June 23, 2021

Tasers and are they really safe?

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Now that the RCIPS are going to be trained and issued with Tasers I thought this would be a good time to give you some information about them. I did write a separate article on Tasers some months ago and if you read it please forgive if some of the information is repeated.

Tasers are NOT stun guns. In contrast with them, when using a Taser you don’t need to be close enough to an attacker to touch him. Law enforcement grade Tasers are effective from up to thirty-five feet away. Tasers are generally safe as they are supposed not to cause death or permanent injury except in the case of freak accidents (someone falls and hits his head on concrete, for example). This feature is vitally important in case you are Tased by mistake. I said ‘supposed’ and ‘generally safe’ because according to a report compiled by CBS News and the Canadian Press, Tasers are a lot more dangerous than previously thought.

“…about one-third of people shot by Tasers reportedly required some form of medical attention. Those numbers were drawn from the Taser-use forms that RCMP officers are required to fill out whenever they draw the device, which revealed that 910 of the 3,226 people shot between 2002 and 2007 had to go to a medical facility, and that “many more” people had minor injuries but never saw a doctor.”

In addition, it has been reported that the Houston Police Department has “shot, wounded, and killed as many people as before the widespread use of the stun guns” and has used Tasers in situations that would not warrant lethal or violent force, such as “traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints, and reports of suspicious people.”

Amnesty International contends that Taser shocks may be implicated in the deaths of more than 150 people since 2001, and coroners have cited stun gun shocks as a factor in more than 20 deaths over that period.

However, a study of use-of-force incidents by the Calgary Police Service conducted by the Canadian Police Research Centre found that the use of Tasers resulted in fewer injuries than the use of batons or empty hand techniques. Only pepper spray was found to be a safer intervention option.

“The negative stories tend to get more attention,” says Taser International (who manufacture the Taser) CEO Rick Smith, adding that police surveys show the device has saved 75,000 lives. “Occasionally, sadly, someone gets hit by a Taser and dies, and that becomes the whole story. The Hangover and other salacious headlines paint the wrong picture.” (One scene in the movie shows a violent, cruel use of the Taser for comic effect.) According to a 2009 Police Executive Research Forum study, officer injuries drop by 76% when a Taser is used
for protection.

Researchers who tasered anesthetised pigs have found little permanent damage, and there’s scant evidence that the shocks would be fatal for healthy adults. Victims who are intoxicated or have pre-existing heart conditions may be at greater risk. Repeated shocks from a Taser may also be more dangerous.

How does a Taser work? It uses compressed nitrogen to fire two fishhook probes into the attacker’s body. An electrical pulse shoots through the Taser probe wires causing immediate loss of neuromuscular control for the entire duration of the impulse. Even if your aim is terrible, you only need to hit your attacker anywhere on his body or clothing, and you’ll end up Tasering the poor attacker into a quivering pile of flesh. After firing the Taser the shot has to be replaced each time. Once the electrodes hit their target, the Taser sends a pulse with about 50,000 volts and a few milliamps. On its standard setting, the pulse cycles for five seconds before shutting off. (The pulse continues for as long as you hold the trigger.) The five-second shock sends intense signals through the victim’s nervous system, which causes considerable pain and triggers a contraction in all his muscles. Temporary paralysis can set in, and most victims fall to
the ground.

Tasers can also be used like regular stun guns in what’s called “drive stun” mode. This causes more localized pain and less widespread muscle contraction.

The manufacturer warns that Taser shocks may cause breathing problems, skin irritation, small puncture wounds, or minor burns, and that the violent muscle contractions can result in “athletic-type injuries.”

I know the arguments for and against the RCIPS using Tasers will go on unabated. I have tried to show both cases in this article. I leave you to decide whether it is a good option for the RCIPS to use them or not.


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