Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government Medicine News Hardware

Taser International Wins Lawsuit to Change Cause of Death 577

Posted by Soulskill
from the shock-and-law dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Taser International recently started a legal campaign against medical examiners who claimed tasers contributed to the cause of death for several people. On Friday, an Ohio judge ruled in favor of the stun gun manufacturer (free registration may be required). While they do have a number of scientific studies on which they establish their claims, it's interesting that the alternate cause of death they champion — excited delirium — appears only in police reports on the deaths of difficult or drug-addled inmates, not in medical textbooks. Of course, that may change soon — Taser is funding and promoting research on the subject. Coroner reports such as the ones in this case contributed to the UN's opinion that taser use is torture."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Taser International Wins Lawsuit to Change Cause of Death

Comments Filter:
  • Excited delirium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:18AM (#23290906) Homepage
    Sounds like one of those 18th century list of causes of death, where they didn't actually know the reason so they threw in some medical buzzwords of the day such as hysteria.
    • hysterical (Score:5, Informative)

      by gnutoo (1154137) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:28AM (#23291362) Journal

      Yes but there is a common cause to these deaths, police intervention with taser. Calling it something else is a lie.

      At the same time, it's nice of you to bring up previous quack explanations like hysteria [wikipedia.org], especially female hysteria [wikipedia.org] which was cured by rape.

    • Time for... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:41AM (#23291478) Homepage
      Time to manufacture conductive underwear then. Just short the tazer and avoid the trouble.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dr_dank (472072)
        I think the parent is confusing stun guns with Tazers. Stun guns also deliver an electric shock like the Tazer does, but you have to get right up and close to use it. With the Tazer, it shoots out barbed darts that penetrate the skin and deliver the shock. No need to get too close, iirc, you can hit a target from up to 15 feet away.

          This hypothetical faraday long underwear would need Kevlar fibers to make it puncture-resistant.
  • by Neuropol (665537) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:19AM (#23290912) Homepage
    Just fire up the sidearm electrocution device.

    It's torture my any means.

    It's unlawful restraint.

    We don't do this (legally) to animals in public, although some do in private, but they'll be dealt with accordingly. So, given that one simple fact, then why should humans be subjected to it?

    Don't tase me, bro.
    • by frieko (855745) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:39AM (#23291036)
      A Taser is actually far more violent than a cattle prod. A cattle prod feels like a hard slap. A Taser drops you to the ground in pain.
    • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:01AM (#23291152)
      If we have trouble with an animal, we shoot it -- either lethally, or with tranquilizer darts. Now you might say let's just use tranqs on humans! ... but that wouldn't work. The only tranq I know of that would be safe to use on humans would be ketamine, and it's not exactly fast-acting. So then we're still left with the question of what to do when somebody violently resists police or police need to stop somebody from acting violently towards others. Do you just shoot them? Beat the shit out of them until they stop? Those both are much more lethal than a taser could ever be. Try and talk them out of it? Oh, but if you do that now you're valuing the life of the criminal above the life of innocents and the police. There are most certainly cases where tasers are over-used and abused, but I think that just means the police need to be held more accountable for their use -- not that tasers are an icky nasty evil thing that should be bannzt. Oh, and it's not unlawful restraint. Where the hell did you even pull that from.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:16AM (#23291278)

        Beat the shit out of them until they stop? Those both are much more lethal than a taser could ever be.


        You know, back in the old days.. maybe say a whopping twenty years ago, cops were actually trained and were able to apply techniques like swarming to take somebody down. Nowadays we have stupid, lazy, out of shape (tho round is a shape) cops who would rather push a button and BBQ somebody than to put on a set of graphite loaded leather police gloves and do their fucking jobs via jointlock, strategic hit with a baton, etc. I live in southern Ohio, and it seems like about fifteen percent of our cops are actually willing to do their job and have the ability both mentally and physically to do so. Most of the rest of these people couldn't pass a U.S. Army P.T. test, which is incredible since many patrol officers are making 50-70k in a low cost of living area. Standards, anyone?

        And before anybody goes there with "what if they've got a knife?".. then the .40 cal comes out and you blow them away. Full stop. If the perp escalates it to that point then so be it.

