Feeds

US study says Taser cattleprod guns are safe

Do tase me, bro, if you are so inclined

SANS - Survey on application security programs

American medical researchers have concluded that Tasers, the controversial cattleprod-launching stun weapons, are broadly safe to use.

The study, funded by the US Justice Department, analysed almost 1,000 cases where American plods meted out electric enforcement, and found that 99.7 per cent of the sufferers were unharmed or suffered no more than scrapes or bruises. Three subjects required hospital treatment: two for head injuries sustained after falling down, and one for a rare muscle condition called rhabdomyolysis. The researchers could not say whether the rhabdomyolysis onset was related to the earlier electric shock.

According to Dr William Bozeman, who led the research: "This is the largest independent study to date, and the first to detail the medical effects of Tasers under real-world conditions.

"This study promises to give us the best information yet on the medical risks of these weapons."

Previous data related only to healthy police volunteers or animals, rather than people shocked in operational situations.

Tasers somewhat resemble normal bullet-firing pistols. However, they work by launching two sharp contacts at the target. When the barbs make contact with skin, a 50,000 volt electric shock is delivered from a battery in the gun butt down thin wires which trail from the flying barbs. A taser can be fired only once per reload, though a target once hit can be shocked repeatedly as long as the barbs remain in contact. Range is very limited, even compared to normal handguns; hits cannot be reliably made with a Taser from more than a few metres, and the wires are only 10.6m long.

Advocates of Tasers point out that police trying to subdue a violently-resisting suspect have a limited range of options. If the person is unarmed and outnumbered by the cops, they can try to deal with him (nearly always him) barehanded. This is dangerous for both police and suspect, and can be expected to lead to serious injuries in a lot of cases. It's especially dangerous for modern British coppers now that recruiting by size* and sex has been abolished.

Alternative tactics for the cops include the use of clubs, truncheons etc (more injuries for the suspect, less for the cops). They may also use Mace, pepper spray or whatever - though this may lead to medical complications and accusations just as a Taser does, and effective range is even worse.

Where the offender has a knife, club, bottle or other potential hurty implement, it could seem highly unfair to insist that coppers must still wade in with nothing more than a truncheon or a tin of liquid condiment. However, in the past the only other option they had was firearms, and shooting someone for waving a knife or an iron bar is often seen as excessive in retrospect. Police image is usually further damaged by witless Hollywood-inspired notions that people can realistically be shot in the leg, arm etc. to be subdued. (They can't, except perhaps by snipers when standing still and unaware of being targeted, which would normally be highly illegal. Anyway, being shot in a limb is still quite likely to kill or cripple.)

Hence the Taser, which seems to offer the plods a much better chance of cuffing a violent troublemaker without inflicting any more than temporary pain and maybe a few bruises.

In the UK, Tasers were initially issued only to specialist police firearms officers, who are usually described as "highly trained". (This despite the fact that they have been known to use Tasers against suspects thought to be carrying electrically-initiated bombs.)

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
APPLE FAILS to ditch class action suit over ebook PRICE-FIX fiasco
Do not pass go, do cough (up to) $840m in damages
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.