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Hullabaloo


Sunday, September 26, 2010

 
Deadman's (Learning) Curve

by digby

The latest in taser news:
[A]a study of major U.S. cities, found deaths in-custody actually rise sharply - nearly six times - during the first year a department uses tasers. Dr. Byron Lee of the University of California at San Francisco led the study.
After the first year in-custody deaths returned to the same level as before tasers were introduced. Tasers are now used by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies.

So the allegedly life saving technology spikes the death count six times higher until it finally goes back to the same death count as before it comes into use. I guess that's considered a success.

But one thing tasers do is very clear, aside from all the deaths. It makes it possible for the police to abandon all their training in crisis management and psychology to simply torture people into immediate submission. Like this for example. It's a look at duel cases of violent police confrontations in Dallas, Texas. Oddly, the police who didn't kill their suspect by beating him are being charged, while those who killed theirs by electrocuting him are being lauded for their efforts.

Of course, they are blaming the electrocution death on drugs, attributing it to the disease Taser International has sold as the cause of all these deaths called "excited delirium" which is a very strange condition that only afflicts people in police custody (and mostly in the first year of their use by the department, apparently.) It isn't recognized by anyone but medical examiners who have been wined and dined by Taser International at one of their junkets teaching seminars:

The Globe and Mail has reported on the cozy ties between Taser International and some coronors, the officials often responsible for investigating Taser related deaths; a cozy relationship which creates an appearance of bias on the part of one very prominent Canadian coronor.

In Taser firms picked up coroner's lecture tab the Globe reports that Taser International has paid hotel and travel expenses for prominent Canadian coronor Dr. James Cairns, Ontario's deputy chief coronor, who has given seminars "on the phenomenon of "excited delirium," a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered". The article indicates that Dr. Cairns does not see any conflict of interest on his part.

In Symposium aims to define 'excited delirium' DEATHS IN CUSTODY: TASER HELPS FUND RESEARCH the Globe and Mail reports on the second annual Sudden Death, Excited Delirium and In-Custody Death Conference underway in Las Vegas. Many of the nearly 20 talks touch on the role of Tasers. "The key issue is excited delirium, a collection of symptoms that is quickly becoming the leading explanation offered when a person dies in police custody or after a taser is used." Two researchers who presented disclosed that Taser International funds their research. As reported by the Globe & Mail, the Taser subsidized research presenters "conducted research on the negative effects of taser use on the human body; they found very few".
Here's how the Dallas paper reported on the taser death:
It is likely to be months before the Dallas County medical examiner determines what caused Lockett's death. But preliminary signs point to a textbook case of excited delirium, a medical state in which an overdose of adrenaline typically associated with drug use contributes to sudden death, police said.
Except the only "textbook" written about this bogus condition is by the manufacturer of the weapon that is likely to be found liable if all these deaths prove to be caused by their product. Neither the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association recognize it as a legitimate condition.

It's very convenient to say that the taser didn't cause the death, but it's fairly clear that he wouldn't have died that moment if he hadn't been tasered. I just can't fathom the logic that says this is anything but homicide. You could try to make a case that it was justifiable homicide, but to say the taser didn't cause the death is absurd.



H/t to bb

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