        Tasers are far too antiseptic and easy to use. Woman doesn't get out of the car at a traffic stop? Tase her. Guy mouths off to you? Tase him too. Twelve year old school kid doesn't want to go to detention? Fry her! It's just so easy.. if they displease you and disrespect your authority, well light em up! Hell, it's just the push of a button away and there are few consequences!
      • by Znork (31774) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @11:24AM (#23291844)
        Do you just shoot them? Beat the shit out of them until they stop? Those both are much more lethal than a taser could ever be.

        You assume Tasers and similar devices are used instead of guns. They're not. They're used when you could not get away with using a gun (or even with beating the suspect senseless). Which is why we see them used against children, people who are already restrained and annoying questioners at political rallies. In situations where the taser wielder would certainly not have considered shooting or hitting the subject an appropriate action.

        I think that just means the police need to be held more accountable for their use

        If shooting someone with a taser was regarded as equal to shooting them with a gun, I'd happily see them deployed all over. Then it would actually be a question of using a taser _instead_ of a gun.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Slugster (635830)
          If people are dying after having a Taser used on them and it cannot be shown that these persons would have probably died anyway, then Taser should be financially responsible. The fact that it causes pain when used is not my objection; it has to do that to serve its functionality--but what it is not supposed to do is kill people. The whole point of these devices was that they were "non-lethal", and then when a few people died they changed it to "less-than-lethal".

          Taser is a consumer product and if it's kil
      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @11:50AM (#23292022)
        Beating people leaves marks. Shooting people leaves marks. Tasers don't.

        If said people are actually criminals, restraining them by necessary means is of course justified. But every cop thinks twice before shooting someone, which is not the case with tasers.

        (As a sidenote, there are no criminals before a court says so, only "suspects").
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's worse? Tasering someone, which only lasts a few seconds and can quick calm down a situation, or just straight out shooting them? It's true that there have been over-uses of it by cops, however tasers have saved many lives when cops would've been more than justified in using lethal force. And no, I am not a cop myself. The problem is something I learned in the military: One screw up can void a hundred atta-boys. So, when some dumb cop over-uses a taser, everyone forgets all the times that good cops us
      • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:56AM (#23291608) Journal
        Tazers are not used instead of firearms, they are used instead of physical restraint. A cop would never use a tazer in a life threatening situation when he already has a firearm, they are only used in situations where physical restraint is required and are no different to a baton in that regard. What we see here is the abuse of the baton to the point where it is torturous and deadly. This does not mean ban the baton, instead we must remove the arbitrary and indiscriminate use of such force and restrain the excesses of brutality they have caused.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by c6gunner (950153)

          Tazers are not used instead of firearms, they are used instead of physical restraint. A cop would never use a tazer in a life threatening situation when he already has a firearm, they are only used in situations where physical restraint is required and are no different to a baton in that regard.

          This isn't strictly true. Think of a police officer facing a perp armed with a knife. In the old days, the cop would have immediately gone for his gun. Today, he has the option of using his taser instead (althou

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheLink (130905)
            Never underestimate someone armed with a knife.

            Cops don't tase people armed with knives. They shoot them full of holes with guns. If they do things properly they might actually give a warning first and only shoot if necessary.

            It's pretty obvious that tasers are only used when cops don't think they are in significant danger, otherwise it's gun them down time. There are cases where cops blow away people trying to show them ID or are just carrying something they just bought.

            As for avoiding conflict. It'll help
      • by boyko.at.netqos (1024767) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @01:49PM (#23293036)

        What's worse? Tasering someone, which only lasts a few seconds and can quick calm down a situation, or just straight out shooting them?
        Tazering someone. Full stop.

        A cop has to consider his actions before he pulls the trigger, and on (admittedly rare) occasions, if he acts inappropriately he can be held accountable. If a cop shoots someone inappropriately, the family will know his name, and can sue in civil court.

        If a cop tazers someone inappropriately, and the victim dies, then what are the chances that cop will be held to any standard?

        If we hold that power corrupts, shouldn't we be encouraging consequences for abuse of that power?

        At any rate, as has been mentioned before, the tazers are not being replacing guns, the tazers are being used in cases where talking to someone would do. A tazer, deployed, does not de-escalate a confrontation, it is escalating the confrontation - and it is the cop who is escalating it.

        Keep in mind, I think that the tazer issue is merely a way for people to rally around the real issue, which is America's under-trained, over-violent, out-of-control police forces, without saying that they're "anti-cop." There needs to be a vast cultural shift in police forces before a weapon like a tazer is introduced, but there need to be a vast cultural shift in police forces regardless.

