Feeds

Prof: 'Taser-proof vests put cops in danger'

Tinfoil waistcoat could have someone's eye out

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

An Arizona inventor has been granted a patent on his Taser-proof fabric, which he intends to sell to police officers to protect them from villains toting electric stunguns. However, it has been argued that protective garments of this sort will in fact endanger policemen's lives.

News of the patent for Greg Schultz's Thor Shield fabric comes to us courtesy of New Scientist, under the headline "Taser-proof clothing creates new hazard".

A Taser shoots its projectiles at an angle to each other

Don't try the homie sideways-gun trick with one of these.

The idea of Thor Shield - now to be distributed by US body-armour maker Point Blank - is to provide a protecting layer of conductive foil. Tasers work by using two separate probes to pass a high-voltage current through the body. The probes don't need to touch skin to do so, as the high voltages involved allow the current to jump across an "air gap" of up to two inches into the body, which being made largely of water is a fairly good conductor. The body bridges the larger, several-inch gap between the taser's flying probes, and so the circuit is completed and the crippling current can flow.

This is why a Taser actually needs its probes to be quite widely spaced in order to work: if they struck close together the weapon would tend to short-circuit, and current wouldn't get enough of a chance to pass through the body. Thus, Taser probes don't fly straight out of the end of the weapon. They are angled up and down by four degrees each, so as to get a suitable spread but avoid flying either side of the target.

But a layer of Thor Shield is a much better conductor than a body. Thus, current passes instead through the foil and the body is unaffected. Schultz says his kit has been thoroughly tested and works fine. He reckons that with Tasers on sale to ordinary citizens in America, plods there will be glad to buy his gear. (They might also find it handy in cases of "friendly fire" from trigger-happy stungun-toting colleagues.) Schultz says he will only sell to law enforcement and military customers.

So what's the "new hazard" conjured up by the peaceniks at New Scientist?

Well, they've phoned up Steve Wright, "an expert on non-lethal weapons". He says "People armed with Tasers will now aim at the head - the officer may end up blind."

You'd think that the author of Your Unfriendly Neighbourhood Bobby, New Technologies of Political Repression and Politics of Pain would be aware how futile it is to try and get two projectiles flying on tracks separated by eight degrees to hit someone's head. It's physically impossible at any distance greater than four feet or so, and even inside that range you'd need to be Billy the Kid to avoid missing with at least one of the darts.

It's difficult enough to hit someone at all with a pistol in a fight. It's very difficult indeed to hit them in the head - even lavishly-trained police marksmen have to almost put the weapon to someone's face to manage it. And that's with a pistol that shoots in straight lines.

Only a moron would even think of trying it with a Taser, and that moron would almost certainly achieve nothing if he did. Sure, you might put someone's eye out with a Taser, just as you could by throwing a bottle at them - or, more effectively, by sticking your thumb in their eye. But that's not an argument against Thor Shield. One might as well say that bulletproof vests make you less safe - you're a lot more likely to survive a bullet wound to the body than one to the head.

Lord knows there are probably better things for plods to spend taxpayers' money on than Taser-proof vests. After all, it's the cops themselves who say that Tasers do no lasting harm. But arguing that a Thor Shield vest makes a police officer less safe... dear me.

The New Scientist trailer for the article - to be published on paper in full in November - is here. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'
Scrutiny committee bods probe derailed database project
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves
Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.