TASER Technology Update: TASER cleared in more cases

By Cop2Cop: News By, For & About Law Enforcement In the West
with 24Seven

Although TASER International and TASER™ technology continues to face scrutiny from numerous special interest groups, studies continue to show that proper deployment and use of the TASER technology is an effective and relatively safe tool in controlling a suspect. Almost as frequently, the TASER brand devices are also being cleared as a cause of death in several incidents in the last few months.

Recently the Potomac Study has released some of its findings into the use and deployment of the TASER system and other stun devices. The independent study, sponsored by the not-for-profit public policy research institute analyzed issues related to stun devices, including TASER devices, brought together experts in medical, industry, policy, military, and law enforcement fields. The report concluded that while further medical testing should continue, when used appropriately, stun technology is relatively safe and clearly effective.

"We are encouraged by the findings of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies," said Rick Smith, CEO of TASER International. "The report is consistent with the results that we continue to see every day in reports from field uses and clearly supports the overall view that TASER technology is relatively safe and effective." To download a full copy of the Potomac Institute's report "Efficacy and Safety of Electrical Stun Devices," visit www.PotomacInstitute.org

Report Findings:
"Overall, currently available information supports the view that when used appropriately stun technology is relatively safe. However, the Potomac Institute strongly recommends that additional research be conducted at the organism, organ, tissue, and cell levels. The community needs to better understand the specific effects of varying electrical wave forms on organic matter in the immediate time frame of stun application, and in the downstream time course as well, to include possible psychiatric and other non-lethal effects.

"The Potomac Institute adopted the FDA philosophy to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of stun devices. The FDA model considers the risks associated with a device relative to its efficacy, and considers no product to be completely free of risk.

"The last and only, federal level regulatory type review of stun device safety was conducted in 1976, by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The available technology at that time was found not likely to cause death in normally healthy adults.

"Odds for stunning to contribute to (this does not imply "cause") death are, at worst, one in one thousand. The ratio of lives saved to lives lost exceeds 70:1. By comparison, the similar ratio for air bags in automobiles is approximately 50:1.

"Upon examining the 72 mortality cases appearing in the Amnesty International 2004 report on stun device use, in no instance was stun employment implicated singularly as the cause of death, although the application of stun devices could not be ruled out as a possible contributing factor. These cases showed that other contributing factors, including pre-existing morbidity (such as heart disease), excessive drug ingestion, and multiple force applications (baton, wrestling, stunning) could have also led to the deaths.

"Available animal modeling conducted by a government laboratory offers indirect evidence of the relative safety of currently available stun devices.

"There are no industry standards, regulatory agencies, or federal restrictions or guidelines, for stun devices. The Potomac Institute recommends establishing government- endorsed standards that will contribute significantly to better understanding of this technology domain.

"Although some law enforcement organizations offer exemplary use of force rules, there is no agreed upon point for placement of stun devices on a use of force continuum.

"The report shows that there is no universally accepted terminology or definition for non-lethal weapons within the stun device industry or among users of the technology. The Potomac Institute suggests the adoption of the Department of Defense definition for non-lethal technology, which focuses on the intent of the technology and not the outcome of the use of the device. "Direct evidence of safety can be drawn from law enforcement agency reports, which provide statistics on situational use and employment results "Indirect evidence of efficacy of stun devices can be determined from the increased acquisition of stun devices by law enforcement agencies. Some organizations other than law enforcement agencies have actively voiced support for stun device use as a non-lethal force option."

Another site with a TASER study is the International Association of Chiefs of Police www.iacp.org/research/rcdcuttingedgetech

About Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c) (3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society, providing in particular, an academic forum for the study of related policy issues. From these discussions and forums, the Institute develops meaningful science and technology policy options and ensures their implementation at the intersection of business and government. The Institute's current endeavors have required the formation of special efforts in:

  • Terrorism and asymmetry
  • Emerging threats and opportunities
  • National health policies
  • Science and technology forecasting
  • National security
Also hitting the press waves lately has been the clearing of TASER in the recent deaths of persons in conflict with various law enforcement agencies. Some of those include the following releases

Exec Summary: A man who collapsed hours after he was hit with a Taser stun gun during a disturbance at his Columbia, Ill., home Dec. 16 actually died from a cocaine overdose, according to autopsy results presented at an inquest Wednesday. Harold Cowell, a deputy Randolph County coroner, testified that lab tests from an autopsy conducted by Dr. Raj Nanduri showed Nelson died of "acute cocaine toxicity." The coroner's jury ruled death was accidental. Exec Summary: Timothy Bolander had a variety of drugs in his bloodstream and four ruptured bags of cocaine in his stomach on the December night when two city police officers used stun guns to subdue him, according to a Palm Beach County medical examiner's report released Tuesday to police. The 31-year-old man collapsed and stopped breathing as the officers walked him to a patrol car a few minutes after he was jolted four times by two Tasers. He died a short time later. His cause of death is listed as "accidental cocaine toxicity," according to police. "What this tells us is that the Taser didn't kill this gentleman. What killed this gentleman was his drug use," Delray Beach police spokesman Jeff Messer said. In addition to cocaine, there were also the painkillers hydrocodone and morphine in Bolander's body, he said. The tests also showed the presence of nicotine and caffeine. He said the high level of drugs in Bolander's system probably accounted for his body temperature of more than 102 degrees half an hour after death. Bolander also had cocaine-derived compounds, morphine and other opiates in his system, according to the report Messer read. Reading from the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's autopsy report on Bolander, Delray Beach police spokesman Jeff Messer said the cause of Bolander's death was "accidental cocaine toxicity." Tests showed Bolander, 31, had a cocaine toxicity level in his blood of 2.763 milligrams per liter. The lethal level is 5 milligrams per litre, Messer said. And Bolander was found to have ingested four small baggies of illegal drugs that had ruptured, filling his stomach with 1,135 milligrams of cocaine and other substances.

Exec Summary: The Polk County Medical Examiner's Office has concluded that the death of a 32-year-old man who died last year after being subdued by a Taser was not caused by the Taser. Jason Yeagley died from excited delirium because of withdrawal from the prescription drug Xanax and the tussle he had with a sheriff's deputy heightened his excited delirium, said Polk County associate medical examiner Dr. Vera Volnikh. Volnikh also said the Taser had nothing to do with Yeagley's death.

Exec Summary: Coroner's report shows TASER device use did not contribute to the death of a Dwayne Dunn, 33, of Baton Rouge man who died just hours after a TASER device was used during the course of an arrest by Lafayette police. TV 10 news reported that after obtaining a copy of the coroner's report that Dunn died from "acute cardiac arrhythmia due to acute and chronic self use of cocaine and ethanol." The death was ruled as an accident and the autopsy report indicates the use of the TASER device did not contribute to Dunn's death.

Conclusion: Those of us in law enforcement are grateful for TASER Internationals efforts to provide another useful device in our efforts to control non-compliant and aggressive individuals in a safe and effective manner. There are always inherent risks in anything you do when dealing with human conflict, however we feel that TASER is the industries leader in providing a stun device that has continually shown its ability to control a suspect and/or situation with a usually minimal level of harm, thus allowing us and those we deal with a better opportunity to return home each and every night.

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