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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Letter from a Concerned Canuck

In response to this November 21st report: Caught on tape: Officers using tasers I received the following letter to FOX 8 Cleveland from "Concerned Canuck":

FORCED to use Tasers? The police choose to use the weapons when and how they do. In your edited examples, you showed unarmed, non-combative citizens being repeatedly shocked with a weapon the U-S Courts have decided is "deadly". One man was even hand-cuffed.

I write to you as a concerned Canadian citizen who has examined this issue extensively for many years. Please check the recent ninth circuit court decision in North Carolina, where the judges unanimously agreed Tasers are, by legal definition, "Deadly Weapons". Should police be using such a weapon on a handcuffed or unarmed suspect?

And now the manufacturer of this 'non-lethal police tool' has itself admitted its devices can cause dangerous metabolic and cardiac changes, which can lead to death, especially among vulnerable populations. It warns police not to use multiple or prolonged stuns. It warns police to avoid chest shots.

If you check the fine print of the latest training manual for the X26 model you'll discover, like I did, that there is a very long list of risks and warnings that was not there a decade ago, when police first purchased Tasers. The company said then that their devices were "safe to use on any assailant". That is not what they are saying now.

Has human physiology changed in ten years? Has the technology changed? NO-the only change seems to be the manufacturer's opinion of its own products. This admittance in the waiver should be all you need to see --to tell you the truth -- that Tasers were deployed prematurely without enough scientific scrutiny by any government on either side of our shared border —and now the legal responsibility is being thrown over to law enforcement. Police failed us too, with a lack of due diligence, because they never verified the initial safety claims made by Taser International.

Also of great concern is the fact that these electrical devices are not measured regularly in any police detachments across North America. This is -- ahem-- shocking, when you consider that according to Truth-Not-Tasers.Com, which has kept a death toll based on media accounts, 700 citizens have died after being 'tased', including a Tuscon police officer last week. Officer Fung was a healthy man who suffered a massive heart attack, a day after being 'tased' in a training exercise. I wonder if he bothered to read the fine print of the waiver? Did he sign it? And will his cop buddies agree so readily to being 'tased'?

A few other things your reporter might like to dig into -- shocks between 30 to 100 milliamps can kill. Yet Tasers have peak outputs of 151 to 162 milliamps. Don't be fooled by Taser's use of 'averages', as the danger is in the peaks. And despite taser's assurances that the there is consistent current being emitted, our national public broadcaster, the CBC, proved there is 'output variance'. They found in a random test, using Taser's own test protocol, that 12-percent of the weapons performed above the safety allowables set by the company.

Neither the UL, IEC or CSA have ever measured the Taser, nor would they, they say, because one of the modes of use of the weapon utilizes invasive probes which emit current INTO the body, where resistance is next to nil. Check with the UL -- they will tell you there is no electrical safety standard yet developed for internal shocks, just external shocks, where skin resistance provides a barrier.

The lack of safety standards for non-lethal technologies is why NIST - the National Institute of Standards & Technology - is working with other scientists to develop a proper measurement protocol. But there will have to be TWO TEST PROTOCOLS for the TWO MODES OF USE: drive stun and the more dangerous dart/probe mode.

It took a major Public Inquiry in British Columbia to do it, but Canadian police have raised the Taser in the use-of-force continuum, to just below the firearm, only to be used as a last resort, in truly violent, life-threatening situations. Americans have to decide too — is it okay for police to continue to use the taser so cavalierly? Lakewood’s police chief told you this is exactly what the taser is for, “allowing us to have somebody compliant … without actually having to put hands on, wrestle or fight with them.” Should a deadly weapon be used to gain compliance? There have been too many "unintended consequences", but deaths will continue if police use the Taser the way they have.

Concerned Canuck

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium blog said...

Test Protocols won't directly improve safety if the shock level required to immobilize 95% of the population overlaps with the shock level that is potentially lethal to 0.5% of the population.

I honestly suspect that there's no such thing as a "safe and effective" taser. The bell curves and risk factors probably don't allow the existence of such a combination.

Anyone that claims that they have created such a device is most likely lying through their teeth.