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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EDITORIAL: No sign of bias

Taser International Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs, Peter Holran (TASERPeter), on Twitter today: Globe and Mail (Canada) editorial on TASER - chooses to ignore scientific facts in lieu of emotional opinions: http://tinyurl.com/qz8yew

First they call Canadians "hysterical" - now we're "emotional." Good thing we're exceedingly more intelligent than Taser International thinks we are.

August 18, 2009
Globe and Mail

There is a word for Taser International Inc.'s accusation of bias, levelled at a former British Columbia appeal-court judge who held the most thorough inquiry into the taser's dangers ever done in this country. That word is "ridiculous."

Was Thomas Braidwood biased, as a Taser lawsuit charges, because he concluded that the taser can cause "serious injury or death" and that police use it too much? Of course not. Twenty-five people in Canada have died after being tasered, yet most police forces in Canada have been loath to acknowledge that the stun gun is dangerous.

Mr. Braidwood chopped away at the existing bias until the truth could be seen. Ten B.C. police agencies that use the taser rely exclusively on the manufacturer's training materials, he noted. Whose bias is in play? Not Mr. Braidwood's. He very reasonably said police should not rely on manufacturers when the materials "encroach into policy areas or topics of medical risks that may be under dispute."

Did he refuse to hear from Taser International, twist facts, deliver a diatribe? No, no and no. He brought before him - in public hearings - experts from emergency medicine, cardiology, electrophysiology, pathology, epidemiology, psychology and psychiatry. He listened to the evidence. Was that an act of bias?

It is worth recalling why the B.C. government called the inquiry. A Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, was tasered five times by RCMP officers at the Vancouver Airport. Unarmed but for a stapler, he gave no resistance at any time to the advancing four officers. He died within minutes. A video of the incident showed as horrific a piece of brutal and incompetent policing as this country has witnessed for some time. Was Mr. Braidwood biased because he doesn't associate such scenes with Canada?

He did not invent the risks. The most likely cause of death from a taser is ventricular fibrillation; the electrical current of the gun triggers a chaotic heartbeat. A second cause may be "spasm in the muscles of respiration ... interfering with the subject's ability to breathe." The B.C. government has accepted all of Mr. Braidwood's recommendations, which include strict limits on taser use. The truth about tasers is now in plain sight, and no amount of lawsuits from Taser International can obscure it.

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