By Joe Wright
In May of 2012 I wrote an article that began as follows:
Two new studies reveal that supposedly non-lethal Tasers do in fact put citizens at a greater risk than without their use.
Electrophysiologist, Dr. Douglas Zipes, published an article for the The American Heart Association which covered 8 cases where a 50,000 volt Electronic Control Device (TASER X26) was used and victims lost consciousness. His conclusion is that this non-lethal weapon certainly can induce cardiac arrest.
The idea that literally short-circuiting someone’s nervous system could not potentially lead to death is surprising, but now peer-reviewed scientific evidence, as well as lengthy investigation into real-world situations seems to support the many wrongful death claims that have been filed against police departments. It is a fact that the elderly, to the deaf, to 10-year-old girls, have been among those tortured or killed by this Orwellian non-lethal weapon.
Now it is being revealed that secrecy surrounds those wrongful death claims and settlements made with non-lethal weapons company Taser International.
Taser International’s website page dedicated to “Research and Safety” clearly states that:
While exposure to Conducted Electrical Weapons (CEWs) is not risk free, there is no conclusive medical evidence that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CEWs. (emphasis in original).
Other similar claims are also made in subsequent slides. I’m not a legal expert, so perhaps they have perfectly crafted statements that attempt to ignore the two scientific studies cited above. Apparently they have not been confident enough, though, to keep from paying $2.3 million in settlements to victims of their product.
According to the vaguely worded statement (which can be seen here – Ed.), enhanced “risk management procedures” and “revisions to product warnings” in 2009 corrected a legal vulnerability. The $2.3 million payouts would address the last lawsuits tied to that vulnerability; they would amount to housekeeping — cleaning up lingering messes that had remained on the company’s books since before 2009. (Source)
The proliferation of non-lethal weapons is predicated largely upon the advertising of weapons makers like Taser International that have repeatedly asserted that their products are obviously much less dangerous than traditional weapons. However, a core problem is that this assertion may be leading police to use these devices as a first, rather than last resort. With upwards of 260,000 Electronic Control Devices being used by 11,500 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, this is no small problem.
Another scientific analysis sought to document Taser use in large and mid-size cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Knoxville, Tennessee. The research was divided into two studies; the first to examine the rate of injury to those apprehended vs. apprehension by standard police methods; and the second study examined the rate of injury to the officer apprehending the suspect.
The conclusions were clear:
The researchers found citizens were injured 41 percent of the time when officers used a stun gun only during apprehension. By contrast, citizens were injured only 29 percent of the time when no stun gun was used (when stun guns were used with another restraint method, such as pepper spray or wresting the suspect to the ground, citizens were injured 47 percent of the time). The study looked at 13,913 use-of-force cases in seven cities. The researchers took into account a host of factors, including the amount of citizen resistance, influence of alcohol or drugs, and officer experience. Injuries ranged from cuts to broken bones. (Source)
The individual accounts of trauma endured at the hands of police who are increasingly ready to use Tasers for any and every encounter are legion, as one can see by a cursory search of YouTube.
Then there is the financial impact to the cities where these devices are deployed and have resulted in serious injury or death. These costs are paid by taxpayers. One case cited by The Verge illustrates the outcome:
(The)officer soon pulled out a Taser ECD and shot (Kevin) Piskura in the chest. Piskura went into cardiac arrest; his heart stopped beating. He was taken to a nearby emergency room and soon life-flighted to a Cincinnati hospital where he died five days later. This past March, Piskura’s parents settled with the City of Oxford and the Oxford Police Department for $750,000. In October, Piskura’s parents suggested they were considering a settlement with Taser. (Source)
Stemming from this and other details of the $2.3 million settlement with Taser International that did result, the company has since made the change from describing its devices as “non-lethal” to saying that they are “less lethal,” as well as warning about direct shots to the chest.
The public’s right to know about the possible health dangers of devices used by public servants is also being called into question, however. As noted below, this information is typically secreted away despite Taser documenting incidents in cooperation with police:
Taser International is very good about keeping records. In addition to its Axon Flex on-body police camera that allows officers to record interactions with suspects, the company also collects data every time a Taser ECD is fired. But it’s up to police departments — and up to Taser International — to decide how much of that information is revealed publicly.
The company takes a similar approach in the courtroom.
Taser typically insists on keeping its legal settlements — such as those referenced in its recent $2.3 million payout — secret. Rarely are the terms made public.
So not only is the public kept in the dark about how many incidents may have taken place, but we also don’t know for sure how many other settlements may have been issued and for what amounts.
It is becoming clearer, however, that these supposedly non-lethal weapons have not only been mislabeled as such, but that the evolution of non-lethal weapons continues to be funded with our money, while also putting us on the hook to pay for the consequences of technology that we are not permitted to fully evaluate. It’s only common sense that any maker of a good product would want as much information as possible to be made available. In the case of Taser International, that information has been selectively offered at best.
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