Best Taser Practices

One of the great things about being the government is that you get to create something like the National Institute for Justice, with its really cool sounding name and the imprimatur of being, well, trusted and important, when it’s an apologist for prosecution and law enforcement.

Even then, it’s research at its most favorable to the hand that holds the weapon can’t necessarily obscure the truth.  An  NIJ report concludes that Tasers are the mother’s milk of weapons, completely safe.

“There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons,” the report concludes. “Field experience with CED use indicates that short-term exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases.”

Move a few words around and here’s what the report says:

Medical evidence conclusively proves that there is a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct and indirect cardiovascular or metabolic efforts of short-term CED (Taser) exposure in unhealthy, abnormal, stressed, intoxicated persons.
Well that doesn’t sound nearly as good for Taser.  One problem (pick ‘em) is that many people, if not most, feel a certain level of stress when a cop points a Taser at them.  Most people have this weird aversion to being tazed.  No, it’s true. I swear.

Even the final sentence, that “short-term exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases,” presents a bit of a problem.  Though “vast majority” is a bit vague for scientific analysis, exactly how many people does that leave behind in the “tasers are gonna kill them” category?  Given the frequency of Taser use, even if this is only .25%, that’s a lot of dead bodies.  How many is dead people are acceptable to the NIJ folks so that cops have another weapon on their belt to be used whenever anybody looks at them mean?

As  Radley Balko points out, one of the big problems is that the sort of people against whom Tasers are regularly used fall into the category of disfavored targets.
And we all know that Tasers are never, ever used on people who are unhealthy, or who are intoxicated, or who are under some sort of duress. So the debate is settled!

Typical libertarian snark, right?  After all, is it the cops’ fault that people have heart conditions, drink alcohol or suffer the debilitating effects of irritable bowel syndrome?  How could they ever know that the person against whom a Taser is used is, well, human.

The point remains that you have a better chance of surviving a Taser than a Glock, putting aside for the moment that hitting someone with a bullet requires the ability to aim.  This argument in favor of non-lethal less than lethal weaponry has one major flaw.  The use of a gun is only justified by the threat of lethal force.  The use of a Taser is justified by annoyance, overweight, unwarranted eyebrow raising and a rush to get to Dunkin Donuts when the next batch emerges fresh from the oven.

While policies vary, the use of Tasers seems to have avoided any meaningful policy limitations, as judged from the post-death assertions of law enforcement.  When is the last time you read a statement issued by police and an officer’s use of a Taser (other than against a spouse) violated department policies?  Never? 

Now that the National Institute of Justice has signed off on the rampant use of Tasers, thus conclusively establishing that they are safe to use (except against the people most likely to be tazed), we can all rest easier knowing that our government has carefully scrutinized the problem and declared that there is no problem at all.

Taze on. bro.

5 comments on “Best Taser Practices

  1. Catherine Mulcahey

    Can we get the presumably healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated authors of the NIJ report to undergo short-term CED exposure in order to confirm that the risk of serious injury or death can be described as “moderate” rather than “high?”

  2. SHG

    Yours is always a troubling argument, because many do, and many PDs put recruits in the Academy through a tasering and the experience, coupled with this sort of argument, emboldens them to believe that they are now morally as well as legally entitled to taze at will.

    It’s not a good argument, and, in fact, it’s a particularly bad and potentially quite dangerous one.

  3. BadLawyer

    The best line is:
    “There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure[.]”

    In fact a TASER is an electric shock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles. Its manufacturer, TASER International, calls the TASER effects “neuromuscular incapacitation” and the devices’s mechanism “Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology”. Someone struck by a TASER experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions. Or you might say, they fall down on the ground frothing at the mouth andd clenching their teeth. Great fun to watch.

    Just like the CEOs of Big Tobacco (in their testimony before the US Congress), law enforcement and their apologists see no problem with “toys for the boys.” It’s all good.

  4. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, since the NIJ funded the ‘Taser study’ (through their grant program) do you believe that they’ll be named in future wrongful death law suites?

    While channel surfing, I noticed that CNN stopped talking about Weiner’s wennie and interviewed two inventors that worked with Kevin Cosner on a Taser Glove. They obviously ripped the idea off from “Revenge of the Nerds” where one the geeky nerds uses his Taser Glove against bullies. When asked about the possible applications, they said Law Enforcement, Military & jail/prison extractions.

    Now that the NIJ is in the business of endorsing not so lethal weapons, fat-ass drunks with a heart murmur aka: ‘belligerents’ of today are tomorrow’s clients. With the onslaught of wrongful death suites on the horizon, starving attorneys/lawyers will be able to eat with forks. Thanks.

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