braidwood Inquiry, to the Maryland Attorney General, to the 9th Circuit Court - everyone that studies the issue and is honest comes to the same conclusion: tasers are being overused, and the Taser Use policies governing their use must be tightened up.

The concept of overuse naturally encompasses the concepts of misuse and abuse. If the issue of overuse can be addressed, then perhaps (in an ideal world) the misuse and abuse will be exposed for what they are.

For this reason, the recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court is probably the biggest news on this aspect. In essence, the court noted that the taser is a serious, excruciatingly painful, and potentially dangerous weapon. For these self-evident reasons, they concluded that the days of using the taser as a handy-dandy human cattle-prod should be brought to an end.

Those new to the discussion have some homework to do. Look up the Glowing Cigarette Challenge and write an essay explaining, logically, why you believe that tasers are a legal form of electro-torture and using the glowing end of a burning cigarette wouldn't be legal. Look up the applicable posts for complete details.

On the subject of Taser International's claims that tasers cannot possibly cause death, their arguments are getting more and more stale.

I for one, and I'm sure I'm not alone, would love to see some hard statistical evidence that there is no significant difference in the death rate (from any cause) per deployment between the M26 taser introduced in 1999, and the X26 taser introduced in 2003. The limited data I've seen indicates that there might just be a significant difference.

If such a delta can be confirmed, then make sure that you're sitting down when Taser International tries to explain it away.

I've made many posts on this subject, including some critical technical observations about the taser waveforms, and tracking the long term trajectory of their technical claims.

The most recent finding relating to the safety claims was made by the Maryland Attorney General. Their report included the determination that Taser International has "significantly" understated the risks of taser use. Read that again. "Significantly" understated the risks.

Those false claims that "tasers-R-safe" leads directly to overuse.

The conclusion that the safety claims are false provides additional support for significantly tightening the Taser Use Policies.

It's like a circle.

Monday, January 11, 2010

9th Circuit Court taser ruling - cause and effect

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he isn’t sure how the ruling will affect his office’s use of Tasers, "We will be reviewing our policies and talking with our instructors." [LINK]

This review of Taser Use Policy follows the 9th Circuit Court ruling on acceptable and unacceptable taser uses.

But Taser International claimed that this ruling has little impact. They claimed it only applies to one case, and they clearly implied that nothing changed. [LINK]

So they're continuing to deny obvious cause-and-effect?

Diebetic Prospero Lassi "a law and order kind of guy"

For those that offer the mindless advice of "...just obey and you won't be tasered...", pay attention.

This case is about a regular "law and order" kind of guy. Just happens to have a medical condition that somehow led an officer, presumably a taser trained and certified officer, to repeatedly taser him.

Chicago, IL - The veteran civil rights firm of Loevy and Loevy has filed suit against Chicago police for Tasering a man 11 times in his own home as he suffered a diabetic seizure. ... [LINK]

Time to put on your thinking cap.

Under these circumstances (see the complete article at the above link), can you imagine the officer using his pistol to shoot the man? How about backing off and firing a bean-bag round? Can you imagine the officer whacking him repeatedly with his baton over and over again? Can you imagine the officer dousing him with pepperspray?

Those that claim that the taser is just another policing tool aren't paying attention.

It's different.

Very different.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Taser International's influences reaches into Jury Room

... Lawyer Garry Adams said in a motion that one day after the jury finished its deliberations a juror called him to say that at least two jurors, including the foreman, whom she described as “the principal advocate for police,” consulted Taser International’s website and used information from the site to try to persuade other jurors. The juror who called Adams ... later testified under oath, telling U.S. District Judge John B. Heyburn II that both jurors mentioned that the company’s website claims that Tasers are “non-lethal” and cannot cause fatal injuries. ... [via TNT]

Too bad these jurors didn't stumble across the Braidwood Inquiry, or the Maryland Attorney General's report that concluded that Taser International has "significantly" understated the risks of taser use.

Attention those that enforce procurement rules - This sort of thing is a direct result of allowing procurement to proceed where there is a lack of consensus between the vendor (taser-R-safe) and the agency making the purchase.

Emile Therien calls for taser electrical safety standards

CTV B.C. - ... Emile Therien, past president of the Canada Safety Council, says the government is leaving itself open to huge liabilities because electrical safety standards for Tasers are being ignored. ... [LINK]

My comment left at TNT [LINK]. This comment just touches the surface of this topic; it has been explored in far more detail in previous posts.

