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Mar. 16 2010 - 4:52 am | 396 views | 1 recommendation | 6 comments

Superior court judge fines Taser International

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A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge denied a motion by a stun-gun manufacturer to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by a man who claims he suffered permanent injuries after being shocked by one of the weapons in 2006.

Monday, Judge Jeff Almquist turned down the request by TASER International that would have ended the case. Almquist also fined TASER International $15,000 for delaying the court process, according to court documents.

Watsonville resident Steve Butler, now 51, is seeking lifetime medical costs in the suit. The trial is set for Aug. 2.

– via Judge fines Taser International; case moves to trial

In 2006, Steve Butler was riding a bus when a police officer ordered him to get off. Steve admits he was drunk, and he refused the order. That’s when the officer tasered Steve. Three times.

According to doctors, Butler suffered immediate cardiac arrest. He was revived by emergency medical technicians who happened to be close by, but his attorneys say his brain was deprived of oxygen for as long as 18 minutes. He is now permanently disabled.

[snip]

Medical experts say that if a person is hit by a Taser dart near the chest, one result is a dramatic increase in the subject’s heartbeat — from a resting 72 beats a minute to as many as 220 beats a minute for a short period of time. In its court filings, the company says the “peak-loaded” voltage from a Taser at impact ranges up to 40,000 volts but it’s a 600-volt average for the duration of the firing.

Steve now has trouble answering simple questions. He can’t remember the day of the week, or what month it is.

The police state apologists (I’m looking your way, Youtube commenters) will predictably blame Steve for his circumstances. After all, he was drunk and refused direct orders from a cop. Clearly, that means the officer had the right to maim Steve and handicap him for the rest of his life.

Tasers were originally intended to be used as a non-lethal way to put down violent resistors. Yet, time and time again, these weapons are instead used on the drunk, those confused with the drunknon-violent protesters, the mentally ill, and victims who are kneeling and already handcuffed.

Public drunkenness isn’t a nice thing, and surely it leads to citizens getting mouthy with people (even police officers,) but the last time I checked, the penalty for that faux pas isn’t a death sentence. There’s a reason why a cop can’t kick or slap a disagreeable taxpayer, and that law should extend to tasering. Just because a citizen becomes unpleasant doesn’t mean they should then be put down like a rabid dog.

Tasers are dangerous weapons that are capable of inflicting great bodily harm on their victims. Even some cops got together and sued Taser after they were injured during a demonstration.

The officers were at a training seminar in November 2003 to learn how to use the newest weapon on their belts, a device the manufacturer claimed would incapacitate a person but not do permanent harm. You can’t really comprehend the Taser, students were told, until you’re Tasered.

So an instructor attached alligator clips to each end of the daisy chain. Two officers became electrical bookends, strung at the shoulder by wires feeding back into a Taser gun. Pull the trigger and the daisy chain shudders, seizes and pitches forward, the pile of police officers becoming a portrait of Taser’s selling point: neuromuscular incapacitation.

In the middle of the chain, hands locked at her sides, Peterson had only her face to absorb the impact. She fell hard on her neck and fast into the rabbit hole – traumatic internal disc disruption, steroid injections, surgical reconstruction, temporomandibular derangement, persistent dizziness, cognitive defects, numbness, vertigo.

And that’s what happens in a “controlled” setting.

Though tasers have caused death and significant injury, they are not classified as a firearm. They are technically called an “electronic control device.” An electronic control device that occasionally kills and permanently wounds people.

But Taser itself seems to finally be acknowledging that shooting someone in the chest with an electric gun might be dangerous.

The maker of Taser stun guns is advising police officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest with the 50,000-volt weapon, saying that it could pose an extremely low risk of an “adverse cardiac event.”

The advisory, issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin, is the first time that Taser International has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the discharge of its stun gun.

But Taser officials said Tuesday that the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy over the subject if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.

As Digby states, this is a way for Taser to avoid liability the next time someone dies. Gee, we told you guys not to aim for the chest! Well, see ya later! Regardless, the statement was remarkable because it marked the first time Taser admitted its product can be lethal.

Interestingly, the warning doesn’t appear on Taser’s homepage, but what does appear is an ad to upgrade to a sweetass newer model, specifically the “triple shot, semi-automatic Taser X3.” Imagine how many mentally ill immigrants I can pick off with that thing!

These types of lawsuits are going to keep coming, and will probably increase now that the word has gotten out that tasers are lethal, barbaric weapons, which are more often used to suppress non-violent dissidents, mildly disagreeable citizens, and the mentally ill than as a safe way to subdue violent criminals.


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  1. collapse expand

    I was once handled roughly for being drunk in public — asked a cop for a ride home, admitting I was a public hazard. He refused and I made a rude remark. Immediately I was spear-tackled from behind and in my complete surprise I struggled. I still have a boot print on the shirt I was wearing, but I sure am thankful they didn’t decide to taze me like this guy on the bus!

    Who decided these things were a good idea?

    BTW, this page had a banner ad for Tazer at the bottom…

  2. collapse expand

    God, awful business. Brain Damage to me is like the next worst thing after death. I would honestly prefer to lose the use of a limb or something, like one of my legs.

