December 12, 2008
Canadian police pull old Tasers off streets
Police departments across Canada, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are pulling older Taser stun guns off the streets following a new study that found the weapons can deliver more power than the manufacturer says is possible.
Police departments in the United States, however, appear to have taken no similar action.
Taser International responded to the study, commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., with e-mails to police departments claiming the research is flawed.
"It is unfortunate that false allegations based on scientifically flawed data can create such uncertainty," Steve Tuttle, a Taser vice president, told The Arizona Republic. Taser also said researchers redid the test after the company pointed out errors.
However, Taser's assertions about specific data flaws contradict company documents and a letter from one of its top scientists. An audio recording also shows Taser was told that no retest took place.
"No, we never did (a retest). Absolutely not," said reporter Frederic Zalac of the CBC, which commissioned the study by a U.S. defense contractor and a Montreal biomedical engineer. "It is completely untrue."
The study, released last week, found that four of 44 stun guns of the X26 model used most by police departments fired jolts that were 47 percent to 58 percent higher than the manufacturer's specifications. The four high-firing weapons were sold to two police departments in 2004.
An accompanying medical analysis concluded that the higher jolts pose as much as a 50 percent risk of inducing cardiac arrest in some people and that stun guns firing at expected electrical levels pose some risk.
Taser maintains that shocks from its stun guns can't kill.
The president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that he was not aware of the study. Police officials with Valley departments, where most officers are armed with Tasers, have said they will evaluate it. [Mark Godsey]
December 11, 2008
Correa seeks transparency
Honolulu police Chief Boisse Correa said he wants to release video footage of a Taser incident that caused two officers to temporarily lose their law enforcement authority.
Correa came under heated criticism last week from the police officers union for his decisions to relieve officers of their authority when under investigation. Officers used the Taser incident in Makakilo as an example of what they consider Correa's unfair enforcement of HPD's Relief of Police Authority policy.
"We are meeting with city attorneys to see if the Taser video recording can be released," Correa said in a written statement yesterday. "Release of the recording would promote transparency and underscore the importance of the policy. We believe that the policy was used appropriately. My staff and I stand by our decision."
Up to 300 police officers, all members of union State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, rallied Friday night to protest the chief's use of the policy.
Correa said 32 officers have been placed on restricted duty this year due to pending investigations, of whom 15 remain on restricted status. Five of those cases are from last year.
The policy calls for the temporary removal of an officer's police powers due to an ongoing criminal or administrative investigation or for medical reasons.
Correa said HPD management asked the union to submit proposed policy changes, but none was received.
In 2007, the median length of time that officers were restricted was 112 days. This year, the median length is about 30 days, according to the department.
The case involving use of Tasers occurred on Sept. 10, when police received a call of a disturbance at Uhiuala Street in Makakilo.
Two men, one of whom was naked and allegedly under the influence of drugs, lunged at the officers. The officers used their Tasers on the suspects. [Mark Godsey]
September 27, 2008
Taser Use in Man’s Death Broke Rules, Police Say
The firing of a Taser stun gun that led an emotionally disturbed man to fall from a Brooklyn building ledge to his death on Wednesday appeared to have violated departmental guidelines, the police said on Thursday.
The guidelines tell officers that when possible, the Taser, which fires barbs that deliver thousands of volts of electrical current, should not be used in situations when a person could fall from an elevated surface.
A law enforcement official identified the lieutenant who gave the order to use the Taser as Michael Pigott, a 21-year veteran of the force. He was placed on modified assignment without his gun and badge, and the officer who fired the weapon was put on administrative duty amid an investigation by the Police Department and the Brooklyn district attorney. The police declined to identify the officer.
Officers at the scene of the confrontation had called by radio for an inflatable bag as the events unfolded, but it had not yet arrived when the man, Iman Morales, 35, was struck with the device and fell, according to a statement by the department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne.
“None of the E.S.U. officers on the scene were positioned to break his fall, nor did they devise a plan in advance to do so,” the statement said, referring to the elite police Emergency Service Unit. [Mark Godsey]
June 24, 2008
NIJ In-Custody Death Study: The Impact of Use of Conducted Energy Devices
An expert panel of medical professionals found no conclusive evidence of a high risk of death or serious injury from the direct effects of Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), such as Tasers.The panel is studying deaths related to the use of CEDs. In an interim report, the panel said that law enforcement agencies need not stop using CEDs, but cautioned that they should be used reasonably and only after proper training. Law enforcement agencies that use CEDs report reduced injuries to officers and suspects alike. However, deaths and serious injuries of suspects also occur.
Repeated Use is Risky
Many of the deaths that followed a CED discharge took place when it was used repeatedly or continuously. The medical risks involved in repeated or continuous CED discharges are unknown. Thus, the expert medical panel urges caution in using multiple activations.
Certain Populations are More Vulnerable
The panel's interim report said the risk of a death or serious injury is low when police use CEDs against healthy adults. Certain groups may be at much higher risk of injury or death from CEDs. These groups include children, the elderly, pregnant women, people who have heart disease and those who show signs of "excited delirium." Police officers should avoid the use of CEDs against these populations unless the situation excludes other choices.
The panel also noted a risk of sudden death when suspects are in an agitated and combative state that is sometimes called "excited delirium." Police officers should treat this as a medical emergency. People in this state often exhibit combativeness and have elevated body temperatures. In these cases, a danger of sudden death exists whether police officers use a CED or not. The panel recommended that emergency medical personnel should provide cooling, sedation and hydration as soon as possible.The Justice Department is aware of more than 300 cases of Americans dying after exposure to CEDs. Some were normal, healthy adults. Others had medical conditions such as heart disease, mental illness or chemical dependencies. Several manufacturers sell CEDs to American law enforcement agencies. However, TASER International of Scottsdale, Ariz., is, by far, the leading supplier. About 12,000 (out of some 18,000) American law enforcement agencies use CEDs. More than 260,000 CEDs are in use by American law enforcement and corrections agencies.Police officers should arrange for suitable medical care for people who suffer injuries. This is especially important when darts penetrate vulnerable areas of the head, face, neck, genitals or female breast areas, or in case of injury from falls or burns.