There are methods of measuring complex waveforms. The industry standard method is RMS, just like the 120 volts RMS found in your home. Using averages, even 'rectified averages' is the mark of a newbie or someone with something to hide. The M26 and X26 taser are both about 2mA by the misleading average, but are about 150 to 160 mA by RMS.

The real question is what is the 'Effective' value. To claim that the Effective value is the average is a preposterous claim. It is such an outrageous claim that it must be difficult for Taser International's Kroll to maintain a straight face while making it.

Clearly, by the effects, the Effective current is much higher than the Average. It's also clearly above the point where it causes pain, clearly above the point where it locks-up muscles, and is therefore right at the point where it could affect the heart (let alone the other taser death mechanisms). And disturbed cardiac patterns could lead to a slightly delayed death.

Kroll et al make claims that the taser waveform has 'magical' properties that ensure safety. But the X26 waveform is significantly different than the M26 (no details of X3 yet...).

The M26 is about 18A peak, high frequency, and very short duty cycle. The newer, more dangerous, X26 is about 3A peak, includes more dangerous low frequency that is continuous 100% duty cycle. Even Taser International's own bought-and-paid-for 'expert' acknowledged that the X26 is more dangerous.

And the X26 certainly appears to be involved in more deaths PER DEPLOYMENT than the M26.

I doubt that there's much overlap between 'safe' and 'effective'.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino

UPDATE (3 Feb 2010) - OPP's Fantino hails dropped charges [LINK]

CBC - ...A summons was issued Friday against Fantino on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials... Gary McHale, an activist....has been pushing to have Fantino charged after he sent an email allegedly telling the mayor and councilors in Caledonia not to attend McHale's rallies. ... [LINK]

We have heard from OPP Commish Fantino before on the subject of tasers:

A tool unlike any other (26 August 2008) [LINK][LINK]

Tasers are what's 'off the rails' (27 August 2008) [LINK]

Herding cats... (28 February 2009) [LINK]

In the following, it seemed that what we were hearing was a script, almost certainly provided by Taser International, being read by Mr. Fantino.

Adding words to gain back lost territory (4 March 2009) [LINK]

Taser fan-boys spout Taser-provided propaganda (25 February 2009) [LINK] ...When asked to cite a single study, Fantino shot back, "Do your own homework."

I have, Sunshine. I have.


Eugene Police Chief Kerns wants 'to take the long route home'

Eugene, OR - Police Chief Peter Kerns says an officer was "justified" in tasering a non-English speaking Chinese student (who was in his very own rented town house). The mamby-pamby, complete wussey of an officer felt "threatened" by the huge-and-scary, 6-foot 13-inch tall, 350-lb., martial arts master, 19-year old that had just arrived to take English classes at the University of Oregon. City Police Auditor Mark Gissiner, who oversaw a police department investigation into the case, says he disagrees with Kerns. [LINK]

Eugene Ore. - The legal team for the non-English speaking Chinese student tased by a Eugene Police officer plans to sue the City of Eugene. ... [LINK]

This incident will be a good example of how the existance of video, both the plaintiff's cell phone video, and officer's taser video, has any effect on how long it takes the city to rummage around to find their cheque book.

My recommendation, as always, is to demand an explicit, unequivocal, written letter of apology (signed by the mayor, the chief, and the officer) along with a good-size 5-figure settlement. If the city is unwilling to admit wrongdoing, then hold-out for a significantly larger settlement. Make denial an expensive option.

That letter of apology will be worth every penny of the discount, because it will avoid that annoying gnawing feeling in the pit of the victim's stomach when those that are clearly in the wrong march around with their chests puffed out and loudly deny the obvious. Allowing that display should cost a small fortune.

(If applicable, attorney's fees need to be tweaked to achieve the best outcome if they're set as a simple fraction.)

Taser Quote of the Week - first one of 2010

Gizmodo: "Taser [International], not content just helping cops electrocute old people and the handicapped, has decided to..." [LINK]

Friday, January 8, 2010

New America Media's commentary on tasers

Did Court Deal Fatal Blow to Tasers for Police? [LINK]

In addition to all the main points, the article includes some interesting statistical tidbits.

