Taser Tort

by digby

This report from the Las Vegas Sun about their police department's experience with tasers is fascinating. (Too bad the Brits didn't read it before deciding to arm their entire police force with these torture devices.) One of the most interesting thing about it is that nearly all the information police receive is from the Taser company itself.

Several cops got on their knees on a rubber gym mat. Kneeling in a line, they linked arms, interlaced hands, and looked up. All they knew of what comes next is this: It's going to smart.

This was called the "daisy chain." It was part of the Metro Police Taser training program, the alternative to hitting a single individual with thousands of volts from the weapon. It was the option officer Lisa Peterson chose, a decision she regrets.

The officers were at a training seminar in November 2003 to learn how to use the newest weapon on their belts, a device the manufacturer claimed would incapacitate a person but not do permanent harm. You can't really comprehend the Taser, students were told, until you're Tasered.

So an instructor attached alligator clips to each end of the daisy chain. Two officers became electrical bookends, strung at the shoulder by wires feeding back into a Taser gun. Pull the trigger and the daisy chain shudders, seizes and pitches forward, the pile of police officers becoming a portrait of Taser's selling point: neuromuscular incapacitation.

In the middle of the chain, hands locked at her sides, Peterson had only her face to absorb the impact. She fell hard on her neck and fast into the rabbit hole - traumatic internal disc disruption, steroid injections, surgical reconstruction, temporomandibular derangement, persistent dizziness, cognitive defects, numbness, vertigo.

Officer Peterson sued Taser International Inc.

So did two other Metro cops who were seriously injured after being shocked with Tasers during other training sessions in 2003. In their lawsuits they say Taser failed to adequately warn the police department of the potential for injury and minimized the risks of being shocked, which officers had been assured was not only safe but advisable.


Metro's initial approach to Taser instruction can be summed up like this: Almost everything the police knew about Tasers, and taught officers about Tasers, they learned from Taser.


Today, Taser warns that the device can cause burns. Moreover, the company acknowledges these burns can become infected. It warns that people who are shocked by Tasers can suffer bone fractures, hernias, ruptures and dislocations. Today, Taser suggests students be Tasered while lying facedown on the floor, eliminating falling hazards and stray Taser probes to the eye.

And yet, police use these things indiscriminately.

And nobody seems to think there's anything wrong with the police inflicting horrible pain on people on the thinnest of pretexts. As long as there's no permanent damage, there's no harm in it. Heck, even if there is permanent damage, it's the victim's fault for failing to be properly cooperative --- or agreeing to do it as part of their job.

You can see why waterboarding is now considered perfectly acceptable. The authorities only use it when they believe they need to (and ok, sometimes just because they're in a bad mood) and it doesn't leave any permanent damage either. No harm no foul. What's the problem?

H/T to pastordan and barb