Friday, March 6th, 2009

Rory Miller (Meditations on Violence) did a little research on Amnesty International’s 2006 study that implicated the Taser in 152 deaths:

Does anybody read these things? Everyone reads the press release that blares the number 152, but who reads the actual paper? That number is not in any way related to the actual causes of death named by the coroners.

AI’s definition by itself appears to be fishy. They seem to label any death preceeded by Taser use to be “Taser related” even if the death happened days later or even if a different cause of death was clearly listed. Hey, I was tased a couple of years ago. If I have a heart attack tomorrow will my name show up in Amnesty International’s next report?

152… but only 23 actually listed the Taser as even a possible contributory cause of death. One of the actual cases states that the Taser may have contributed to the fatal abnormal heartbeat in addition to the other causes of meth and bleeding out from a cut wrist. Clearly the electrical stun device was the culprit. Sure.

So 152 is down to 23, except really only 7 had the cause of death listed as primarily taser. Seven in five years. In at least one of those the ME recanted, having put Taser down as a cause of death before actually performing the autopsy… but that’s not mentioned in the report. Very few of the deaths mentioned in the report have much detail, but what detail there is tells a story. If a plaintiff’s attorney in a case says the death was caused by Taser and the medical examiner says it was NOT the cause of death, AI still lists it. What about the case where it took three autopsies to get the result that AI wanted: “In all it took three autopsies to conclude that taser had been a contributory factor in his death.”

I’ve seen this report cited for over a year. I finally read it. I have a hard time believing that anyone else who cites it has actually read it.

It points to the gulf between people who want to fix the world from ignorance and those who deal with it, Miller says:

There is a difference between pain and injury. Every mechanical means that approaches the level of pain produced by the Taser risks injury — broken bones and dislocated joints. Compare that to two 1/4″ pin pricks (not two inches of penetration, as the report says).

The report says …”tasers in dart firing mode may be a preferable alternative to deadly force…” May be? WTF?

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