It’s time to ban Tasers

In Editorial on June 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

According to Taser aficionados, the devices offer a “less-than-lethal” alternative to police and jail officers attempting to subdue uncooperative citizens. An “uncooperative citizen” is typically one who fails to “Get on the f-ing ground!” fast enough for the blue-suited thug wielding the Taser. Tasers have also been “deployed” by sadistic officers as a means of punishing citizens convicted of Contempt of Cop in streetside tribunals.

 Fifty-two police officers were summoned to a scene where their fellow gang members participated in the pepper-spraying, clubbing, Tasering, and the ultimate death of Marylander, Carl Johnson. Allegedly just for fun, officers also punched Johnson repeatedly in the face and threw him over a highway guardrail.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun Johnson, 48, and his wife were on their way home two years ago from Bible study (I kid you not!) when he crashed into a tree as the result of a diabetic reaction. According to police, Johnson became “combative” and the fifty-two dispatched officers believed themselves to be in danger from the actions of the lone architect.

“The person failed to respond to officer commands. Officers feared for their safety and appropriate force was used to bring the person under control.”

The above line is becoming as predictable as “shot while trying to escape” in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.

Carl Johnson had no criminal history. He is survived by his wife of 27 years, a son, and his parents.

Last week the man’s widow, Linda Johnson, filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit against her husband’s alleged killers and the state-run street gangs (police agencies) that employed them.

[Editor’s note: I do not use “weasel words” to exempt the “majority of good police officers”. There are so few “good officers” that they are virtually extinct. Today’s police officers are simply brutish thugs in the state-legal street gangs that purged their ranks of the decent, law-abiding, and constitutional rights-respectful men and women who once filled their shoes.]

And then, there’s this…

Sixteen year-old, 105 pound, Colin Heffley was seen staggering down a Fort Dodge, Iowa street on a cold February night this year. Two Fort Dodge police officers intercepted Heffley, who attempted to run away. Heffley was “subdued” and charged with public intoxication. He was released to his parents…

…who found a Taser barb still embedded in the boy’s foot.

According to news reports, the officer’s dash-camera recorded the two officers later laughing about their role in the incident.

“The person failed to respond to officer commands. Officers feared for their safety and appropriate force was used to bring the person under control.”

Heffley’s parents complained to the troubled Fort Dodge Police Department.

[Editor’s note: “Troubled” may be an understatement. One Fort Dodge officer was recently placed on probation (?) for sexually assaulting a woman whom the officer threatened with a drunk driving arrest unless she consented to having sex with him and another is currently under suspension and facing criminal charges for stalking his former girlfriend, burglarizing her apartment, and assaulting her new boyfriend therein. “Organized crime syndicate” seems to fit.]

In 2009, the Fort Dodge newspaper, The Messenger-News, dutifully wrote a slobbering piece defending Tasers. The Messenger cited research completed by William Bozeman, an emergency medicine researcher at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. For his study, Bozeman looked at cases supplied by three law enforcement agencies that indicated only three serious injuries resulted in 1201 “deployments” of a Taser device.

[Editor’s note: The devil is in the details in such studies. Taser victims frequently suffer life-threatening head injuries when they are suddenly rendered limp by Tasers. The assertion that these are not deaths attributable to Tasers is similar to an assertion made to my friend, a Chernobyl widower, by a Soviet death certificate clerk: “Your wife died of heart failure, not because of the reactor explosion.” This was technically true. The poor man’s wife suffered radiation poisoning which lead to heart failure. As far as the Soviet paper-pusher was concerned, the woman’s failing heart caused her death, not the reactor explosion or the ensuing radiation.]

Amnesty International cites that 334 Americans died after being Tasered between 2001 and August of 2008. Fifty of these deaths were determined by medical examiners to have resulted directly from Taser shocks. Amnesty International is also alarmed by the ability for Tasers to be used illegally to administer covert punishment to detainees (citizens in the custody of American police).

Most studies investigating the safety of Tasers have been completed by the industry producing them or by agencies using them.

Tasers are “unsafe at any speed”

 A study commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation showed that ten percent of Tasers they tested delivered electrical currents exceeding levels the industry claimed to be impossible for the devices.

In 2007, The Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care published the results of a study using animal models (swine).

Investigators stated about the “proven” safety of Tasers: “These devices utilize time-varying DC currents that evoke strong, repetitive contractions in most or all of the somatic musculature. The mechanism by which this occurs and the pathophysiologic effects of these discharges are poorly understood (emphasis added).”

Do high school graduate cops and their bureaucrat leaders know something about physiology that physiologists (doctors) do not know?

Here is a direct quote from the article on the conclusions of the 2007 medical study:

“Immediately after the discharge, two deaths occurred because of ventricular fibrillation. In this model of prolonged EID exposure, clinically significant acid-base and cardiovascular disturbances were clearly seen. The severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis seen here suggests the involvement of a primary cardiovascular mechanism.”

 Here’s the layman’s translation:

“Two pigs died immediately after being Tased because the Taser stopped their hearts from beating properly. Tasing causes heart problems directly and they also cause severe chemical imbalances that can disrupt normal heart function.”

Here’s the version for the Jersey Shore faithful: “Tasers bad.” (fist-pump) “Tasers kill.” (fist-pump)

A North Carolina jury awarded a $10M judgment against the manufacturer of Tasers. A Ventura County (California) jury awarded $1M to a citizen who suffered injuries after being Tasered; Remember, Tasers not only kill and injure directly, Tased persons frequently strike their heads on the ground when they are Tased. In Missouri, a municipality agreed to a $2.4M settlement with the family of a man who died after being Tased. A Taser manufacturer was ordered to pay over $1M in compensatory damages and $5.2M in punitive damages to the survivors of Salinas, California Taser victim, Robert Heston.

There are many, many more.

But there is good news for citizens!

In May 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower-court ruling that could expose police to liability for the inappropriate use of Tasers that included a 2004 incident in which three Seattle officers used the stun gun on a pregnant woman (who refused to sign a traffic ticket) during a traffic stop.

Because Tasers are lethal and can lead to subsequent lethal injury, they have no place as an intermediate weapon used (hopefully stated) as an alternative to other forms of deadly force.

Tasers should be banned from use by civilian policing agencies and there are steps that should be taken immediately until they are fully banned.

If a police officer (or armed citizen) fires a “warning” shot from a firearm in an incident were the use of deadly force is not justified, the officer or citizen may be charged with unlawful use of deadly force.

Because Tasers can (and do) kill, they belong in the realm of deadly force. Officers who indiscriminately use Tasers solely because the officers are mild bed wetters and are easily frightened should be charged with unlawful use of deadly force. Officers who use Tasers to illegally punish subdued citizens should be charged with felonious assault or attempted murder.

And now, thanks to the recent actions of the Supreme Court, Taser victims are empowered to sue individual officers using Tasers because the officer is unduly alarmed or because he/she is a sadist.


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