Taser Electronic Control Devices and Sudden In-custody Death: Separating Evidence from Conjecture
Negative sentiment regarding conducted energy weapons is due largely to a lack of understanding about the technology behind such weapons and a misunderstanding of those weaponsOCO physiological effects. Media accounts that speculatively associate sudden in-custody deaths with the use of conducted energy weapons only add to the confusion. TASER ELECTRONIC CONTROL DEVICES AND SUDDEN IN-CUSTODY DEATH documents 310 deaths in the United States proximate to the application of TASER electronic control devices from 1983 through 2006. The study examines the phenomenon of sudden death as it relates to electromuscular disruption technology and TASER electronic control devices by constructing 213 cases studies, dating from 1983 through 2005, and analyzing information available from news accounts, police reports, and autopsies. After reviewing the available evidence from this extensive case study, the author concludes that these conducted energy weapons are excluded as the cause of death in 182 of the 212 cases. In only two cases did the evidence tend to confirm the weapon was either a cause of death or a significant contributing factor. While arguing that the TASER electronic control devices are safe less-lethal weapons, the author also cautions that they are not completely effective. He notes that the weapons were not effective in subduing more than 60 percent of violent or aggressive subjects in the 213 case studies, and he documents 131 cases of fatal police shootings and one police fatality following the failure of the weapons. The only way to determine whether the TASER electronic control devices is responsible for deaths is to separate evidence from conjecture and analyze the facts of each case. This book will be an excellent resource for law enforcement professionals, attorneys, investigators, and criminal justice personnel."
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The message in this book regarding taser safety may be obsolete. The exerpts on Google indicate that the author has concluded that taser-proximal deaths and serious injuries cannot be attributed to use of the taser.
Unfortunately for this position, the official training package from Taser International dated 1 May 2010 acknowledges that use of tasers does in fact carry risks and it states that those risks include death or serious injury. They have shifted their position to admit that "avoiding chest hits" is to reduce the actual risk of cardiac effect (changed from simply 'avoiding the controversy'). Taser International also recently settled with Butler for several million due to a near-fatal incident of taser-induced cardiac arrest leading to permanent brain damage. They tried to seal that settlement but the court declined to keep it sealed. There's also the simple observation of the taser's 'Curious Temporal Asymmetry' that seems to indicate causality. Also, Canada's Braidwood Inquiry did not accept that tasers are safe; instead it was concluded that Robert Dziekanski's death was caused predominantly by the taser.
Overall, if this book is pushing the message that tasers are risk-free, then that dangerous and misleading message is now well past its 'Best Before' date.