Tasers can be instrument of torture, says UN
Further Taser-related deaths fuel controversy
The UN's Committee Against Torture has declared that Taser use can constitute a form of torture, contrary to the UN's convention against the same.
The committee last Friday delivered its verdict after examining the Portuguese police force's adoption of the TaserX26, described as a weapon with "proven risks of harm or death" by an expert called to testify. The committee's statement said: "The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use."
The UN's verdict comes in the wake of several Taser-related deaths in the US and Canada. On 19 November a man in Frederick City, Maryland, died in controversial circumstances after a deputy "struck [him] with a Taser and administered multiple shocks for several seconds".
On 14 October, 40-year-old Robert Dziekanski died in Vancouver International airport, apparently as the result of multiple taserings by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The incident was captured on video by an amateur cameraman who later released the footage amid accusations that the RCMP had tried to cover up the incident.
Last week, two men died in separate Taser incidents in Jacksonville, Florida. In the first case, on 18 November, 21-year-old Christian Allen was pulled over "because his [car] radio was too loud". When he and a passenger "took off running", as ABC puts it, a police gave chase, caught Allen and "used a Taser gun at least three times before [he] was taken into custody".
Allen was put in the back of a police car, "suffered a cardiac arrest and died later at a hospital".
The second fatality occured on 20 November after an unidentified man "crashed a car into a parked sport utility vehicle and then tried to enter an occupied home", police later said. During a violent altercation with officers in the middle of the street, the man was tasered up to three times, according to witnesses.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Chief Dwaine Senterfitt said: "From what I understand, it was about all the four officers could do to get him subdued and handcuffed. They began to struggle with this individual, got with him down on the ground. At some point, the officer was able to get his Taser and deploy his Taser. They continued to struggle with this individual. The Taser did not stop him from fighting."
When evetually subdued, the victim was taken to Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center "and died a short time later".
Back in Canada, meanwhile, 36-year-old Robert Knipstrom died yesterday in a British Colombia hospital five days after an "an altercation with police" in a shopping mall in Chilliwack during which "officers used a Taser gun to subdue him". ®
Taser International recently released a statement regarding the Vancouver fatality. It states: "This tragic incident appears to follow the pattern of many in-custody deaths or deaths following a confrontation with police. Historically, medical science and forensic analysis has shown that these deaths are attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the TASER(r)."
It adds: "Cardiac arrest caused by electrical current is immediate. The video of the incident at the Vancouver airport indicates that the subject was continuing to fight well after the TASER application. This continuing struggle could not be possible if the subject died as a result of the TASER device electrical current causing cardiac arrest. His continuing struggle is proof that the TASER device was not the cause of his death. Further, the video clearly shows symptoms of excited delirium, a potentially fatal condition marked by symptoms of exhaustion and mania such as heavy breathing, profuse sweating, confusion, disorientation and violence toward inanimate objects."
Taser International founder and chairman Tom Smith concluded: "We are taken aback by the number of media outlets that have irresponsibly published conclusive headlines blaming the TASER device and/or the law enforcement officers involved as the cause of death before completion of the investigation. These sensationalistic media reports completely ignore the earmark symptoms of excited delirium shown in the video.
"TASER International is transmitting over 60 legal demand letters requiring correction of these false and misleading headlines and will take other actions as appropriate. These unsubstantiated, false headlines mislead the public and could adversely influence public policy in ways which could place the lives of both law enforcement and the public at greater risk."
Put 'em in prison
That's the only place these police should be if they choose to recklessly harm others by tasering them.
9 times out of 10, if the police had just screwed their damn heads on straight and waited a few minutes the suspect would have calmed down and realized the futility of resisting, but instead these criminals dressed as police officers decide to force a violent confrontation, then have the nerve to act as though tasering is a defense. Yes, tasering is a defence, just like shooting someone and both can be lethal or not depending on application.
A taser is not a safe weapon, particularly because it's being used by someone without enough sense to resolve a situation without using it. Only a defense against a persuing person should justify it and yet it is typically used in pursuing the suspect instead. If there were real danager to the officer s/he'd draw a gun instead so let's just get rid of the taser so officers can't hide behind this lethal weapon with excuses anymore.
nice one Rick..
"But it's obvious there are many insane posters here. Folks who believe cops should be cannon fodder, who were raised by their parents and a criminal loving media to hate law, order and uniform. They believe cops are either superhuman ninjas who can stop bullets and subdue criminals with magical eastern martial arts, or are stormtrooper robot nazis who are bred in clone tanks, have no family or feelings or love of life. Racists and bigots are what many are, who think tolerance of alternative lifestyles and religions means they can spew hatred towards any other class of people that has a necessary job to do that doesn't fit their anarchistic lusts."
that brush you have must be very big, to tar all these people the same. I have two relatives who are serving UK police officers, my wife is a civilian police worker, my parents (both long dead now) were both of that 100% law-abiding policemen are wonderful generation, my father having been a special constable for many years, and I don't think that any of those things you claim that us *hippies* actually apply to me at all. And I certainly don't glorify criminals -ever! In fact it's an aspect of modern society that I detest (along with rap music)
So why, oh why, Rick, do I (and other people who think like me) have to be all those things you say, when I (and they) simply don't think it's right that policemen should be allowed to get away with tasering people to death unnecessarily, and that the cops should show some responsibility when using these things and not "go in all guns blazing?" That seems a perfectly reasonable proposition to me, but apparently (according to you) it's because I was spoilt by my mummy and daddy in my priviliged life (on a council estate north of Manchester) and taught to hate police and authority, and love the criminal. You should really come to our street of a Friday night and see how much I love the criminals then.
I usually enjoy most of the stuff that you write but you went right off the deep end there, chum. Pity you can't retract posts on El Reg. But here's a nice picture of the lovely Miss Hilton to cheer us all right up.
If you believe anyone should ever be shot in the back, kindly get the hell out of my species. Shooting people in the back is in the same category as men physically beating women and kicking people when they're on the ground. You can spend hours justifying it, with some logical-sounding arguments, and with every word you become less and less of a human.