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Strange Fruit: The Task of Forcing Tasers on Palo Alto
by junya
Tuesday Mar 6th, 2007 1:35 AM
Without saying what's the problem, the Palo Alto police chief and City Council are ready to declare that Taser is The Solution - with a little help from a "task force" that they declared represents the community.
strangefruit-338.jpg

To convey this story accurately, I'd have to start in mid-sentence and provide no context or background. Events must seem to have no cause, yet race towards an inevitable doomed conclusion. The words used must placidly neutralize the unspeakably horrifying screams at the finale. This is how the plague spreads. This is the story of Tasers coming to Palo Alto CA

There is no beginning. One morning in July of 2004, the police chief arose and decreed that anyone saying "No" to police will be tortured with electroshock - as soon as she could get her hands on the electroshock weapons (called "Tasers"). She never said what caused her to announce this. But we knew that two of her police were charged with felony assault for beating a 59-year-old African man with damn near everything they could grab from their belt - just because he said "No". And the police chief let us know that pissed her off. Because they're good officers who were just doing what she wants them to do, she explained. And besides, she reasoned, San Jose has Tasers, so why shouldn't we? The Palo Alto City Council sat silently, staring into space. The rest of us got busy trying to figure out who declared the police chief the Exalted Ruler of the city.

A week later the New York Times published its now-classic article exposing the Fake Science and Real Deaths behind Tasers. Suddenly the chief had some more explaining to do. So, four months later, she arose and decreed that the media is wrong and people are too stupid to understand why getting Tasered is good for them - and she was going to fix that. But not right now. (See Palo Alto Police Postpone Taser Plans, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2004/11/10/17043711.php)

So, for the past two years, Palo Alto was free of the mounting controversy surrounding police use of electroshock weapons. That's one way to tell the story. Or you could say that for the last two years the street has been hot with action and PAPD ain't been gettin' a piece.

We don't know what vision is playing in the minds of city leaders. We only know that on the fourth morning in December of 2006, the City Council arose and decreed "WE BELIEVE that the City Council should firmly and finally decide whether or not to permit the use of tasers by our police department". They did not say why. Nor did they say why now - why not wait until there's general agreement on safeness of Tasers? It's a perverted ventriloquist act: the words seem to come from the dummy, but the only lips that are moving are those of the police chief.

The Council then firmly decided that someone else should take the blame for their subservience to the police chief, and so they followed step 5 of the Police Chief's 9-step Program for Spreading The Plague [1]: they appointed a task force (aka "community outreach") to research Tasers and advise the Council whether to buy Tasers. Then in their next meeting, just one week later, the Council voted to apply for $120,000 state grant to buy the Tasers they were supposedly still deciding on. The police chief admitted the process was "slightly convoluted". The public graciously overlooked the police chief's slight error in word selection, since we all understood that the process was "very corrupted".

The task force went right to work. Setting the tone in the first meeting, Jay Boyarsky, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, frowned into his hand-held electronic calendar as he calculated how much time he cared to invest in this charade. Boyarsky hinted that he saw the question of Taser deployment in Palo Alto as a no-brainer: "Hey - we don't need to reinvent the wheel, right?".

Right, just shut up Palo Alto and fall in line with the rest.

"We need a Taser 101", Boyarsky declared. "We need to see a real Taser, feel one, smell one". The Taser opponents were beaten before they'd hit the track: who could resist that narcotic whiff of brand new Taser? Who could fight that good ol' down home secure feeling that comes with the sudden smell of burning flesh. The prosecution rests its case. The task force is doing its task: force Tasers on people too stupid to understand why they must be electroshocked into excruciating, groveling submission whenever they don't obey fast enough.

This is how the plague spreads.

With state and federal grants ensuring that every local law enforcement agency can go shopping for Tasers, it should be clear that the true purpose of Tasers is not defense from violent criminals. And, despite appearances, they're not for defending The Great White Homeland from the Rising Tide of Color - colored folks are just the guinea pigs. There's never been any pretense that The Final Solution for them will be anything less than lethal. Then are Tasers for defending against terrorists? Not even the police are making such an absurd claim - yet.

