Theodore A. Hoppe

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Are Conductive Electronic Weapons (CEW), or as they are more commonly know, Tasers a "non lethal" weapon?

Stephen Coleman has set his TEDTalk up as a TED-Ed lesson using the term "non-lethal" for tasers. He should know better. Tasers are now being referred to as "Less Lethal" even by it maker.

"Fourth Circuit upholds multi-million dollar award in Taser death:

The jury awarded the mother and father of the young man ten million dollars. While the amount was later reduced to $5.5 million the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended, and as the evidence showed the officer was trained to use it. "

http://www.beaufortobserver.net/Articles-NEWS-and-COMMENTARY-c-2013-11-24-270015.112112-Fourth-Circuit-uphold-multimillion-dollar-award-in-Taser-death.html

I posed this question in the "guided discussion," at TED-Ed, and not only did no one responded, the question was removed.
Should TED-Ed remove the lesson?

  • Dec 4 2013: There's no such thing as a non-lethal weapon.
    Even the mildest of of the bunch, like tear gas and pepper spray have been known to kill people under the right circumstances (usually interacting with background medical conditions the weapon's user had no way of knowing about). "Less lethal" is definitely the correct terminology here.

    Granted, that hardly makes them useless. Being able to stop someone that needs stopping using force with a 1% chance of killing him in the process is much better than a 50% chance you'd get with say, shooting him in the foot (note: statistic made up on the spot for the sake of argument).
    Doesn't mean you should be trigger happy with them though. 1% is a risk worth considering when it comes to someone's life.
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    Dec 14 2013: Study: Tasers can cause sudden death in people with abnormal mental status (via Des Moines Register; 11/23/2013):
    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131124/NEWS01/311240047/

    A special report from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 found that individuals with an abnormal mental status who are in a combative or resistive state may face risks for sudden death, and their conditions should be treated as medical emergencies.

    Reviews of Taser deaths in the study also suggest that many are linked with repeated shocks. The study advised law enforcement officers to use caution when using a Taser on an individual more than once.
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    Dec 14 2013: "For years, Taser has battled in court to show that its electronic control devices — its ECDs such as the X2 and the X26 — cannot kill. But if its recent settlements are any indication, the company may either be slowly backing away from that premise, or at least attempting to draw a line in time after which the company feels it's no longer liable for someone’s death."
    http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/13/5207534/why-taser-is-paying-millions-in-secret-suspect-injury-or-death
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    Dec 7 2013: "The draft Taser policy was a disappointment to us," said the ACLU's Allen Gilbert.

    The ACLU filed comments on the draft policy, pointing out several concerns, including -- that it does not require regular testing of weapons to make sure they are emitting a standard charge, that the standard for police use of force is too broad and makes excessive force "almost guaranteed," and that it allows Tasers to be used on "special populations" like people with cognitive impairment.

    "Policy says you should think about this but it doesn't say, do not shoot a mentally disturbed, a mentally ill or a disabled person with a Taser except in extreme circumstances. It doesn't say that and it really should," Gilbert said.


    http://www.wcax.com/story/24157812/advisory-board-developing-taser-reccomendation
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    Dec 6 2013: [Quote]
    You have made no contribution to the discussion. Until your willing to "restate your problem so that we all understand it." there is little point in discussing anything with you.

    The fact remains " ..the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended"
    [endquote]

    Well, if you don't consider pointing out the contradiction in statements to be a contribution, then so be it. I do not know how I can "restate" my problem so that all understand it. I would imagine that pretty much anyone reading my comments do understand what I am saying.

    Let's have others chime in, shall we?

    Here are the two quotes which I find contradictory:

    1. "...Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended, and as the evidence showed the officer was trained to use it."
    2. “prolonged use of the [taser] was not” in accordance with CMPD procedures"

    The first quote suggests that the taser was used as recommended. However, the second one suggests that it was not used as recommended. Which is it?

    Now, note the warning

    "...Repeated, prolonged, and/or continuous exposure(s) to the TASER electrical discharge may cause strong muscle contractions that may impair breathing and respiration, particularly when the probes are placed across the chest or diaphragm."

    Does this not suggest to avoid such use? It seems to me that if the officer put the taser to the person's chest, it was against the warning of the company which produced the taser.
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      Dec 6 2013: Re" Does this not suggest to avoid such use? It seems to me that if the officer put the taser to the person's chest, it was against the warning of the company which produced the taser.

      I find it amusing that you can selectively focus on an irrelevant point.

      Question: According to the news report, and the court ruling, why did the jury rule against Taser International?
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        Dec 6 2013: One of your key arguments was that this device was used as directed. How is it an irrelevant point that this device was NOT used as directed?