        As for myself, I'd rather be shot than tazed, but that's just me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug (175151)
      Then in your opinion what SHOULD we use to inflict measured pain/shock on physically resisting people to make them compliant (with a lawful and reasonable arrest, the other sort is another issue entirely)?

      Striking them with batons or Maglites can fracture skulls and requires getting up close (not smart if the perp has a weapon). This was a recognized problem even in the ancient days of the Kel-Lite.

      Shooting them has obvious negatives if you want them to survive.

      Capsicum has variable effectiveness. It work f
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:21AM (#23290922)
    Even though the company is "Taser International" and these things are improperly referred to as tasers, please do not use the term falsely.
     

    A taser has darts or clips with wires which are remotely launched.

    A stun gun has two electrodes and requires the attacker to press the electrodes to the victim's skin.
     
    VERY few use actual tasers, and even fewer know what a taser really is.

  • Still torture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eudial (590661) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:28AM (#23290964)
    Whether something is torture is not (or rather, should not be) decided from whether or not it will actually kill you.

    Undoubtedly, pulling someone's teeth out is torture, yet it's not going to kill you. The relevant part is the wanton quantities of pain involved.
    • I cannot agree with you here. A bullet and gun will not necessarily kill you, so is that torture as well? If I needed to be subdued for whatever reason, I'd much rather be subdued via something that might leave a burn scar rather than something that will need to be retrieved from my leg using a scalpel and tweezers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PieSquared (867490)
        Right, that works. As long as you punish people who use a taser when a bullet wouldn't be merited the same as if they had shot the bullet. Which so far nobody is doing.

        I would *certainly* rather be handcuffed and pushed outside rather then risk death by taser for spending too long on my question at a political speech.

        Anyway, the GP was trying to say that if a device can cause death is irrelevant to if it is torture... so yes, if you use a bullet and gun to try to inflict pain, it can be torture. For exam
      • Re:Still torture (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:04AM (#23291176) Journal
        Its not the device its how its used in both the case of the tazer and the gun. If have a gun and shoot you in the kneecap while I am asking you questions because you give me an answer I don't like that is torture. If I shoot you in the gut because you're attacking me or my family that is not torture. My intent was to protect myself by incapacitationg, and I had the need to do that; it was not that I specifically meant to case you agony.

        If cop uses a tazer once to subdue an unruly suspect long enough to get handcuffs on him/her that is not torture. Once again the intent would to incapacitate you long enough to get control of a dangerous situation. If that Officer continues to use the tazer on you after you are already handcuffed laying face down in the dirt I would say that is torture. There is no more need in that case to be inflicting agony on you. The intent is now just cause you pain and that is well wrong.
      • by Moraelin (679338) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:19AM (#23291302) Journal
        Yes, the theory is that the taser is used instead of a gun, in the situations where otherwise they'd have to shoot. Too bad it doesn't seem to work that way. It seems to work more like: when they would have used a gun, they'll still use a gun, but now have the taser for the rest of the time.

        Off the top of my head, I remember such gems as:

        - guy with a medical emergency calls 911, cops show up first and tase him in his bed. Apparently they thought he lunged at them. While lying on a bed across the room.

        - student doesn't have his library card at the library, and is already leaving (so wtf of a danger did he pose?), campus security guards tase him repeatedly.

        - some idiot decides to streak naked, gets tased. I can think of at least two of these.

        - schoolkid threatens to cut himself with a piece of broken glass, gets tased.

        - 12 year old schoolgirl is found skipping school, gets tased.

        - 75 year old grandma insists too much to visit an old friend in another nursing home, a cop gets called and tases her.

        - guy gets agitated after being kept IIRC for 12 hours without access to food, water or his medicine in an airport, cops tase him to death. Literally: tased repeatedly, until he dies of heart attack.

        Etc, etc, etc.

        Here's my question for all the "well, it's better than being shot" gang: exactly which of those would have warranted a bullet instead? No, seriously, I'm curious.

        AFAIK not even in Stalin's USSR or Mao's China would they shoot a sick guy for just calling an ambulance. And no country in the world takes school _that_ seriously as to shoot a 12 year old for skipping school.

        No, it's already used in _addition_ to the gun, not instead of.

