US study says Taser cattleprod guns are safe
Do tase me, bro, if you are so inclined
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.)
In the article, it mentions giving tasers to untrained cops and that is where the troubles will start. Untraine cops will simply be given guidelines for the use of tasers and if they are only required to follow guidelines, they wont.
If they are given good training they will at least have some idea of the conditions and reasons requiring the use of a taser. Of course a fair number of cops will still abuse the thing, it's in the nature of people not just cops to apply their personal standards to their work thinking that they know better. But with cops having had formal training there is at least the chance for anyone laying charges against them for unreasonable or illegal use against themselves to have comparisons applied in court based on the training and the actual situation to determine if there is a case to answer on the part of the police.
I know that when anyone gets a new toy they usually can't wait to try it out and I'm sure the fuzz are no different so anything that can help to make them accountable for any abuse is a good thing.
Oh, no, I'm not forgetting anything of that nature at all. As I said, police abuse exists. It always will - police are recruited from the conmmunity, and the community will alwys have its share of jerks, wankers, and bullies. Appropriate action is to get rid of abusive cops, not to restrict legitimate tools in the hands of *all* officers.
Police abuse for the crime of 'disrespect of cop' is nothing new, and tasers, or the lack thereof, has nothing to do with it. Abusive cops have used pepper spray, batons, boots, rubber hoses, and pretty much every other tool in their reach (and some they had to create, like broom handles up the bum). If they have tasers, they'll misuse them, too. That said, I still do not see any gain in giving police the option of 'too much or too little.' I want them to have a continuum of force. I also want bad cops *gone.* One does not preclude the other.
Morely Dotes has an outstanding idea. I whole-heartedly endorse it.
I've been nailed by electric shock from 12 and 24 volt electric fences, and from 400hz and 5000hz electronics power sources. All hurt like hell *while* they were ongoing, but after effects are minimal, and I'd frankly prefer the jolt to pepper spray or CS (which I have also experienced, in the Service). Given the choice of being shot, or tasered, I'll *always* choose the taser, even with multiple jolts.
Go sign up as a special constable or community support bod. That's exactly what you're talking about there. Get back to us after you've done a few Friday/Saturday nights and let us know how things are going. In other words, if you want to put your money where your mouth is, then you can go and do it whenever you want.
As far as "the power we allow them", it's more like "the power the mob in front of them allows them". It really depends whether you want some firm of football hooligans to be brought down by the police, or whether you want it the other way round.