About this site

Published on January 9 2013 by admin

DEDICATION AND THANKS

This site is dedicated to the memory of the more than 750 people who have died after they were tasered (nearly all by the police), to their grieving families and to the many thousands who have suffered unacceptable pain and survived the experience of being tasered.

GlobalShock is a relatively late arrival on the scene, on-line only since January 2010. We have benefited hugely from other sites that have been tracking taser issues, particularly  TruthNotTasers.blogspot.com and Excited-Delirium.com, courageous investigative journalists (particularly Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic), human rights groups (especially Amnesty International), and committed lawyers (often working in the framework of the Amerian Civil Liberties Union and equivalent associations of public-interest lawyers across the globe), as well as less visible local initiatives that have emerged in the wake of taser-deaths. All this combined effort merits much more recognition, and we at GlobalShock hope to help disseminate these contributions. See also LINKS.

Sadly, more deaths will occur, and more innocent people will be tortured, before the taser finally becomes recognized as the wrong kind of weapon for police-officers’ belts. It is not too late to correct the error and return to a more humane police-suspect interaction. This would mean that the 750 “tasered-then-died” did not die in vein. And, as a dividend, the police will regain public confidence.

 

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MISSION

Too many people, particularly police-officers, still believe the taser stun-gun is  harmless, generating a brief, sharp jolt and simply incapacitating the peripheral nervous system for a few seconds, providing a window-of-opportunity to control an aggressive suspect in a violent encounter. This belief is more widespread in North America, where the stun-gun has proven most lethal, than overseas. Far from “protecting lives” (TASER International’s term), tasers too often terminate lives or cause intense, intended pain. The vast majority of those who died following taser discharges had committed a minor misdemeanor, not a serious offence, and they would have survived if they had not been tasered.

We make no claim to present both sides of the taser debate. Those who support police taser use are already well-served by the manufacturer and its many advocates (police, politicians and, too often, medical examiners and unwitting journalists). Indeed, media reports too often present the TASER International perspective much more convincingly (“According to the manufacturer 85,000 lives have been saved …”) than alternative angles to “Amnesty International claims …”, etc.). Our goal is to attempt to draw together critical perspectives on the taser in all its dimensions (hence the very detailed INDEX).

TASER International’s CEO, Rick Smith, has boasted that his company’s products are “game-changers” – not just changing the rules of the police-suspect relations, but altering the very nature of policing. Using electronic methods most often associated with torture to obtain compliance is certainly changing the nature of policing. Far from making communities safer, tasers have introduced a new barrier between citizens and those mandated to protect the innocent: electroshocks, or, to put is more crudely, hi-tech cattle-prods.

We sincerely believe that stun-guns frequently escalate rather than – as many police-officers, politicians, coroners and medical examiners appear to believe – de-escalate conflicts between citizens and the police. It certainly does not reduce the use of firearms: As the Police repeat endlessly the taser is not an alternative to a fire-arm: it is no to be used instead of a firearm but in less threatening situations: it is to be used lower down the “use-of-force” scale. Unfortunately, often much lower.  Taser-use is increasing as violent crime rates are falling, with no thanks to tasers.

The representation of the police as “taser users” has generated more hostility towards the police than confidence in their ability to protect communities. Too many clearly non-violent “ordinary folks acting extraordinarily” have been shocked. Too often those targeted are in psychiatric distress and/or experiencing a “bad trip” – without being violent. Many citizens may blame deviants for their deviancy – but this does not merit a painful electric shock to “normalize” them. Most of those who have died after they were tasered were not aggressive but highly disturbed. Police officers may welcome this new electronic weapon (seemingly protecting them from potential injuries by “out-of-control” members of the public), but it is for the citizenry, not the polic to decide if this procedure should be condoned. We believe the human and social costs are too high.

There are other very worrying target-populations, as tasers become more widespread: prisons, schools, hospitals, the military, residential units for people with serious mental health issues, and for use against disruptive children and elderly citizens. Not to mention the taser as a “personal weapon” for US citizens (often used in domestic conflicts).

We believe that widespread police adoption of tasers has been a grave error that can only be corrected by a frank admission that “we were mistaken”. The manufacturer’s initial claims about the taser’s safety have been found to be grossly exaggerated. Independent scientific research – which we include in our posts – points clearly to the potential lethality of taser-shocks. Human rights organizations have come out strongly against tasers.