        And here's a funnier thought: we already have plenty of evidence that it's used repeatedly. Some even on camera. In some cases it seems to be police stupidity: they see a guy spasming after the jolt, and they think it's some kind of resisting arest, so they do it again. In some cases it seems genuine torture. They've been given free hand to use the taser, so they'll cause you some more pain just because they don't like you.
  • by Klaus_1250 (987230) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:32AM (#23290984)

    Taser advocates an alternative cause-of-death scenario called excited delirium. The condition, which is not recognized as a diagnosis in official medical manuals, is used to describe deaths of suspects who become so agitated by drugs, psychosis or poor health that their bodies shut down during struggles with police.
    How the hell does one get so agitated of his/her own poor health (that during a struggle with the police), you die? I can imagine that people get extremely agitated by 50kV flowing through their bodies. I can even imagine people going psychotic because someone is putting 50kV through them. If they want to use the Excited Delirium scenario, they should also list as being Tasered as one of the probably causes of it.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:35AM (#23291002) Homepage Journal
    Failure to maintain adequate breathing, or something like that.
  • In America... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:36AM (#23291014)
    In America, lawyers get to determine how the human body works.

    Not sure this is a step up from the Catholic Church getting to decide, but I hear your President has God whisper advice directly into his ear, so...
  • still (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nguy (1207026) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:37AM (#23291018)
    Yeah, those things probably can kill occasionally. But so can kicking, punching, shooting, even restraining. I'd rather get tasered than kicked, punched, or shot, and if they didn't have a taser, those would be the alternatives.

    On the other hand, I think if police use a taser or other electrical device, it should be treated just like kicking or punching by the legal system and needs to be justified accordingly. And I think it's wrong for the company to try to suppress these incidents. They are most likely real, we just need to debate whether they are acceptable.
    • Re:still (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Palpitations (1092597) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:05AM (#23291184)

      On the other hand, I think if police use a taser or other electrical device, it should be treated just like kicking or punching by the legal system and needs to be justified accordingly.
      No, it should be treated just like a handgun. In every police department in the US that I'm familiar with (my dad was a SWAT team leader, chief of police, and various other positions in many departments in several states), even unholstering your firearm requires some pretty extensive paperwork to be filled out, detailing the circumstances and the justification for it.

      Locally, the police pretty much do things that way. The policy here is basically "If you'd shoot someone, shoot them. If you'd pull your gun as a threat, but aren't threatened enough to shoot yet, tase them." It's a small town, and with some of the old guard retiring recently, they've done a pretty good job of weeding out the corrupt cops (unfortunately, the worst of them have moved on to be cops in another city, usually getting a promotion along the way), so that policy has worked pretty well here.

      Of course, with stories of elementary school students getting tasered, people being beaten when they "don't comply with a lawful order" because they're essentially seizing from multiple shocks, and all of the other abuses, who knows. The biggest problem is really the code of silence that runs along the thin blue line.
    • Re:still (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ckedge (192996) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:35AM (#23291428) Journal
      Now here's my biggest complaint. After years and years of field use, where are the statistical numbers that show a decrease in "adverse effects" - before and after taser use began? Yes yes you have to adjust for lots of different factors because crime waxes and wanes and so does the number of incidents with a given level of resistence from people being detained. BUT - if ANYONE in the world is equipped to collect good statistics, it should be police departments whose officers spend 50% of their time on paperwork.

      Why the ******* are we all hanging in the wind GUESSING whether or not Taser use causes X% more deaths on the left, and not N% more bruises and M% more deaths due to savage beatings and justified and unjustified shootings on the other hand? Where are the ****ing hard numbers from all the YYY jurisdictions using tasers?!

      Also the mumbo jumbo bull**** language about the "cause of death". The *only* thing that matters is whether or not the person would have died if the Taser had not been used. Are they actually claiming that they know for certain that the indviduals would have died had Tasers had not been used? **Exactly** what likelyhood do they place on the individual having died from a seizure or heart-attack if a Taser had not been used? If it's not zero percent, then the Taser's use IS contributory to the cause of death.

      It doesn't matter if the person had a congenital heart defect!! Would the person have lived a longer life if a different form of force had been used!?

