Sunday, May 6, 2012

Finally, Some Accountability on Tasering

For years, multi-million-dollar lawsuits have failed to force local police departments to discourage knee-jerk uses of tasers, much less discipline officers who electrocute people who are sick, mentally ill, rude or plain innocent.

Maybe the example of one courageous town will start to turn the tide.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

This may not be the first case in the country, but it's the first time that I know of that a police officer is being disciplined for misusing a Taser. This is a small, gritty town on the Philadelphia border that's seen quite a few ups and downs over the past several decades, and in the past, has had a lot of problems with their police force:

The acting head of the Colwyn Borough Police Department was suspended today while borough and county officials investigate an incident involving a juvenile who was Tasered while handcuffed in a holding cell at the department.

Deputy Chief Wendell Reed is the second person to be suspended for the April 24 incident, said Mayor Daniel Rutland. The officer who allegedly administered the shock, Cpl. Trevor Parham, was suspended earlier this week and a third officer who was allegedly present when it occurred is expected to be suspended as well, according to sources and Rutland.

State police were called to the scene today for back up as Rutland delivered the news to Reed, but Reed left on his own accord.

Detectives with Delaware County's Criminal Investigation Division, who act as Internal Affairs investigators for the county's police departments, were also on scene and removed computers and a Taser from the department.

Rutland said no documentation of the incident was made and the proper procedures were not followed. He said he only found out about it after receiving calls from concerned citizens. He said the only person from the department to notify him was Lt. Wesley Seitz, who will now act as head of the department.

Rutland said "there was word" that Reed had been planning to suspend Seitz today for investigating the incident and reporting it.

I am especially encouraged that the head of the department was held accountable for refusing to discipline the perpetrators on his force.

Meanwhile, we now have scientific proof of the obvious: tasers kill.


I'm fairly sure nobody will pay the least bit of attention to this:

The electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death, according to a new study, although it is unknown how frequently such deaths occur.

The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.

Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.

But proponents maintain that the devices — which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser — pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect. The results of studies of the devices’ safety in humans have been mixed.

Medical experts said on Monday that the new report, published online on Monday in the journal Circulation, makes clear that electrical shocks from Tasers, which shoot barbs into the clothes and skin, can in some cases set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest.

“This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.”

The rest of the experts interviewed (aside from the Taser international representative, of course) suggested that the use of tasers be limited in light of these findings. As I have said many times before, if tasers were a drug that killed this many people they would have been banned long ago.

This is simple common sense. And not just because they quite obviously are deadly to some people, although that should put any further debate to rest. The fundamental reason they should be limited is because in a free society the police should not be allowed to inflict terrible pain on citizens for any reason they choose, no matter how petty or inconsequential. If police are to be allowed to carry tasers they must be strictly controlled. At the moment, this is far more common than not:

Click here for the disturbing videos.

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