Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Competing Taser Headlines, or Why You Have to Get News From More Than One Place

Here are two different headlines for the same news piece.

National Post: No ban on Tasers needed now, watchdog report says

Globe and Mail: RCMP should restrict taser use immediately: report

Both of these articles refer to the same report, just published by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. The first headline suggests that all is fine, however if you go through and read both the articles, you will discover that the report does not suggest all is honky dory. I wish the newspapers would provide a link to the actual report, but they don't, so here it is. What it says is that Tasers have not been used correctly, and more disturbingly, the RCMP has not tracked how tasers have been used or what the outcome from their use has been;

"there exists no empirical data generated by the RCMP as to the benefits, or detriments, of using the weapon. The CEW has been deployed in push stun or probe mode over 3,000 times since its introduction in December 2001, yet not one annual report has been produced and the information captured on the Conducted Energy Weapon Usage Form has not been thoroughly examined nor utilized in the development of current CEW policy."

These findings are very close to the discussion at our last Electoral District Association. Usually discussions at these meetings have individuals that have drastically different view points, however on this issue, the discussion was quite unified. We talked about how the RCMP were using the Taser as if it was not harmful to the person being subdued. Interestingly though, nobody argued that the Taser should be banned, just that the guidelines for its use were likely not in line with the potential harm of the device.

When safety figures have been quoted by law enforcement agencies, they are quoting figures from studies funded by the manufacturer of the devices. These studies only look at direct lethal effects, so they only count a death from a Taser if the shock stops a healthy and not on drugs subject's heart. However, there are many other potential sources of harm from a Taser shock. Falling and hitting the head, acidosis of lung muscles from repeated shocks preventing respiration, Cardiac arythmia, and the very strange and scary "post-shock lethal events."

One other thing, I wish the RCMP would not use the term Excited Delerium when talking about Robert Dziekanski. This is a term that has been invented by law enforcement agencies, has no formal medical recognition, and refers to people who are in a state that is usually brought on by the use of PCP or cocaine. In fact, several studies have shown that Taser use on subjects in this state is very dangerous as both PCP and cocaine can cause heart perturbations which can be than be turned fatal by the electrical discharge of the Taser.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nicce!