        "According to the news report, and the court ruling, why did the jury rule against Taser International?"

        Addressing this question would be mere speculation. I was not in the jury room and therefore cannot tell you, nor can you tell me, why the jury made the decision that it did.
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        Dec 6 2013: "Thank you for your comments."

        You're welcome, even though it is obvious from this discussion and others that you will accept no comment that disagrees with your own opinion.
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    Dec 6 2013: Somehow, you answered your own question in your introductory post. The court decided that the taser was a lethal weapon in this particular case.
    However, the court made the decision based on this particular model of taser (X26) used in the incident. There was no ruling on whether or not tasers are lethal in general.
    I'm not a taser expert, but it's likely that different brands of taser behave differently, hence concluding tasers are lethal weapons based on this particular case stands on thin ice.

    So, based on what I read, I'd conclude that tasers, under certain circumstances can be lethal, but then that's true for a lot of things I suppose.
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      Dec 6 2013: This is more about the TED-Ed lesson referring to them as non lethal. "Should TED-Ed remove the lesson?
      Did you look at the TED ED lesson?
      I posed this question in the "guided discussion," at TED-Ed, and not only did no one responded, the question was removed.

      Also, The newspaper concluded in its commentary that, "There is, in our judgment, no question but that they are lethal weapons." It doesn't mention a model type.
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        Dec 6 2013: I think the danger of generalizing is that we then have to call many things potentially lethal.
        There are medications that, even if taken as prescribed can be lethal to some. A kitchen knife also can be lethal under certain circumstances and so does alcohol, nicotine, etc, etc.

        No, I don't think that this talk should be removed because tasers are not intended to be lethal weapons, even if, as an exception, they might be.

        As to the newspaper's conclusion: it's irrelevant what they conclude. What matters is the court's decision. You can find the details here: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/121617.P.pdf
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          Dec 6 2013: You are inviting an argument instead of discussion the question that is posed here, to you.
          When is medication used by the police a a weapon or a kitchen knife? Put your remarks in the CONTEXT of the Coleman talk, at the very least.

          Even your conjecture about "tasers are not intended to be lethal weapons" references NOTHING in the news story,or the talk by Colemam, only what you think. and that needs up being a weak argument. If you can say that the newspapers commentary is "irrelevant" then the same standard or reason applies when you write, "I think."

          Additional, you provide the link to the court case but did no use it to support any part of your argument.
          If you read the other comments you will see that I have already quoted from the courts decision.

          "Patrick Smith conceded during his testimony that TI did not give
          “precise guidance” to users of the X26 taser concerning “the
          safe length of a discharge cycle.” Smith further testified that
          “we don’t set a hard and fast limit,” and agreed that “[a] cop
          can’t look and say, don’t go beyond 15 seconds or 20 or 30 or 40
          or anything like that.”
          Additionally, a jury also could conclude that the warning’s
          “whenever practicable” clause rendered the warning vague and
          inadequate. Captain Campagna testified that he interpreted the
          “whenever practicable” language to mean that the taser could be
          applied continuously until the suspect fell to the ground or
          otherwise was secured. Likewise, Officer Dawson testified that
          he did not think that it was “practicable” to release the
          taser’s trigger while Turner remained standing in defiance of a 35
          command to “get down.” Thus, based on the present record, TI’s
          warnings concerning prolonged application of the X26 taser
          cannot be deemed “adequate” as a matter of law under Section
          99B-4(1). Accordingly, we hold that the district court did not
          err in denying TI’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on
          the issue of product misuse".

          When is use "lethal?"

          "
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        Dec 6 2013: You asked the audience a question and I responded with my view on the topic.
        If you wont accept other views but yours then you shouldn't have posted this question in the first place.

        As to taser vs. medicines. You apparently missed the point which was that whether something is dangerous or even lethal depends on the way it's used and even if used properly, there are still possibilities of something undesired happening.
        Since you don't like the medicine example I can give you another one. Sometimes people use baseball bats as weapons and sometimes the outcome is deadly. Do you conclude that a baseball bat is a deadly weapon ?

        "Patrick Smith conceded during his testimony that TI did not give
        “precise guidance”
        This is all fine, but again, it refers to one particular case involving TI and the taser model X26. You cannot deduct that what applies in one case applies to every case.

