by digby

Well lookie here. It seems that Taser International might be just a teensy bit afraid that their "product" might be killing people:

The maker of Taser stun guns is advising police officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest with the 50,000-volt weapon, saying that it could pose an extremely low risk of an "adverse cardiac event."

The advisory, issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin, is the first time that Taser International has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the discharge of its stun gun.

But Taser officials said Tuesday that the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy over the subject if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.

This would be what is known as CYA. They are telling police agencies that if they get sued Taser cannot be held liable since it issued this disclaimer. This is the first time they've ever admitted that their weapon can be lethal.(They have admitted in the past that it can be dangerous since people often can't break their falls when the electricity incapacitates them.)

Police departments across the United States and in Canada and Australia reacted immediately to the bulletin, with some ordering officers to follow Taser's instructions and begin aiming at the abdomen, legs or back of a suspect.

The problem there is that the cases such as this one where they have the victim on her knees with her hands behind her back will still be considered "safe," so they're likely to keep using it on innocent, nonviolent people. And there are a lot of those cases.

The truth is that tasers are not benign, they are torture devices that are being used indiscriminately in the false belief that police have a discretionary right to subdue anyone they choose using this form of violence. And now even the manufacturer admits they can kill people:

Taser's training bulletin states that "the risk of an adverse cardiac event related to a Taser. .. discharge is deemed to be extremely low." However, the bulletin says, it is impossible to predict human reactions when a combination of drug use or underlying cardiac or other medical conditions are involved.

"Should sudden cardiac arrest occur in a scenario involving a Taser discharge to the chest area, it would place the law-enforcement agency, the officer and Taser International in the difficult situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, the Taser. .. could have played," the bulletin says.

For years, Taser officials have said in interviews, court cases and government hearings that the stun gun is incapable of inducing ventricular fibrillation, the chaotic heart rhythm characteristic of a heart attack.

Looks like their lawyers have decided they'd better hedge their bets on that one. Of course, the evidence has been clear for years.

It's a very nice convenience for police to be able to subdue citizens with either the threat or delivery of terrible pain that will knock them to the ground. It saves time and energy and makes their jobs easier, no doubt. I'm sure they were more efficient in the days when they could take their billy club to people's heads with impunity too. But in a free society, police aren't at liberty to mete out punishment or demand instant compliance, particularly in a nation that has a constitution that guarantees all people certain rights to due process --- even if it makes their job easier. Police work is, by definition, an unsafe profession and one simply can't tear up the constitution and allow police to use violence in the name of efficiency and social control. The temptation to do that is one of the reasons we have a constitution in the first place.

At this point citizens are being told that they can be tasered for any reason the police choose, and have no recourse, because tasers are harmless (except for the searing pain they cause, which is evidently something we as citizens just have to put up with.) But they aren't safe and they shouldn't be legal, at least not the way they are used today.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union, who has tracked Taser issues for years, said the bulletin means that police departments should now be asking questions about liability and reconsider how the stun gun is used.

"This is further evidence that law-enforcement agencies need to stop and ask if they have been sold a bill of goods," he said. "This (training) bulletin confirms what critics have said for years: that Taser has overstated its safety claims.. .. (It) has to be read as if Tasers can cause cardiac arrest."

I don't see how this can be read as anything but Taser's belated admission that their product is deadly. And a deadly weapon simply cannot be used on people the way it's being used today. The police are going to have to change their policies.

h/t to CW