You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dead on with his call for a moratorium

October 24, 2009

MY COLUMN ON POLICE use of Tasers last week drew a response from Emile Therien, past president of the Canada Safety Council. He had e-mailed it to seven others, including some federal and B. C. politicians, under the titleBanning may be the way to go . . . (this one is worth reading.)

He believes that in light of the new directive from Taser International in which it says officers should not aim the weapon at a targeted person's chest in order to avoid impact to the heart, a moratorium should be placed on its use.

"The fact that Inquiry Chief Thomas Braidwood in his report released on July 23 did not recommend that standards be developed for Tasers flies in the face of technology, purchaser confidence, common sense, police safety and public safety," Therien wrote.

"In failing to do so, the inquiry, unfortunately, squandered an outstanding opportunity to move this agenda that much more forward.

"The federal government, as recommended in a report commissioned by the RCMP Commissioner and released in September 2008, must now take the initiative and set standards for Tasers used by all police services in Canada, under its power in the Criminal Code, to regulate firearms. Standards for their efficacy and use must be developed.

"The fact, acknowledged by the manufacturer, is that one in 20 of these devices fail. This is statistically very significant when it comes to product quality and integrity. This failure rate defies all logic, is inexcusable and smacks of shoddy manufacturing and quality control.

"The manufacturer and police services should take note of the fact no other electrical product can be legally sold in Canada unless it is tested and certified by a recognized national standards organization. For the police, this is very much a workplace safety issue and concern. Until these standards are in place, police services should place a moratorium on the purchase of these electrical devices.

"Without question, establishing minimum standards would be another step in the right direction to further ensure police accountability and to allay public fears and concerns."

I believe he is dead on with his call for a moratorium. With 330 people in the U. S. and 26 in Canada dying after being jolted by stun guns in this decade, something obviously is wrong.


Excited-Delirium.com said...

Let's talk about taser electrical standards, the lack of them, and the result.

In 1999, Taser International introduced the M26 "Advanced" taser. It had a waveform that was high frequency and very low duty cycle. At the time, Taser International claimed it was safe BECAUSE it was high frequency and low duty cycle. The monthly taser-associated death rate was less than one per month.

In 2003, Taser International continued to fiddle. They introduced the X26 taser. They didn't give it a name, but the "X26 Hubris" would be appropriate. This taser model added a harmless DC pulse to the waveform, and all indications are that even the head of their Medical Safety committee, a man with a PhD in EE, failed to remember his EE 101 and he explicitly claimed that the output was still low duty cycle.

In fact, the DC pulse occurs at 19 Hz and is therefore low freqeuncy and continuous 100% duty cycle. They've walked away from the two waveform characteristics that they had previously claimed were the reason it was safe with the previous model.

The government regulators did not react because there are no government regulators with responsibility over taser standards. There are no standards.

The monthly taser associated death rate shows a near step function increase to about 7 per month starting with the introduction of the newer X26 model.

In fact, the Canadian reports appear to indicate that, even during years when the older M26 taser model was actually used three times as often as the newer X26 taser, the taser deaths in Canada during that period were reportedly exclusively associated with the X26.

If this observation can be confirmed by the regulators, then it may be critical evidence of the different risks between the M26 and X26 tasers. Oh damn, there is no government regulator.

If Taser International has this info, you can bet that they'll have shredded it by now. If the police have this info, they're keeping it to themselves. The on-line database does not mention the M26 vs. X26 model used. But data gathered by taser critics shows a disturbing X26 bias.

And now, in late-2009, Taser International has just introduced the new X3. It emits about 40% less electrical charge than the X26. And they seem to be keeping the waveform shape and frequency spectrum under wraps. I've poked around and i haven't found it yet. I'm sure the regulators would have some questions about the 40% reduction after all the taser deaths with previous model. Oh damn, zero regulatory involvement.

And their new XREP projectile includes an explicit and intentional "Hand Trap" feature that violates their own guidance (revision 1) issued 30 September 2009. They've changed the guidance to avoid having to explain about the arms and hands. I'm sure that the regulators review such life and death critical documents for accuracy and consistency. Oh damn, zero government oversight. Wild West. Yee Haw.

To be continued...

Excited-Delirium.com said...

Now let's talk about QUality Assurance and the impact when it is lacking.

Without a doubt, when most tasers fail, they fail low and either less effective or completely ineffective. Taser International has referred to this, in their propaganda based English-like language, as "Failing Safe".

There have been numerous examples in the recent news where tasers have failed. It took Canadian-funded investigations, funded by the media not by any regulators, to uncover that at least 10% of all tasers were out of spec.

It was also noted that some were out of spec on the high side, which Taser International claims is impossible. They mumble and propose fiddling with the exact load resistance, conveniently forgetting that tasers are supposed to be constant current sources (quoting them from a different argument).

Even companies that supply staples to the government are probably ISO9000 certified. Design houses are often certified to CMMI. Software design can be done to high standards, early XREP units reportedly had stupidly-obvious software bugs.

If the procurement of these potentially lethal devices were regulated, then perhaps the regulators would instill some basic QA principles.

We shouldn't have to rely on dedicated taser critics and independent experts funded by a media outlet to fill the role being abdicated by the government.