        But as I said, if you only accept your view on this issue then obviously no further conversation on this topic is required.
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    Dec 5 2013: "The proliferation of TASERs in North Carolina public schools is one unforeseen consequence of the lack of standards for TASER use. Individual law enforcement agencies decide whether school resource officers, employed by a local law enforcement agency but working within the school, are permitted to carry the device. And while the majority of counties nationwide already prohibit use of the device against minors, only 25 counties restrict or prohibit TASER use against youth in North Carolina. As a result, North Carolina has seen a growing number of incidents involving students and TASERs. These are just a few examples:

    • Some school administrators have welcomed the device as a disciplinary tool. In Franklin County, a
    school resource officer arrested a teenage girl, tasing her multiple times. When witnesses went to the
    media to object, claiming the girl offered no aggression towards the officer, the Principal of Bunn
    High defended the officer's actions, saying that TASERs could be used on students whenever they
    did not obey a specific rule.

    • According to court records, police in Apex, North Carolina, threatened a 16-year-old boy with a
    TASER after he allegedly used profanity on school grounds."

    These facts are taken from a 2008 ACLU report on the use on Tasers. The report also speaks to the use of Taser on populations with health concerns, such as pregnant women.

    http://www.acluofnorthcarolina.org/files/NotThereYet.pdf
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    Dec 4 2013: The lethality of a weapon depends solely on how it is used.

    Pillows are lethal weapons... With that said, mace and rubber bullets do not affect suspects that are under the influence of narcotics. (That's a pretty high percentage of them.)

    Only tasers are 100% effective.
    People die from tasings because they resist.
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      Dec 4 2013: Re: People die from tasings because they resist.

      In some, but not all cases. I'll question whether you bothered to read the news story.
      It reports that, "The youth died of cardiac arrest as a result of being tasered in the chest. The evidence showed that the office used an abnormally prolonged dose of electrical current because the subject failed to be debilitated from the initial shock."
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        Dec 5 2013: "Failed to be debilitated from the initial shock."
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          Dec 5 2013: It's not clear what you argument is. What was the measured extent of the "initial shock?"
          Allow me t answer this for you. The story states,""abnormally prolonged."
          How much do you know about taser use?
          I know enough about tasers and taser policy to know that the chest is one of the places where you don't want to aim for because of cardiac related issues.
          Additionally, while the story does not address these facts I will ask you,
          1) How much is an "abnormally prolonged dose of electrical current (12,000 volts).
          2) What is excessive, by policing guidelines?
          2)How long did it take for EMTs to arrive at the scene?

          The defense certainly could have presented this information to the jury, if it was supportive to their case, but the jury's finding were against the police office(s).

          Take a look at the comments of the Coleman talk, and the talk, if you have not watched it.
          It's littered with YouTube videos, most are dashcams, where the police use questionable judgement when employing tasers.

          The fact are, a death occurred, a taser was the cause. Non-lethal? That is the question.
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        Dec 5 2013: "a taser was the cause"

        This is where we disagree.
        I understand now why we are debating & why this story caught your attention.

        We agree that the taser was misused, but we will likely never agree as to whether or not tasers are too dangerous a force to be used on civilians.

        I simply accept the fact that the police accidentally kill people from time-to-time.

        With that said, I vehemently oppose the idea that such a device be used on a child. This officer acted very stupidly indeed... but using tasers on violent drunks has saved many-a-life.

        Tasers have their place.
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          Dec 5 2013: Are tasers non lethal or less lethal is this conversation, in part.
          The newspaper concluded in its commentary that, "There is, in our judgment, no question but that they are lethal weapons."
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          Dec 6 2013: The court didn't see it your way.
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        Dec 6 2013: And in this specific case... they were correct! This taser was misused.
        Some policemen choose tasers over mace.

        Mace debilitates everyone in the area when it is used... except on occasion for the lunatic they're trying to arrest. This makes mace a bit more dangerous to use than tasers... Not for the suspect, but for the officer. Especially so in close quarters.

        When a taser is used properly (not fired at the chest / used on children) they are a perfectly viable method a debilitating an enemy without causing them harm.

        How often do you hear of police actually having to shoot a suspect? You have tasers to thank for that.
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          Dec 6 2013: I wouldn't bother going much further with this. Even though it seems obvious from the report that the weapon was misused he is still asserting in his argument that it was used as directed and therefore is to be considered lethal even when used as directed.
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    Dec 4 2013: Almost anything can be lethal under certain conditions. The reason a taser is considered non lethal is that it is not designed to be lethal. If however, a person has a weak heart or is compromised in some other way, it may become lethal. Yet, so can many other products.
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      Dec 4 2013: "...the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended"
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        Dec 4 2013: They can be, but that is not the intended or usual outcome. Since you are so fond of quoting rather than discussing please quote the autoposy information and cause of death.
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          Dec 4 2013: Re: please quote the autoposy information and cause of death.