      Now ... balance that against the people that would have died (yes, probably completely different people, this is one of those damned if you do damned if you don't) if Tasers were not available. ..then we can choose how and where to allow the use of Tasers. So far I see no evidence that a systematic rational method of doing this is being done. Individual police departments are pulling guidelines out of their ass, for all I know. (They probably are not, but how come *that* is never mentioned? The only reason people get angry is because they don't know just how much effort is going into doing something right - and so they must presume that nothing is being done right - lack of evidence in such cases IS used against you by the public.)
  • WONDERFUL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chas (5144) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:39AM (#23291040) Homepage Journal
    Now we have a weapons manufacturer dictating medical procedure and reporting.

    *Sniff* *Sniff* I smell bullshit....
  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:45AM (#23291066)
    A power company lineman died today from excited delirium when he accidentally came in contact with a live power line.

    Co-workers are reported as saying he didn't appear to be excited or delirious prior to his unfortunate accident, although witnesses do report that his body appeared to become quite excited at the moment of contact with the fatal current.

    Full story at 11.

    Ummm...yeah...

    Strat
  • by krygny (473134) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:57AM (#23291134)

    DON'T TASE ME, BRO'!!

    Wait a sec ... is that a Glock?!!

    DON'T SHOOT ME, BRO'!! TASE ME, TASE ME, BRO'!!

  • FUD on both sides (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mad-cat (134809) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:06AM (#23291196) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I am a police officer in Florida. I use the Taser. I do not own stock in Taser International.

    To say that a Taser didn't *contribute* to the deaths is probably wrong. To say that a Taser *caused* the deaths is almost certainly wrong.

    The amperage on a Taser is too low by a few orders of magnitude to cause death by electrocution. It will cause central nervous system disruption, which is very uncomfortable, and causes some unusual side effects.

    I've been shot with a Taser. Not a stun-gun, a full-fledged Taser with the barbed prongs and ranged shot. I took a five second burst of 50,000 volts. It isn't fun, but I'd prefer it to pepper spray (which I've also been hit with). At least it's over in five seconds, instead of three hours.

    During the shot, the Taser causes you to literally scream out all the air in your body in about two seconds. You spend three seconds trying to force out air that isn't there. In someone full of drugs or with pre-existing medical problems, this can definitely pose a risk.

    As a police officer, I've had six situations where using the Taser has saved me from serious bodily injury. In all but one case, the defendant was immediately back on his feet after I helped him up, and quickly back in good spirits. In two cases, they spent the ride to jail joking with me. In one case, the defendant had to go to the hospital due to a cocaine overdose. He lived due to timely medical intervention, but we expected him to be in bad shape and had an ambulance standing by to assist the minute we had him secure.

    As for calling the Taser torture, let me put it this way: I would willingly be shot with a Taser again in a training exercise. I've willingly subjected other people to it after feeling its effects. I would *not* willingly be shot with pepper spray/mace again. I have not and will not willingly subject other people to it after feeling its effects. The Taser is a valuable, but dangerous weapon that must be treated with caution and only used appropriately. Pepper spray is torture.
    • Re:FUD on both sides (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reader X (906979) <readerx@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:31AM (#23291390)
      OK, can I ask you some questions to maybe help de-FUD the debate:

      1. It's clear that some individuals, because they were full of illegal drugs or possibly for other reasons, have died after being shot by tasers. It's also been asserted that at least one police officer has died in a training exercise after being shot by a taser; presumably he or she was not full of illegal drugs. So, knowing this and assuming the above is true, would you willingly be shot by a taser again as part of a training exercise?

      2. You stated that the taser must be used appropriately, and made reference to drugs and unnamed medical issues. Could you define more specifically what that means? Having read the TFA, do you think there is a possibilty that the taser is being used inappropriately either by accident or on purpose?

      3. As a police officer, you and your coworkers are obviously constantly in situations where you're subjected to serious bodily harm, and let me be the first to say that as a citizen I deeply appreciate it and think the police are not supported as well as they should be from a financial and operational perspective. That being said, do you believe that the mitigation of serious injury is worth the death of a suspect? Put another way, would you forego the use of the taser and accept increased risk of bodily harm if you thought there was a heightened risk of the suspect's death?

      4. Per 3) above, I also strongly believe that a civilized society needs to rigorously oversee the use of force to enforce the law. Are you comfortable with the level of oversight that a coroner's inquest provides on the use of both lethal and nonlethal force? If not, why not?

      5. It seems clear to me that in seeking the decision referenced in TFA, Taser International is motivated by the desire to avoid liability for the use or misuse of their product, and perhaps less so by the desire to protect officers. Do you agree? If not, why not?