“Pepper spray” has been widely abandoned as a policing-tool, so why not tasers? It will prove much more expensive to maintain the myths than to reverse the “game-change” that tasers have introduced. Numerous court-rulings and settlements – not to mention replacement costs for an arm with a five-year shelf-life, $36 (approx.) for each firing – most in training – and the costs of commissions of enquiry, borne by taxpayers- confirm the true costs of tasers to police jurisdictions already facing significant budget cuts.

We insist that we respect the police, and are not using the “taser controversy” as a mask for denigrating their work. We recognize fully that police-officers have become inadvertently the front-line in emergency situations in which a person is acting “abnormally”. We do not envy them this task. However, they are paid and duty-bound by their code of professional ethics (and labour contracts) to respect citizens – and the taser is too often an emblem, an instrument of disrespect, an interface that castes the “electroshock” weapon”s users – the police – in a very unflattering light. We must recognognize that only a very small minority of those who are tasered are violent; more than 40% are in acute psychotic stress – and the taser has become the weapon-of-choice to handle “deviants”.

There is widespread disregard of local or national (when available) guidelines in using tasers: “taser creep” and misreporting are the rule, not the exception. The taser moves rapidly from a weapon of last resort (in the manuals) to a weapon of choice (for police, this appears to be a no-brainer). In just a five years the taser has become a core expression of what we call “police culture” in the police trajectory to hi-tech solutions for community problems. The trivial sanctions imposed on police officers who are judged – often by their peers, where the bar is very high – to have abused taser guidelines (including when this results in a death) send a clear message to patrollers: you won’t suffer much if you torture with the taser. (This, by the way, is not true of firearms use.)

To call the taser “less lethal” is a smokescreen, since the taser is not – police spokespersons repeat endlessly – an alternative to a firearm. It is lower down on the use-of-force scale, and used almost invariably when a firearm would be unacceptable, even in the violence-prone culture of some police departments. The taser is a “potentially lethal” weapon that is being used to handle “disturbing” suspects as expeditiously as possible, not a “less lethal” means of de-escalating violent confrontations.

Thus, from scientific, humanitarian and community-building perspectives, as well as to relieve the financial burden that taser-adoption and -replacement is placing on cash-strapped police jurisdictions – and, we insist, out of a sincere with to improve policing – we are committed to the goal of ending all taser use by police officers and other agents of social control.

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POSTS

We have adopted a template for presenting material, although some items – particularly the author of a text – may not be found. We apologize in advance for typos and spelling-errors in the brief introductory summary and comments, which are added by us. Articles – there are no videos on this site, although we often provide links to them – are uploaded sequentially. Here is our template:

  1. The title of the latest uploaded article appears in full on the Homepage – followed by about four lines of text starting “Summary/Comments: …”.  The URL to the original source is provided at the end of each complete post. The most recent upload is the first you encounter on the Homepage.
  2. Within the title bar you will find:
    • The Country (eg. USA)
    • More precise information on the location (eg. the City or Province)
    • The title of the article, modified often to become more intelligible
      • We spell out most abbreviations (e.g. DA > District Attorney)
      • For articles that are not in English (about 10% of posts), we translate the title into English after the original title in the foreign language
      • If the title appears irrelevant to tasers we often add a square bracket (e.g. ” … [Officer charged with taser abuse]”)
      • The title concludes with the date of publication, not the date of uploading. This is always formatted YEAR-MONTH-DAY (e,g., 2012-12-06)
  3. To access the article from the Homepage, just click on the title (click on the READ MORE box).
  4. [[Summary / comments: … ]] We add a brief paragraph at the head of each post containing both a summary of its contents and often adding our own comments. Please note this is not part of the text of the article and is not for quoting from the source. It is solely to help site-visitors identify the main taser issues(s) raised in the post.
  5. We next provide the source (e.g. “BBC”) and, when this is available, the author of the report.
  6. The text of the article is formatted as in the original with a few exceptions :
    • For very long articles in which “tasers” are only briefly mentioned, we sometimes provide only an excerpt (full URL at the end)
    • The formatting of paragraphs is occasionally different from the original, due to uploading problems and pdf > doc conversion errors
    • There are a few articles that, for technical reasons, have become a single paragraph: we aplogize!
    • We have eliminated nearly all photos and videos embedded in texts (These can be obtained via the URL, if this is still active.)
  7. URLs: Wherever possible, we provide the link to our source at the end of each post. In practise many of these are either no longer available or only through paid subscription.

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NAVIGATION

Designed to be an open-access resource on taser use, our indexed database is structured as a tree diagram. We post the 30 most recent articles on the Homepage, but the “meat” is the 2000+ articles – most since 2010 – in our archive.