No, the laser beam's on the activist - actual or potential. Tasers are a highly mobile and highly effective torture tool, used for incapacitating dissent with 50,000 jolts of fear. It's how an increasingly despised government keeps us in line as it expands an unpopular war: eliminate the threat of resistance. Incapacitate the opposition. It's the business end of last year's Military Commissions Act (that relieved us of the burden of habeas corpus) and Insurrection Act Lite (that helps us ease on down the road to martial law).

Right now Cambridge MA (home to Harvard/MIT) is virtually moving in lockstep in the same race to arm local police with Tasers as Palo Alto (home to Stanford University) - see Cambridge City Council Agenda at http://www.rwinters.com/council/012207.htm. So we've got two advanced research campus communities arming themselves for lockdown. It's likely there are others. They're getting ready for us. Are we ready for them?

[1] The police chief provided an information packet of, what she termed, "objective research on Tasers". The packet included a report from the International Association of Police Chiefs called Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A Nine-Step Strategy for Effective Deployment (http://www.policechiefs.org/research/CuttingEdge/EMDT9Steps.pdf). Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology, or EMDT, is the generic term used for Tasers. The term allows reports such as this to discuss Tasers in a way that sounds vendor-neutral (the name "Taser"is a registered trademark), even though Taser is the only EMDT product under consideration. Step 5 of this Nine-Step strategy is "Engage in Community Outreach":

Employ an outreach strategy with key stakeholders and the community. Their acceptance of EMDT is essential to successful deployment


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Donna
(dbwall [at] earthlink.net) Tuesday Mar 6th, 2007 3:03 AM
Thank you for posting this. It is really scary how intent the Palo Alto police chief and the City Council are to buy TASERs for their cops. TASERs are deadly weapons of torture, they cost LOTS of money, are NEVER used on people who are armed. TASERs are only used on defenseless people, often people with mental problems, people high on drugs or intoxicated with alcohol. I'm hearing from people in San Jose who are getting tasered by the San Jose cops for asking why they are being detained. This is really serious that the Palo Alto City Council and the Police Chief are intent to bring TASERs to Palo Alto, the people need to stand up and prevent it.
by Nancy Rutherford
(lalliegreeneyes [at] yahoo.com) Tuesday Mar 6th, 2007 8:56 AM
People need to negotiate; as well as Police Officers. If a Person is uncooperative, the Officer can call his , or her, Sergeant; as could have been done with Mr. Hopkins. THERE IS NO NEED TO BEAT OR TASER-- UNARMED, OR MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE! I've been an LVN for 40 years--Acute Care,Corrections, and An Acute Locked Psych Ward, and I never had the need, or the desire to verbally, or physically abuse anyone. The Police have their own problems, to {Highway Patrol Suicides], as we all do! So why would We, the Citizens, want the Police to inflict torture, when a situation could be diffused without anyone getting hurt? I think things were done more appropriately, years ago, when the Police did proper Investigations, and had the Community's interest at Heart. A Christian Attitude would solve alot of this problem--ONE NATION UNDER GOD!
by Canadian
Thursday Mar 8th, 2007 2:44 PM
Very well put, junya! Several weeks ago, I forwarded the following information to the Palo Alto Task Force. This week, I have sent it to Grand Haven, MI and Cambridge, MA whose city councils are now considering the acquisition of tasers. I will continue to send it wherever it is needed. We can only hope that providing the decision-makers with as much independent information as possible will give them a reason to stop the insanity. God knows the manufacturer and the police aren't going to provide them with this information. I have taken up where Robert Anglen left off when he documented deaths 1 through 167 in North America proximal to taser use. The total is now 244, including 15 Canadians. In addition, one British citizen has also died.

In a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in-depth documentary on Tasers which aired nationally on Canadian television, the conclusions of THREE recent independent medical studies on Tasers (two of them performed here in Canada) were revealed which raise some very serious questions about the lethality of Tasers.

The documentary, about 20 minutes in length, is available to watch online at http://www.cbc.ca/video/features/news/ Scroll down and click on “Taser Deaths”.