      All of the above assuming that you have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning than post to Slashdot. Feel free to ignore.

      Thanks for the thoughful commentary.
      • Re:FUD on both sides (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mad-cat (134809) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @03:17PM (#23293756) Homepage
        >1. It's clear that some individuals, because they were full of illegal drugs or possibly
        >for other reasons, have died after being shot by tasers. It's also been asserted that at
        >least one police officer has died in a training exercise after being shot by a taser;
        >presumably he or she was not full of illegal drugs. So, knowing this and assuming the above
        >is true, would you willingly be shot by a taser again as part of a training exercise?

        If an officer died after being shot by the Taser, there was probably some condition that was agitated by the Taser, or the Taser malfunctioned and delivered sufficient amperage to cause electrocution. There is also the possibility of legal drugs causing a reaction that led to death. I am not going to be so blind or stupid as to say that the Taser *cannot* be the cause of death, but I would say that considering the thousands of non-lethal uses of the Taser, it is statistically unlikely that it will cause my death or the death of a suspect I need to subdue. I am still willing to be shot with it, because I am not willing to use any potentially questionable subdual methods on the citizens of my city without first having it used on me. I will not have myself held above the people I protect.

        >2. You stated that the taser must be used appropriately, and made reference to drugs and
        >unnamed medical issues. Could you define more specifically what that means? Having read the
        >TFA, do you think there is a possibilty that the taser is being used inappropriately either
        >by accident or on purpose?

        When I reference drugs, I specifically mean cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and "multi-vector intoxication", which is a "cocktail" of multiple drugs both prescription and "street". In my experience, any stimulant is the most agitating factor in death or serious harm when dealing with police vs. suspect use of force, Taser or otherwise. When assessing the situation, we often have seconds to react, but in ideal circumstances we watch for rapid eye movement, heavy and rapid breathing, and someone taking off their clothes for no apparent reason. If these signs are present, I try to find an alternative to the Taser, such as a lot more officers to subdue for medical assistance. This has only happened to me once, and unfortunately even six of us could not subdue the suspect without the Taser. He threw me off of him, and I'm 6'5" tall and built large.

        There is always the possibility that the Taser is accidently misused. Careful training and an honest, open assesment of the data will lead to reducing or eliminating these accidents. Deliberate misuse almost certainly happens. I've never seen it in my agency, but not all officers are idealists. There are thugs who wear a badge.

        >3. As a police officer, you and your coworkers are obviously constantly in situations where
        >you're subjected to serious bodily harm, and let me be the first to say that as a citizen I
        >deeply appreciate it and think the police are not supported as well as they should be from
        >a financial and operational perspective. That being said, do you believe that the
        >mitigation of serious injury is worth the death of a suspect? Put another way, would you
        >forego the use of the taser and accept increased risk of bodily harm if you thought there
        >was a heightened risk of the suspect's death?

        To say that we are *constantly* in dangerous situations would be an exaggeration. While the "supercop" ideal is appealing, the job is really hours of boredom or tedium, punctuated by heart-pounding terror. I'd also like to say that the citizens of Florida reward us very handsomely for our service, maybe 5% to 10% less than the private sector for equivalent experience and education. I'm very grateful to the people of Florida for my salary; I'm not wealthy, but with a sensible budget I can live quite comfortably.

        To answer the question, I definitely believe in forgoing the Taser as often as possible. The Taser as designed isn't capa
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:34AM (#23291418)

      The amperage on a Taser is too low by a few orders of magnitude to cause death by electrocution. It will cause central nervous system disruption, which is very uncomfortable, and causes some unusual side effects
      Unfortunately this is not true.

      Years ago I was responsible for designing a safety interlock system on a piece of high voltage test equipment, and I worked with an officer of the UK H&S executive to achieve compliance.

      H&SE have evidence of people being killed by shocks of as little as 2.5mA, and have reason to believe that there is no lower limit. The actual cause is heart fibrillation which can be set off by a very small current in the wrong place.

      The standard set for equipment like electric fences for cattle is based on this research, but it is statistical - that is to say, the overall likelihood of deaths from this cause is very small bot non-zero. People fit and active enough to walk across fields are unlikely to die as a result of contacting an electric fence, but people with heart conditions need to be very careful.