Visitors can, of course, use the SEARCH box to access information. However, this does not search by relevance. We recommend using the COUNTRY listings and INDEX for more targeted searches.

1. COUNTRIES

This is NOT a list of countries that have adopted tasers, but those in which tasers have, for whatever reason, become an issue of national debate. Thus one could look under ARGENTINA in the alphabetical country index to discover that, in this country, tasers have been banned because they are considered an instrument  of torture, reminiscent of the military dictatorship.

TASER International claims “45 countries rely on the taser” for their policing. This is typical of the corporation’s disinformation. In reality only six major countries across the globe have adopted the taser in front-line policing: the USA (~80% of world adoptions), Canada, Australia, the United Kindom, New Zealand and France. And, beyond the United States, tasers are extremely controversial. Like many of the manufacturer’s claims, this is stretching the envelope beyond its normal breaking-point.

Two details: We have a separate category CANADA (except Quebec) and QUEBEC (GlobalShock publishes out of Montreal in Quebec); and we classify England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together under “UK”.

2. INDEX

We select categories (tags) for each uploaded article, many with four or more tags.

The categories are organized as a tree-diagram with 12 basic headings and numerous sub-headings … and sub-sub-headings under each of these. Unable to foresee each user’s priorities, navigation may take several trials, but by scrolling down and selecting the most relevant sub-sub-head, we hope to lead you where you want to go. This structured Index is very much A work in progress.

The complete Index tree-diagram can be found HERE.

You might be surprised that some of the biggest subjects (such as DEATH or POLICE or ABUSE) do not exist: they are so frequent that they would general many more than 100 articles.

3. IN-DEPTH

Much of the best writing, both informative and in terms of quality, on the taser controversy does not fit into a brief format. Very often such investigative reports cover many taser issues. We publish such longer, wider-ranging articles in our IN-DEPTH category. recognizing that many visitors will not have the time to plunge into the heart of the taser debate (Here are two examples: the conclusion of the “Braidwood Inquiry” into the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski: 20 pages of fascinating text; and Robert Anglen’s investigative reporting in the 2000s on Taser International Inc. ). We set the bar high for inclusion in this section.

4. EDITORIALS

These are articles we have written on specific issues. A few have been published elsewhere. These are in most cases “works in progress”, as we add information according to new reports being uploaded. Please cite the source and date of download if you use information from these EDITORIALS, and let us know (contact@globalshock.org) how you have used it. These are freely available as “shared information”.

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SOURCES

The great majority of our posts have been located by some 100 “google alerts” and by regularly checking the SEARCH boxes of media (newspapers, television and radio) throughout the world. We follow up on leads these provide as well as press releases and information we receive irregularly from a number of contacts around the world.

We give greater emphasis to “beyond the United States” than a simple google search generates. We publish some articles in languages other than English – there are nearly a hundred in French, particularly – always preceded by a summary and comments in English and, except for French, a corrected google-translation of the text.

We also publish news releases from TASER International and police web-sites when we consider these provide relevant information.

For TASER International the media are unreliable and malicious – except when they report favorably on tasers. We consider solid news sources to be the best way of identifying problems with tasers. Media outlets such as the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC in Australia, the London Guardian, Le Monde in Paris, the Times of India, etc. are intrinsically more trustworthy than spokespersons for TASER International or their many acolytes. Local journalists, new to tasers, frequently provide very solid accounts of how events occur at “ground zero”. And many news-sites (such as Truthout.org,

CORRECTED UP TO HERE

Clearly, we are not responsible for any errors in the articles we upload. We certainly do not guarantee the veracity of any information contained in our uploads, while attempting to stick to the facts. We only publish what we judge to be “reliable” news sources, not “ranting” blogs, for instance. In most cases (not all) we indicate the source and author (if known) of each text (just after our “Summary/Comments”). Visitors are asked to reflect on the source (given in the URL) in evaluating the validity of the information posted.

 

We encourage any visitors to mail us – at contact@globalshock.org – any information they would like to see made more widely available. (See “POSTS” below for how we identify material.)

 

We include summaries of research results, when these are conducted by independent researchers; most of this research is “negative” for the corporation and they never cite it in “reviews of the scientific literature” sent to medical examiners, journalists, etc. We do.

We publish also reports from the TASER manufacturer and police news sites: these frequently give insight into the “taser mind-frame”, and the distortions they project to eager (police) consumers.

We try not to repeat the same information in different articles. Some “taser events” have so many remafications that we return frequently to the same story as it unfolds (one example: the death of Macadam Mason in Vermont in June 2012).

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