1.31.2008

more truth on tasers

A study of Taser stun guns done in Chicago in 2006 refutes the manufacturer's about the weapons' safety. From CBC:
The team of doctors and scientists at the trauma centre in Chicago's Cook County hospital stunned 11 pigs with Taser guns in 2006, hitting their chests with 40-second jolts of electricity, pausing for 10 to 15 seconds, then hitting them for 40 more seconds.

When the jolts ended, every animal was left with heart rhythm problems, the researchers said. Two of the animals died from cardiac arrest, one three minutes after receiving a shock.

. . .

Bob Walker, one of the lead researchers on the Chicago study, said the fact that one of the pigs died three minutes after being stunned is significant.

"It says that the effect of the Taser shot can last beyond the time when it's being delivered," he said. "So, after the Taser shock ends, there can still be effects that can be evoked and you can still see cardiac effects."

This is also significant because up most so-called studies on Taser safety derive from one source: Taser Inc. When questioned about Taser safety, police departments all over North America simply quote their Taser-produced instruction manuals, and city governments nod their heads.

Tom Smith, chairman and CEO of Taser, was in Ottawa yesterday, defending his product to the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The hearings were prompted by the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, who was murdered by RCMP officers in the Vancouver airport in October.
Some of the most difficult questions came from Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who was attorney-general of British Columbia around the time that Victoria police became the first force in the country to try tasers.

Mr. Dosanjh asked Mr. Smith whether he was suggesting that tasers played absolutely no role in the 300 or so North American deaths that occurred after the device's use in the past few years. Mr. Smith said the use of tasers was deemed a contributing factor in only about 30 of the cases.

It was during subsequent questioning about Taser International's financial relationship with Canadian police officers that Mr. Smith revealed the company had paid two Canadian officers for services.

One of those officers, Darren Laur of the Victoria police, was compensated with Taser stock after designing a holster for the device. However, it was not publicly known that a second officer was paid until yesterday's hearing. After the session, Mr. Smith said he believes the second officer was from a Montreal police force and was paid to provide taser training in Europe because he could speak French.

Yesterday marked Mr. Smith's second Canadian public appearance this month. Two weeks ago, the Taser CEO was in Toronto, fielding questions at police headquarters. The Toronto Police Services Board is considering a request by Chief Bill Blair to spend about $8.6-million to equip and train every front-line officer with a taser.

A research analyst covering Taser International said a resulting purchase may be worth more than $3-million in revenue for the company. However, it is unclear when, or if, the deal will go ahead.

As usual, there's big money to be made from deadly force. And potentially big corruption, too.

The best source I've found for information on Taser use - and advocacy against its deadly use - is Truth Not Tasers. TNT's statement:
1) The safety implications of Tasers require urgent independent and unbiased study.

2) Until such time as independent and unbiased study into the safety implications of Tasers has been properly completed, a moratorium must be imposed upon these weapons.

3) If, after independent and unbiased study has been completed, the Taser is going to remain in the police arsenal, it must be placed at a level equal to lethal force on the continuum of force and used only as a second-to-last resort.

4) Safety standards must be developed for Tasers. There are currently no Canadian safety standards in place for this weapon.

5) Police must not be allowed to investigate themselves but must be subject to independent and unbiased civilian oversight.

6) Families of people who die in police custody in Canada must be provided with funding so that they may be properly represented by legal counsel.

An important list, worthy of our support.

I'm not sure where that leaves us with wackos like this: a man in Portland, Oregon used a taser on his 18-month-old son. He wanted to toughen him up. And this is a weapon people can own in their own homes, no questions asked. People like this make me question my core belief on reproductive freedom. (Child abuse story from James. Beautiful pictures of some non-abused canine babies on his blog!)

2 comments:

James said...

As usual, there's big money to be made from deadly force. And potentially big corruption, too.

I don't think this is a case of making big money from deadly force -- this is a case of making big money from shoddy research and slick marketing. If Taser had been up-front about the actual dangers involved in their devices, they could still be making good money -- they're still less deadly than police handguns. Police forces would have been able to make regulations for Taser use that would have better reflected the realities of the weapons, and several people would still be alive.

However, Taser would probably have made less money, so inflated claims ruled the day. They've got a "responsibility to their shareholders", after all.

M. Yass said...

Funny you bring this up. Not long ago, I had an insightful conversation with the chaplain of the Vancouver RCMP detachment. He said - get this - the officers would rather employ a Taser than touch a suspect because of the risk of contracting hepatitis C, HIV, MRSA and all kinds of other nasty bugs.

Now, wait a sec. I thought these guys were rough, tough cops who can handle anyone and anything. Using the chaplain's logic, why don't we issue Tasers to nurses? After all, they touch a lot of people with a lot of different, nasty bugs.

For as tough as they claim to be, cops sure do whine a lot, don't they? We're constantly hearing them bellyaching about how hard their jobs are and how they "deal with the scum of the Earth." They pontificate ad nauseam about how bad the pay is (it isn't) and how awful the people they come in contact with are. And none of this applies to nurses? My ass it doesn't.

What's lost in the debate is the fact that they volunteered to be cops. If it's so horrible, why do they continue to do it? Perhaps something about being able to tell people what to do and using force to get them to comply?

Then again, the nurses are primarily "chicks," so they don't count, do they?