      In the case of the taser, the electric shock is deliberately caused and the victim has no opportunity to avoid it. This is a different situation . The law needs to reflect the scientific evidence that electric shocks can cause death because otherwise a police officer may be tempted to use on in a non-threatening situation. It must be possible to prosecute police who behave recklessly, and legislating that certain technology is not dangerous removes this protection from the citizen. Unless you are one of those judges who believe that all policemen are totally honest and always have the best interests of society at heart, in which case I have a job for you in China.

    • by schon (31600)
      Honestly, did you read what you wrote?

      The amperage on a Taser is too low by a few orders of magnitude to cause death by electrocution.

      Please put your straw man away. Nobody is saying that death by Taser is electrocution.

      I've been shot with a Taser. Not a stun-gun, a full-fledged Taser with the barbed prongs and ranged shot.

      And unless you did this while you were being arrested, you did this as part of a *training excercise*. Which makes it pretty much irrelevant.

      As a police officer, I've had six situations where using the Taser has saved me from serious bodily injury. In all but one case, the defendant was immediately back on his feet after I helped him up, and quickly back in good spirits.

      Really? In good spirits?!?!?! You're saying you were being threatened by someone, you hit them with the taser, they went down screaming, then you helped them up, and they said "wow, thanks - I feel much better now!"

      Pull the other one.

      I would willingly be shot with a Taser again in a training exercise.

      This

    • The problem with Taser use is not a single Taser shot to stop a potential attacker. It is when out of control police Tase someone repeatedly for "failure to comply with a lawful order" or just as revenge for striking an officer. The problem is when it is used as a coercion method like beating someone over the head with a phone book, or performing a choke hold used to be.

      The problem with Tasers is that it is hard to detect when the bad cops use them like this. But when the cause of death is "excited delirium
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:18AM (#23291300)
    This new trend of governments and companies trying to legislate independent experts out of existence is very worrying. In the UK, coroners are identifying the cause of death of soldiers as being due to failures by the MOD - so the MOD wants the law changed to prevent them from doing so. Here we have a company trying to use the law in exactly the same way. The Tesco company (think Wal-Mart only worse) based in the UK is now trying to use criminal libel laws (in Thailand) and ordinary libel laws (in the UK) to prevent investigative journalists reporting on what it gets up to. Macdonalds famously spent a fortune (in the McLibel case) trying to destroy a pair of activists who exposed their practices - they had what is known as a Pyrrhic victory - hundreds of millions of pounds of legal expenses and adverse publicity in exchange for £40000 damages - but still they pursued the case.

    Meanwhile we find out that drug companies have been using the full weight of statistical analysis and selective reporting to represent ineffective drugs as being effective. The result is that independent organisations like the NIH and, in the UK, the NICE, have to spend to counter the propaganda.

    Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the book of the Byzantine empire - which was around a lot longer than the British Empire was or the US Empire is likely to last - and restrict the maximum size of any corporation to the point at which it cannot dictate to elected governments. But who is the "we" who any longer have the power to do it?

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#23291462)
    I rank Taser International right up there with Diebold, DirecTV and the RIAA as organizations that regularly misuse American law to suppress competition and legitimate discussion of their products and services. This is not a matter of using the legal system to provide redress of grievance ... it's a form of quasi-legal censorship. It needs to be stopped, particularly when it comes to TI's intimidation of medical examiners and other State employees who are performing vital public services. This is wrong any way you look at it.
  • Tasers and death? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl.excite@com> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @11:05AM (#23291686) Journal

    I've always been a bit ambivalent on this. I think it's quite silly for the causes of death to be changed, as we all know well enough that getting hit by a pretty healthy jolt of electricity certainly could result in death, especially for those whose health is already compromised by other factors.

    On the other hand, it is true that police are able to use nonlethal force in place of lethal force in some scenarios (and Taser use is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, nonlethal). This is a good thing.

    I think a good way to treat this would be as we would treat the use of a punch, kick, nightstick, or other form of painful but nonlethal force. If an officer were to punch, kick, or whack someone with a nightstick simply for "mouthing off" or refusing to cooperate without mounting any physical threat, that officer is guilty of a crime and should be punished. On the other hand, if the person is attempting to attack physically, the officer would be well-justified in using necessary force to defend him/herself. Why not develop some reasonable guidelines for the thing, and then, you know, actually hold cops accountable if they don't follow them?