    To keep the drunk guy, you know, just there enough to know how badly he is f!#$%@d in the head, but still severely damaged….just no, no, no.

  3. collapse expand

    Tasers are indeed dangerous, and the manufacturer needs to step up even more than it has to make sure police receive excellent training. F

    For what it’s worth, I am one of nine members on a newly created Citizens Police Review Board in Columbia, Missouri, a city of 100,000 population. The nine of us, appointed by the elected City Council, are interested (and I hope intelligent) unpaid citizens who will hear complaints from members of the public if the complainants are unsatisfied by rulings from the police chief.

    Those complaints might include taser misuse by the local police. The nine of us have learned about the training police are receiving in use of tasers. Naturally, we hope the training, which appears to be extensive, results in responsible use of tasers.

  4. collapse expand

    When the TASER product was first became a hit with U.S. law enforcement in the early 2000’s, officers were INSTRUCTED to use it as a first resort. It was taught that the product had ZERO negative risk, and that it was BETTER for the officer AND citizen to use the TASER rather than ANY attempt to control a physically uncooperative subject. (I still have old training videos preaching such perspectives).

    In the first few years following my department issuing and training every officer with a TASER, I know the statistics were followed very carefully. Every deployment was logged, and internal investigations were done (independEnt from the TASER company).

    Initial data seemed to support the TASER claims. As TASER went global, the numbers of deployments became so frequent that EXTENSIVE data was available (in a wide variety of circumstances). Compared to the number of deployments, the court cases were miniscule. In the cases that were tried, every court case where TASER was given a chance to present the science of the situation, they won… year after year after year.

    When court cases (where full evidence could be presented) began to bear out odd cases where the taser product should be avoided (due to rare physical conditions), THE POLICIES OF DEPLOYMENT CHANGED. The tool is no longer used in place of physical contact. Depending on the Department, it has moved higher up the “Use of Force Continuum” (i.e. you gotta do more to get TASED).

    IF YOU ARE ARGUING THAT TASER NEEDS TO MOVE EVEN HIGHER UP THAT CONTINUUM, I DISAGREE. (First- there is ample data to refute the notion [hit me B/C for those details], and Second- I believe the court system will demand it… if the data is somehow proved wrong).

    In the mean time, PLEASE be careful what you wish for. IF YOU CALL TASERS “BARBARIC,” YOU MUST TAKE THEM AWAY. WHEN YOU DO SO, POLICE DEPARTMENTS MUST RETURN TO USING THE TOOLS THAT REMAIN: BULLETS AND CLUBS INSTEAD OF TASERS. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF CITIZENS WILL DIE OR BE INJURED… THAT COULD HAVE BEEN SPARED THROUGH THE USE OF A TASER.

    ALL I CAN SHARE WITH YOU IS MY EXPERIENCE:

    1. For years, my Department was one of the highest (per-capita) cities for deadly police shootings. Most of my career, we were well above DOUBLE the national average for killing citizens with our guns (hit me B/C for the source data on this).

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=932&dat=20030127&id=1gsyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DFMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6640,2707801

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2003-06-05/news/there-s-something-about-phoenix

    HOWEVER, SINCE THE INTRODUCTION OF TASER, OUR REDUCTION OF DEADLY FORCE INCIDENTS IS DOWN 54%. Phoenix is by no means the leader in this area: With the help of TASER, Orange Co. Sheriff’s Office reports to have reduced their deadly force by 69%.

    I suppose what I am saying is this:
    COPWATCH = GOOD & NECESSARY & VITAL.

    TAKING AWAY TASERS = AN UNNECESSARY OVERREACTION THAT WILL COST 1,000′S OF LIVES…

    or, to put it another way, I have been TASED and re-TASED repeatedly as part of my ongoing training (The record for length of TASE that an officer has endured is several continuous MINUTES, not the fraction of seconds a typical TASER deployment requires). After all that, I do not hesitate to say: if I ever get drunk and unruly, LEAVE THE GUN & BATON ALONE. PU-LEEEEASE TASE ME!

    That way, none of my actions can me misconstrued to anyone (officer or citizen) as a threat. I will be taken into custody quickly, I will make it to court, & I will pay my fine. So long as I am TASED, I know I will go on to live a long, productive life… just as it should be.

    • collapse expand

      I support the use of tasers as long as CITIZENS get them too – and can use them to defend themselves from police without penalty of law.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      “PLEASE be careful what you wish for. IF YOU CALL TASERS “BARBARIC,” YOU MUST TAKE THEM AWAY. WHEN YOU DO SO, POLICE DEPARTMENTS MUST RETURN TO USING THE TOOLS THAT REMAIN: BULLETS AND CLUBS INSTEAD OF TASERS. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF CITIZENS WILL DIE OR BE INJURED… THAT COULD HAVE BEEN SPARED THROUGH THE USE OF A TASER.”

      You know what, you’re absolutely right. Guns and clubs are just as barbaric as tazers. Regular police shouldn’t have ANY of these “tools” (hint: they are called WEAPONS). If you want to arrest someone, you should have only your hands and hand-cuffs. History has shown that far too many officers are incompetent or excessive when it comes to the use of force. Only Detectives should be given guns. Sticky foam (http://bit.ly/cojCRX) for the rest.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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