"...According to a San Jose Mercury News study of the San Jose Police Department use of Tasers in 2007, Tasers in dart mode are only effective 70 percent of the time in bringing down their target, and in stun mode only 60 percent of the time. ..."

Well that explains why we keep seeing so many reports of "ineffective" taser deployments.

Didn't the manufacturer claim that tasers are "...safe and effective..."?

"...In a Houston Chronicle study of Taser use by the Houston Police Department in a two-year span, officers deployed the weapon more than 1,000 times, but in 95 percent of those cases the subject was unarmed. The study also found that more than 50 percent of the Taser incidents escalated from relatively common police calls, such as traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints. In more than a third of the incidents, no crime was charged or prosecuted. ..."

Nothing like an escalation of a minor incident when the police are naively relying on a weapon that's too often ineffective.

Eugene committee wrestles with legal, safety, practical questions

The Register-Guard - "A citizen advisory committee and Eugene police officers on Wednesday wrestled with possible changes to the police department’s use of Tasers, two weeks after police said a number of committee recommendations are unworkable. ..." [LINK]

The punchline is that it is the year 2010, and people are still struggling to figure where to draw the line for acceptable Taser Use Policy.

Suggestion: consider the following points.

First come to terms with the growing consensus, at least of all that are both informed and honest, that tasers can sometimes - essentially randomly - cause death ("directly or indirectly" [US AMA]).

Tasers also cause excrutiating pain, and are an ideal torture device.

They've indisputably been overused, misused, and abused.

You already know about the 9th Circuit Court decision. This decision means that those that would deploy their tasers in what have been very common situations (and in accordance with the training traceable back to the manufacturer) would now be exposed to extreme legal jeopardy.

The Maryland AG concluded that the manufacturer has "significantly" understated the risks - so you cannot trust their claims, nor can you accept the "expert" advice of anyone that has been trained brainwashed by this misinformation regarding safety.

Putting these facts into your heart makes creating a new Taser Use Policy very simple.

It can almost be cut-and-paste from a combination of the 9th Circuit Court, the Maryland AG report, some insight from the Canadian Braidwood Inquiry. And excluding any and all advice from those that have been so clearly shown to have been in the wrong (the manufacturer, and all that have been associated with their vertically-integrated training brainwashing and departmental infiltration scheme).

It's not that complicated.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Malaysia considers purchasing 30,000 tasers

The news today reported that the stock price for Taser International (TASR) shot up by about 16% 24% after they announced that they've sold a couple of thousand units. I thought that it was a bit of an over-reaction, but what do I know? I didn't realize it was big news when Taser International actually sells some tasers.

Anyway, that reaction makes me wonder what would happen if the hoped-for sale of 30,000 tasers to Malaysia, reportedly and inexplicably at several times the usual price (?), ...it makes me wonder what would happen to the stock price if that Malaysian order rolled out of the fax machine?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Searching for a policy that can read minds and predict the future

Every now and then, I'm actually frightened by something I read.

"...Critics argue that the policy is too lenient and allows police to use stun guns in response to nothing more than verbal resistance. But it will prove difficult to create a policy that differentiates between passive verbal resistance and verbal resistance that presages an immediate physical threat. ..." [LINK]

I've highlighted in bold the section that is insane.

Or maybe the phrase "...it will prove difficult..." is intended to be humourous.

If it's not intended to be a joke, then I strongly suggest that those involved set their sights a bit lower. Expecting to provide policy that will assist officers to read minds and predict the future is a form of insanity.

When citizens and political leaders ask their police department to be more proactive, they didn't mean it in the sense of 'Minority Report' (the movie [LINK]).

Canada contemplates Taser (Use!) Standards

Ottawa, provinces moving on national Taser standards [LINK] [TNT]

What? So soon? [dripping with sarcasm]

"Taser standards" would be the technical, safety, performance, quality, and reliability standards on the taser itself. But that's not what the body of the article goes on to report.

OTTAWA — The federal government and provincial governments are planning to create national standards to determine when police can zap suspects with tasers... [ibid]

That would be "...national taser USE standards..."

Which is fine, if perhaps ten, twelve, or fifteen (?) years late.

Or perhaps they could simply start to enforce CC s. 269.1 (Torture) when tasers are used to electro-torture folks.

