By Joe Wright
Stun guns are coming under attack as 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.
An extensive study has now been completed over a four-year period in 7 cities that highlights other troubling conclusions. A Michigan State University study carried out with federal funding from the National Institute of Justice is the most thorough and wide ranging to date.
Researchers set out to examine the effects of having 260,000 Electronic Control Devices being used by 11,500 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. By taking a sample from large and mid-size cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Knoxville, Tennessee, some very disconcerting trends were observed.
The overall 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.
In the second study, online now in Police Quarterly, the researchers found officers were injured 5 percent of the time when using a stun gun only. By contrast, officers were injured nearly 10 percent of the time when no stun gun was used. The study looked at 12,455 use-of-force cases in six cities. (Source)
Naturally, law enforcement will cite the second study of officer safety as paramount, but let us not forget that it is the duty of police to serve and protect citizens, not the other way around.
I don’t say this out of lack of compassion for law enforcement put into stressful and dangerous situations, but they chose to serve the public and encounter danger with a degree of integrity and nobility.
The massive increase in the use of non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, sound cannons, and even directed energy weapons has created a situation where those presumed to be innocent until found guilty may have their right to judge and jury replaced by that of only the executioner.
Now that the Pentagon has decided to offer free military hardware to every police force in the United States under the 1033 program, we should be well aware that when we come into contact with police, there is a serious risk of abuse.
Now that these studies have been made available to law enforcement, they are faced with a stark reality: if they are knowingly engaging in any activity that has been proven to increase the danger to citizens under their protection, they are in grave dereliction of duty. As summarized by criminologist and lead researcher for the MSU study, William Terrill:
‘The findings are quite complex, in that citizen injuries increased but officer injuries decreased,’ Terrill said. ‘Police agencies have to balance the findings. They have to consider whether this is a trade-off they can accept.’
The larger question for citizens in a supposedly free nation is whether or not this is a trade-off WE can accept.
http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120501/NEWS01/120501005Read other articles by Joe Wright here.
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