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Published on December 19 2017 by admin

Tasers may appear to many as relatively harmless (shock-guns are “less-lethal” than shot-guns), but they are shrouded in numerous controversies, most which have remained unresolved since TASER International first marketed police-tasers in the 1990s.

Bursting the corporate bubble

GlobalShock.org is a unique archive of taser problems, drawing mainly on local news-media reports of  taser-incidents as they arise its principal raw data. (We do not include any “ranting” sources, such as anti-police blogs or one-sided Facebook pages.)

We make no attempt at balanced coverage: TASER Inc. handles its communications masterfully: police departments, local politicians, news-media report what TASER Inc. felicitously feeds them, often not even citing the source. More troubling is that information provided to front-line police taser-users is typically unsubstantiated and unedited corporate claims. Our purpose is to provide data to encourage the adoption of a more critical perspective on the TASER discourse.

GlobalShock archive

As of January 2018, GlobalShock has archived some 3,500 on-the-ground journalists’ articles, local reporting, analytical articles in national media and reports from overseas, as well as substantial investigative reporting – such as the Reuters’ reports in Fall 2017 – and summaries from the more than 100 Official Reports tasers have generated.

Global perspective

Attention is given in the archive to the global scene: public perception and police adoption of tasers around the world. In brief: tasers are even more controversial outside the United States – despite what the company would have us, the police and investors believe. Very few countries have adopted tasers, and where adopted (e,g., in Canada, Australia and New Zealand), police can only use them in narrowly-constrained contexts, unlike the loose controls in many American law-enforcement agencies and, unlike in the USA, taser-use statistics are part in the public domain.

The bad news takes many forms:

  • More than 1100 documented deaths following taser discharges (65 outside the USA).
  • Medical examiners are pressured to avoid citing tasers as even contributing to a fatality shortly after a taser discharge.
  • The mentally-ill and the mentally-challenged are disproportionately targeted (more than 1/3 of those tasered)
  • The manufacturers refuses to acknowlege that tasers frequently fail to achieve neuromuscular incapacity (similar to fainting for 10 seconds). The failure rate is typically 20-49%, often resulting in either continued shocks, excessive force or escalating to shooting deaths – all this for typically minor offenses.
  • Tasers have almost no impact on serious, violent crime, which is what many fear is rampant: they are unholstered when police would have resorted to a baton in pre-taser days.
  • Taser-technology does not come cheap: municipalities pay heavily for a weapin with a limit4ed shelf-life, expensive cartridges and high maintenance costs. As the monopoly-supplier, TASER can afford to price its products at 4 times the manufacturing cost.
  • Municipalities – not TASER Inc. –have paid out $200-million in taser-related lawsuits and settlements: tax-payers are of course footing the bill.
  • TASER Inc. has developed a multi-million-dollar winning strategy in the court system: in any single case, the taser discharge cannot be proven to have, for instance, directly cause a death.
  • Police tasering of children (in schools) and of the elderly (in residences) are common;
  • Taser-training – provided most often by corporate-approved trainers – is typically (1) a couple of taser-discharges, (2) computer-screen scenarios and (3) “voluntary” tasering of trainees. This is wholely inadequate, and omits any discussion of taser problems we discuss on this site.
  • TASER Inc. does not hesitate to provide false information to market its products. It omits or trivializes any independent research that questions the safety of tasers. It invents figures to boost sales.
  • Over 20 years, TASER Inc. has built up a close-and-personal relationship with Police-Chiefs, many of whom benefit from TASER generosity. Medical pathologists are similarly embraced.
  • TASER Inc. has played a key role in marketing “excited delirium” as a cause of taser-related (and other in-custody) deaths.

and the list goes on.

Our kind of policing

For GlobalShock.org, policing must move towards de-escalation and public-oriented crisis intervention training if police agencies are to regain the public trust. Too many police consider the taser a tool to de-escalate potentially violent encounters; critics – and we agree – say tasers too often escalate a minor confrontation into a major altercation, sometimes – luckily not often – fatal. Certainly, there will always be occasions where guns are the only option and brute force is necessary – but these cases are exceptions (and perpetrators are almost never tasered first.) The taser has unfortunately become an invitation to abuse, very clearly with the manufacturer’s complicity. It has failed in its mission and should therefore be withdrawn from the police arsenal.

Body-cameras to the rescue

As AXON Inc. morphs into becoming the leading supplier of police body-cameras (costing citizens $100 a month per officer, they forget to tell us), a critical perspective becomes increasingly urgent. TASER is pulling out all its tricks to dominate the market. The market is enormous, and the pay-off for the service (not the camera) is endless, as TASER Inc. moves closer towards trawling Big Data stored in their Cloud (inaccessible to the public) to track citizens’ daily lives.

Raising the bar

Our aim is to help journalists, lawyers, researchers, police-officers and activists access empirical data that supports their efforts to raise the bar on the real world of tasers. We will help all concerned to use our data-base according to their own priorities

Contact us

GlobalShock.org is an archive, not an interactive blog. We appreciate all feedback.We welcome comments, issues we may have missed, corrections, clarifications, witness reports, press releases, requests for information about specific issues, how to use the site most effectively, etc..

 

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