Given that the Braidwood Inquiry, and everyone else that is both informed and honest, is coming to the same conclusion - tasers can "cause death", even "directly" - and the ethically-deficient manufacturer continues to refuse to admit this obvious fact - perhaps (duh!) there should also be standards on the tasers themselves.

I'd start with an ethical standard on vendors. Any that "significantly understate" [MD AG] the risks should be disqualified.

Braidwood's report on Dziekanski delayed till late-Spring

Taser inquiry report held off until spring [LINK]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New York Times editorial - Tasers and Liability

The New York Times (January 4, 2010)

EDITORIAL - Tasers and Liability

"A federal appeals court in California has sent a strong warning to law enforcement officials that should make them rethink the all-too-common use of Tasers. It ruled last week that a police officer can be held liable for delivering a high-level electric shock to an unarmed person who poses no immediate threat. ..." [LINK]

Did you notice the phrase "all-too-common"?

Taser "tickles" terrible teen

Continuing the series of news reports of inexplicably ineffective taser deployments:

"...Deputies attempted to use taser to stop the [very naughty and rather stupid 14-year-old] teen. The taser had little effect on the teen. The teen told deputies that the taser felt like he was being 'tickled'. ..." [LINK]

There have been several (more like: several-squared) similar reports of potentially dangerous ineffective taser deployments over the past couple of weeks. Given a bit of bad luck, having an ineffective taser can lead directly to tragic consequences.

Why so many reports of ineffective tasers?

Is anyone in the law enforcement community concerned?

Have the authorities in the USA neglected to purge their taser inventory of the 10 to 12% of out-of-spec taser failure rate discovered by the Canadian public broadcaster CBC, and repeatedly confirmed by police jurisdictions all across Canada? Did Taser International ever issue a memo to US clients, or did they just go all-denial on us?

If I recall correctly, their only half-hearted attempt to explain away certain of these failures (high output) was to nit-pick the value of the test load resistor used, in spite of it reportedly being the exactly-correct OEM-specified value, AND in spite of their previous (and contradictory) statement that the taser operates as a "constant current source" and the magnitude of the output current waveform should therefore be insensitive to the exact value of the test resistor used.

And if the taser output is not a "constant current source", then the output current would be an inverse function of the essentially-random resistance value presented by the tasered subject. Thus the taser waveform current would be allowed to vary from ineffective at one extreme towards potentially-deadly at the other.

These are the sorts of discrapancies that a Federal taser regulatory body would eat for lunch.

The oversight approach being employed now is to let the media and interested researchers (both professional scientists and citizen bloggers) investigate and track this sort of corporate shinanigans.

The unregulated approach is "interesting", much like living in a town with no Fire Department would be "interesting", but I personally think that the traditional approach of applying some government oversight might be better for all concerned.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wired invents new concept: "...(perceived) pain..."

Wired.com Danger Room

Court to Cops: Stop Tasing People into Compliance

Wired.com - "...the latest versions [of tasers, the M26 and X26] rely on muscular paralysis to incapacitate a target. The substantial pain is a side-effect. A Taser which paralyzes without causing (perceived) pain would be an obvious avenue of research. ..." [LINK]

Characterizing the taser-induced pain, estimated to be roughly 2000 times higher than 'intense' pain, as a mere "side-effect" is strange.

And then to introduce the newly-invented concept of "(perceived) pain" is perfectly bizarre.

The language is more than just a bit "1984-ish" (the book, not the year); the twisted language revealing the twisted logic.

The facts are simple.

On the scale of electrocution effects, the taser goes above and beyond pain to reach muscle lock-up. The pain isn't "a side-effect", it's a foundation upon which the incapacitation rests.

And the next effect up the scale is affecting the heart. Which implies disturbed heart rhythm, and easily-explained potential for a slightly-delayed death.

This goes back to the insane claim, repeatedly made by Taser International et al, that the Effective taser current is equal to the Average (as opposed to the RMS or any other measurement technique).

Taser International claims that the taser waveform is special in that it affects the muscles, but not the heart muscle. They base this claim on the short duty cycle. But they didn't notice that the X26 taser has significant low frequency spectral components that are continuous 100% duty cycle.

I think that they failed to 'perceive' the impact of Fourier.