Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tasers kill, but do they actually save lives?

We've heard the catch phrase many times in the last few days, tasers are supposedly saving lives. Here are some recent examples:

London Free Press (November 21, 2007): Taser critics don't know what they're talking about, Fantino says
"“I can say without qualification that Tasers save lives,” said Fantino."

570News Victoria (November 19, 2007): Police weapons expert says Tasers save lives, prevent injuries
"A Victoria police weapons expert says Tasers save lives and he personally believes he would have killed several people in the line of duty if it wasn't for his Taser. Const. Mike Massine says his use of the Taser diffused several tense situations where using his firearm was the next alternative.

CBC (November 17, 2007): RCMP to review Taser policy in wake of airport death: commissioner
Numerous police forces say the weapon is a crucial "non-lethal" option for officers that helps save lives and protect both them and civilians from injury.

Not that there's any hard evidence of course, on the contrary, there's a growing number of cases in which the Taser has been considered a primary or secondary cause of death.

So how can "experts" keep claiming that tasers save lives?

They use a technique called informal predictions, which are often nothing more than opinions marketed as "evidence".

Here's one of Taser's own fallacies, from Taser's paper: TASER Device Liability and Litigation Riskown fallacies (p.3):
TASER technology is saving lives as well. Houston (TX) Police reported that in 39 instances between December 2004 and October 2006, incident involved officers would have been justified in using deadly force instead of stunning them;
Taser makes several mistakes in reasoning:
- reporting that in 39 instances officers were "justified in using deadly force" doesn't mean that these officers would have actually used deadly force if they wouldn't have had a taser.
- using deadly force doesn't guarantee that the "victim" will die from it. There are many ways to shoot someone without killing; try the legs for example. And not all "use of deadly force" will actually result in a hit; police officers miss too.

So how many lives were actually saved? We don't know and neither does Taser. There is simply no hard evidence. What we do know for sure is that tasers kill. There's proof that between June 2001 and June 2007, there were at least 245 cases of deaths of subjects soon after having been shocked using Tasers.

Then why are there so many police officers repeating the "tasers save lives" myth? Well, why don't you read it for yourself?

(don't forget to read the comment section)

Update: more "Taser Saves Lives" bullshit below:

CBC (November 22, 2007): B.C. police chiefs defend Taser use but support reviews
But [British Columbia Association of Chiefs president Gord Tomlinson said the association is rejecting calls for a moratorium on Taser use because
members believe the weapon is safe and saves lives. (November 22, 2007): Commons committee to probe Dziekanski's death
"Forgive us if we sound biased in the defence of the Taser. But if we didn't believe completely that they've saved live[s] and prevented injuries . . . we wouldn't be using them."

Thunder Bay's Source (November 22, 2007): Fantino concerned about rhetoric over Taser use
[Fantino] says Tasers have been studied enough and is adamant that they save lives.

Note: Not a single journalist asked what the reasons are for believing that tasers save lives. Neither did anyone bother asking what the equation between lives saved and people killed is: so much for sound evidence or good journalism.

Upper-date: more "Taser Saves Lives" bullshit below: (February 24, 2009): Tasers save lives, police associations say
Canada's two main police associations are defending the use of Tasers, saying in Ottawa Tuesday that [tasers] save lives and there is no proof the stun guns have been directly responsible for civilian deaths.

CNW (February 24, 2009): British Columbia Police Association supports national position on Taser use
Describing the Taser as a "vital tool that protects the lives of police and the public" BCPA President Tom Stamatakis notes that the 2,500 members of the 12 police services across B.C. that he represents "support the use of the Taser within clear guidelines".

Calgary Herald (February 13, 2009): RCMP limits use of Tasers
During a meeting of the Commons public safety committee on Thursday, [Commissioner William Elliott] insisted Tasers are still useful weapons that save lives, but also said the RCMP now recognize they can cause death in"acutely agitated" suspects.

Metro Canada
(February 24, 2009): Chief Backs use of Tasers
[Police Chief Rick Hanson]: “Absolutely, they should have Tasers; Tasers save lives."


David said...

Fabulous read! I recently read comments attributed to our Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (Feb 25 2009) and am starting a bit of research about many things he has stated publicly that make me cringe! do you mind if i follow your blog? mine (if interested) is the Setting Commissioner Fantino Straight, among the many i dabble with.

Keep up the good blogging!

Eric said...

Thanks for stopping by David, and good luck with your blog; I will be following yours as well!

Visit David's blog:
Setting Commissioner Fantino Straight

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