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Monday, October 15, 2007

Wake Forest Study Ignores the Elephant in the Room: 295 Dead and Counting

Contact: Aram James-415.370.5056/Richard Konda-408.287.9710/Raj Jayadev-408.757.5875

Taser Experts and Civil Rights Leaders Say Study is Disconnected from Reality

SAN JOSE, CA -- The recent study on Tasers led by Wake Forest University Medical School gives a false sense of safety to a proven dangerous, and at times lethal, weapon. Community leaders and civil rights advocates are condemning the study as insufficient, misleading, and not truly independent of law enforcement bias.

The study, presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians' Scientific Assembly in Seattle on October 8th,2007 has been touted by Taser advocates as evidence of safety, yet further examination of the study leaves more questions than answers.

Nationally recognized Taser expert Aram James of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability (CJA) says, “The study concludes -- without supporting data -- that Tasers reduce injuries to both police and the individuals Tasered. But the authors, offer no systematic data to support this conclusion.” James says that actually the study’s own data belies their own conclusion of safety. The abstract reported 23% of 597 subjects received some sort of injury. “Nearly 1 in 4, hardly support for the proposition that Tasers are safe -- and when coupled with 293 taser related deaths, a statistic conveniently ignored by the authors of this study, the conclusion that Tasers are safe is not only not true but in fact a lie of deadly proportions.”

Richard Konda, Executive Director of the Asian Law Alliance and CJA co-founder, says the study ignores the reality that some populations are at higher risk when Tased. “The study fails to mention the effect of Tasers on vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly, the mentally ill, and those under the influence of drugs, who are far more likely to suffer serious injuries and even death as a result of being Tasered.” Konda, whose organization is supporting a ban of Tasers, says the evidence of the deadly effects of Tasers is already being acknowledged by law enforcement communities. He says, “Medical remedies to prevent death are being developed because Tasers kill. In Miami emergency medical technicians are spraying a sedative in the noses of Tasers victims or injecting them with iced saline solutions. These protocols lead us to only one conclusion – that Tasers are deadly weapons and must be banned.”

Indeed, Noreen Salinas, eldest daughter of Steve Salinas, who died after being repeatedly Tased by San Jose Police, is appalled by the study’s disconnect from the real life impacts of Tasers on families. “How can anyone try to make a claim that Tasers are safe, when it has taken a father from his daughters, a son from his mother?” The Santa Clara County Coroner’s office have cited Taser discharge as a potential contributing factor to the death of Steve Salinas.

James says the reason why the study does not appear to be independent is because it was, essentially, a law enforcement report, and points to several red flags. “First, it was conducted at six law enforcement agencies across the country, interestingly enough not disclosed. Why the secrecy? Secondly, the underlying police reports and any accompanying medical records were reviewed by ‘tactical physicians’ who are closely connected to a law enforcement agenda. Finally, not mentioned anywhere in the press release related to this study is the companion piece put out by the Wake Forest Physicians Group. In a study dated September 4, 2007 -- the same doctors credited with the above study -- reported on a police officer who after volunteering to receive a 5 second Taser exposure, under very controlled circumstance, was Tased for 5 seconds and suffered a very serious and apparently permanently debilitating thoracic compression fracture. Why was this piece buried by the good doctors? So much for Tasers being a low risk of injury weapon. If they are unsafe for the cops they are unsafe for us!”

James, CJA, along with other civil rights advocates, is demanding a truly independent study, and is calling for law enforcement agencies to shelve Tasers until an authentic and comprehensive investigation of its use is conducted.

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