          Please read the news article. It's in the second paragraph.

          Let's not make it personal. Discussion without out facts, and I choice to quote those facts, is a gun fight without ammo.
          My use of quoting in the instinct is because the opening statement plainly replies to you comment that "Almost anything can be lethal under certain conditions." Does Taser International say their CEWs are lethal or not lethel? Again, "...the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended"
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        Dec 5 2013: Well, there's no autopsy report to determine whether or not the person had a compromised heart.

        "The evidence showed that the office used an abnormally prolonged dose of electrical current because the subject failed to be debilitated from the initial shock"

        Two things: does the company really direct officers to use an "abnormally prolonged dose"? It seems to me that they wouldn't and so this wouldn't be a case of the device having been "used as the company recommended" and why did the initial dose not debilitate him?
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          Dec 5 2013: If me, this is where "discussion" breaks down, because all of this is addressed in the supporting material, the news story and the link to the court ruling. One only needs to take the time to read it before commenting to know the facts.

          Re: the Tasering, the ruling notes:

          "3 The CMPD investigated the incident and found that Officer Dawson’s “prolonged use of the [taser] was not” in accordance with CMPD procedures. Officer Dawson was suspended from duty for five days and was required to undertake additional training."

          "Why was it deploy against the boy in the first place?" is a better question.
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        Dec 6 2013: This does not indicate whether or not it was used as the company directed, although the tone sure makes it sound like it was used in a way not recommended by the company, thus contradicting your original claim in the post itself.

        ---
        "Why was it deploy against the boy in the first place?" is a better question.

        If that is a better question then that is the question you should have asked. However, you did not that question, but rather whether or not such devices should be considered lethal.
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          Dec 6 2013: Are you being difficult on purpose or do you really not connection the dots here?

          Re: "This does not indicate whether or not it was used as the company directed"

          THE NEWS STORY STATES VERY PLAINLY

          "...the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended, and as the evidence showed the officer was trained to use it."

          AS THE COMPANY, TASER INTERNATIONAL, RECOMMENDS!
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        Dec 6 2013: "and as the evidence showed the officer was trained to use it"
        “prolonged use of the [taser] was not” in accordance with CMPD procedures"

        You don't see my problem here? These two statements are contradictory.
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          Dec 6 2013: Please restate your problem so that we all understand it.

          .
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          Dec 6 2013: "It is worth noting that the police officer did not attempt to arrest the subject. He did tell him to "calm down" and he failed to do as instructed. But the mother contend that was not sufficient reason to use deadly force to subdue. Most training protocols in such situations call for the officer to await backup unless the subject present an imminent threat and then to use only the necessary force to abate the threat. The Court found, in this case that the officer used the force he did because he did not believe, based on his training, that it would be lethal. The decision blows that position away."

          SEE pages 33-34 of the ruling.

          The training the officer received ignores the fact that a blow to the chest is to be avoided.
          TI did not include this fact and inside said, " Repeated, prolonged, and/or continuous exposure(s) to
          the TASER electrical discharge may cause strong muscle
          contractions that may impair breathing and
          respiration, particularly when the probes are placed
          across the chest or diaphragm.

          So the training included only the TI warning. but TI’s warning on this point in the Bulletin also
          stated as follows:

          Our review of this warning, in conjunction with the other
          evidence in the case, leads us to conclude that the jury had
          ample grounds on which to find that the warning was not
          “adequate.” As an initial matter, the warning pertains to a
          temporary breathing problem, rather than to the more serious
          risk of cardiac arrest.
          More fundamentally, however, the terms “prolonged” and
          “continuous” found in the warning are not further defined and,
          thus, are vague in the absence of further clarification, which
          was not provided by TI.
          "

          "Additionally, a jury also could conclude that the warning’s
          “whenever practicable” clause rendered the warning vague and
          inadequate. "

          I might as well type the whole decision.
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        Dec 6 2013: "Please restate your problem so that we all understand it."

        What is there to restate? I gave you two quotes that were contradictory. The first quote said that he used it in accordance with how he was trained to use it, and the second one said that he used it contrary to policy.

        -----

        As to your second post, again, he clearly used it in a way not recommended by the company. Also, anyone with basic medical knowledge would know that something that creates the risk of strong muscle contractions that can impair breathing can cause lethal stress on a less than healthy individual.
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          Dec 6 2013: You have made no contribution to the discussion. Until your willing to "restate your problem so that we all understand it." there is little point in discussing anything with you.

          The fact remains " ..the significance of the case is that it shows that Tasers are deadly weapons when used as the company recommended"