    Well, I can dream, can't I? Now back to this video of a cuffed suspect getting tasered repeatedly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by easyTree (1042254)

      I think it's quite silly for the causes of death to be changed, as we all know well enough that getting hit by a pretty healthy jolt of electricity certainly could result in death, especially for those whose health is already compromised by other factors.

      For me, that's what makes it so abhorrent. They're saying "you know and we know what killed him but let's have the official record list another cause of death. That way it's much easier for you to suspend disbelief and become our co-conspirators; all for th

  • Torture? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BlabberMouth (672282) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:07PM (#23292158)
    The alternative to the stun gun is a 9mm bullet. If stun guns infrequently cause deaths, bullets quite frequently do. The taser is intended as a non lethal alternative to a pistol. If it is, in actuality, merely a much less lethal alternative, then it still has value in law enforcement and personal protection.
  • Torture? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:34PM (#23292394) Homepage Journal

    Coroner reports such as the ones in this case contributed to the UN's opinion that taser use is torture.


    Like anything, even water, a Taser can be used as torture. But that's not its purpose. It was made to subdue people in a (mostly) non-lethal fashion. If you are suspect of a violent crime resisting arrest in a violent manner, then I support the use of a Taser on you. That's because it's much more human than shooting you with a .357, Pose an immediate danger to the police or public and expect to get tased.

    But Tasers are not perfect. They can kill. They are being overused not because the police are sadistic monsters, but because they have been taught that Tasers are non-lethal, that they do not kill. They have been taught that they are nothing more than cattle prods for humans. Nothing can be further from the truth. If police would treat Tasers as the potentially deadly weapons they are, they would be used far less frequently.

    They should NOT be used when the suspect is merely acting goofy, or asking beligerent questions of a Democrat Politician, or wearing earbuds so you don't hear the cops, etc. They should only be used when you pose an immediate danger to the police or public. I suspect half the use of Tasers don't meet this level.
  • by hansraj (458504) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @12:45PM (#23292498)
    How is the medical opinion of experts (right or wrong) a judicial matter at all? Isn't it akin to taking me to a court because I published an erroneous theorem?

    Isn't the way to correct such things is the "usual way" of doing science? But then maybe litigating is the usual way these days.
  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @02:57PM (#23293620) Homepage

    To get a few things out of the way, YES! being tazered is generally better than being shot. YES! sometimes force is necessary.

    The first big problem here is a company with a vested interest abusing the courts to override the official objective opinion of a medical examiner.

    If Taser International is concerned that M.E.s don't know enough about Tasers, they should send them a compilation of their medical data. The M.E.s will then consider the source, and consider the data. I seriously doubt that M.E.s have a vendetta against the taser at this point.

    Second, a jolt to the heart while at rest or a bit nervous is not the same as a jolt to the heart when extremely agitated with massive amounts of adrenaline in the system. Further, a single jolt can be uite different in effect than multiple jolts in a short time.

    Given that some percentage of the population have some sort of undiagnosed electrical heart disorder that may or may not ever trigger a problem, it's hardly surprising if the taser (a device that disrupts biological electrical activity by design) carries a non-zero risk of death. It would be somewhat astonishing if it didn't carry a risk.

    None of that means that the taser has no place in law enforcement, after all, physically wrestling people to the ground and pinning them carries a non-zero risk as well. But ignoring a non-zero risk can only encourage excessive use and causee needless deaths.

    Distorting the collection of scientific data by applying legal arguments to scientific reports is simply not acceptable. Were I the coroner, I would demand that my name be removed from the report on the grounds that it no longer reflects my considered scientific opinion. Let the judge sign it if he's so sure.

  • by thewiz (24994) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:09PM (#23295294)
    As someone with a congenital heart defect and damage to the Sinoatrial node http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinus_node [wikipedia.org] of my heart, this scares the piss out of me. Letting a company use the courts to legislate that their product doesn't cause or contribute to the death of people it's used on turns logic on its head. The last thing I want is some idiot with a taser to zap me with it just because I won't bow to his demands.

    This should scare you, too. There are about 90 million people http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart.htm [cdc.gov] in the U.S. alone who have a diagnosed heart conditions that range from mild to severe. Add to that people who have not been diagnosed, yet have a heart problem, one-third to one-half the U.S. population could be susceptible to cardiac arrest if they are tased.

    I hope the doctors and scientists find iron-clad evidence so that this issue can be put to bed and tasers will be considered the lethal weapons they are.

Money doesn't talk, it swears. -- Bob Dylan

Working...