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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Police batons more dangerous than tasers: study

I post this here, not because I believe a word of it, especially when I see the usual suspects involved in this so-called study. I post this here, only to give some semblance of balance.

Dr. Hall's name seems to be attached to every taser marketing study in Canada.

July 30, 2008
Sherri Zickefoose, Canwest News Service

CALGARY - As the national debate over the safety of Tasers rages on across the country, a new study finds that batons are causing a higher rate of injury than other weapons wielded by police during arrests.

The two-year Calgary study - the first use-of-force examination of its kind in Canada - also found pepper spray to be the safest tool employed by police to subdue suspects resisting arrest.

The Canadian Police Research Centre report examines 562 cases where Calgary police used Tasers, pepper spray, batons, weapon-free control techniques and vascular neck restraints - 'choke holds' - on people resisting arrest.

The 14-page study found that Tasers "scored high" in safety for both suspects and officers in Calgary, a city of over 1 million. Though it was used in nearly half of all cases involving suspects resisting arrest, only one per cent ended up hospitalized, and 87 per cent sustained either minor injuries or no injuries at all, according to the report.

Batons, on the other hand - used in only six per cent of force-involved arrests - caused the greatest rate of serious injury. Fewer than 39 per cent of subjects were uninjured. More than three per cent were hospitalized, and nearly 26 per cent required outpatient treatment.

"The commonly held belief . . ." that Tasers carry "a significant risk of injury or death . . . is not supported by the data," said the report, researched by Dr. Christine Hall, an epidemiologist based in Victoria and Calgary use-of-force expert Staff Sgt. Chris Butler. The report says the stun guns are "less injurious than either the baton or empty-hand physical control."

On Friday, the Saskatchewan Police Commission announced it won't be authorizing the general use of Tasers or conducted energy devices (CEDs) by members of the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services until more information is available. SWAT team members will still be allowed to use the stun guns.

Pepper spray, used in roughly five per cent of force-involved arrests in Calgary, produced the lowest rate of injury to suspects. More than 80 per cent of people sprayed suffered no injuries. Fifteen per cent had minor injuries and four per cent had what researchers called "minor outpatient" injuries that needed medical attention but not hospitalization.

Police who used the spray suffered no injury in nearly 89 per cent of cases.

"No use-of-force technique available to police officers can be considered 'safe.'. . . Every use-of-force encounter between the police and a citizen carries with it the possibility for injury for one or all of the participants, however unexpected that injury might be," says a synopsis of the report.

The study is expected to be posted online by the Canadian Police Research Centre at the end of August. It's part of a larger use-of-force and restraint study set to be completed by 2009.

"The whole point was to look at all subjects and situational features to see where the problems lay in injury and death. The benefit of doing that is you don't only restrict your evaluation to bad outcome, you look at the whole denominator," said Hall.

"Use of force by police officers is really, really low. In two years and 827,000 face-to-face interactions, use of force occurred in 0.07 per cent."

U.S. agencies are also participating in the larger study, said Butler, adding American and Canadian use-of-force statistics are similar. Recent Canadian fatality inquiries involving police actions are highlighting the need for consistent use-of-force tracking, said Butler.

"That database isn't available anywhere else in Canada. To my knowledge, we're the first agency to develop it. We could search hundreds of incidents to compare subject injuries, officer injuries," he said.

"We're trying to come up with a retrospective look at police use of force and in custody death and looking to see if there's a safest way of managing these types of events."

See also Injuries vs. Death


Excited-Delirium.com said...

"The commonly held belief . . ." that Tasers carry "a significant risk of injury or death . . . is not supported by the data," said the report, researched by Dr. Christine Hall...

I make the risk, once the X26 darts hit the chest, to be somewhere in the range of about 5% (very rough). This is a 'modest' risk, not 'severe'.

This is based on the actual death compared to the normalized deployment rate (with the denominator washing removed).

It is many orders of magnitude above the 'parts per million' rate predicted by pro-Taser minions such as Webster.

Excited-Delirium.com said...

I've addressed another point on my blog (too much for a comment).


Anonymous said...

was your brother on any type of drugs or had unknown health problems