Highlights of the independent study conclusions:

1. Dr. Stanley Nattel, Cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute, Director of the Paul-David Chair in Cardiovascular Electrophysiology and leading cardiology researcher at the University of Montreal, and an associate professor at McGill University, concluded that “A rapid rhythm induced by a Taser, called a Ventricular Tachycardia, may not cause very severe symptoms and particularly if the person is very excited, frightened, etc., they might not even notice it. But that kind of rhythm can eventually what we call “degenerate” to Ventricular Fibrillation, which is an even faster and irregular rhythm that is rapidly lethal.” Dr. Nattel said further that “the way in which the Taser causes death is by provoking a very rapid, irregular heart rhythm, and that doesn’t leave any traces in the body. So basically if you don’t see anything there, you don’t know what the cause is and it could be a lethal dose of drugs or it could be an extreme mental stress or it could be the Taser. I don’t think it’s possible to differentiate those possibilities in most cases.” E-mail address: stanley.nattel [at] icm-mhi.org

2. Another recent independent study in Canada on the effects of Tasers on pigs was performed at the University of Toronto by Kumaraswamy Nanthakumar, MD; Ian Billingsley, MD, Stephane Masse, MASc, Paul Dorian, MD, Douglas Cameron, MD, Vijay S. Chauhan, MD, Eugene Downar, MD and Elias Sevaptsidis, DEC. This study injected into pigs a substance that mimics the adrenaline rush that would be experienced during a stressful arrest by police or a cocaine high. The pigs were then shocked with Tasers. The study found that, in circumstances of increased adrenalgenic stress, arrythmias (irregular heart rhythms) were caused and, in some cases, were lethal. (See the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: http://content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/content/abstract/j.jacc.2006.02.076v1)

3. In the U.S., Dr. John Webster, Biomedical Engineer, University of Wisconsin tried to duplicate the situation that would occur with humans … and “we got very different results. I don’t think that they’re non-lethal weapons but I think that there’s a probability, albeit small, that the Taser could electrocute a person.”

When asked by the CBC reporter what he would do if a study showed there was a risk, Taser International spokesperson Steve Tuttle answered by saying, “We would have an obligation to disclose that to our customers and to the public. That’s pure and simple.” However, to the best of my knowledge, Taser International has not disclosed the results from these studies to its customers or to the public.

The police will tell you that the people who have died proximal to Taser use have died of a condition they call “excited delirium.” This is not a medically recognized condition, but is only a theory that usually lets police off the hook and shifts the blame from the person exerting the force to the person who dies. I urge you to read the following reports from National Public Radio (NPR), released in late February:

Part 2 of 2 – February 27, 2007

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7622314

Part 1 of 2 – February 26, 2007

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7608386

The total number of deaths proximal to taser use is now 244. Since the beginning of 2007, NINE people have died in the United States, as follows:

236. Calvin Thompson, 42, Gastonia, North Carolina
January 5, 2007

237. Douglas Ilten, 45, Fort Pierce, Florida
January 6, 2007

238. Blondel Lassegue, 38, Queens, New York
January 7, 2007

239. Pete Carlos Madrid, 44, Fresno, California
January 9, 2007

240. Keith Kallstrom, 56, Milan, Michigan
January 17, 2007

241. Andrew J. Athetis, 18, Gilbert, Arizona
January 18, 2007

242. Unknown, Unknown, Huntington Park, California
January 29, 2007

243. Steven Krohn, 44, Mesa, Arizona
February 11, 2007

244. Martin Mendoza, 43, Vista, California
February 21, 2007
by junya
Saturday Mar 10th, 2007 6:45 PM
To Canadian: A Big Thank You for the powerful material you provided! I have not seen anything like the CBC broadcast here in the US.

> When asked by the CBC reporter what he would do if a study showed there was a risk, Taser International spokesperson Steve Tuttle answered > by saying, “We would have an obligation to disclose that to our customers and to the public. That’s pure and simple.”

Yes - of course he said that. That's his job of "spokesperson". But a Feb 13, 2006 article in the Arizona Republic, "Study raises concerns over Tasers' safety", reports what they really do:

A study measuring electric shocks from a Taser stun gun found that it was 39 times more powerful than the manufacturer claimed, raising new questions about the weapon's safety.

The study, published last month in the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers, concluded that the shocks are powerful enough to cause fatal heart rhythms. It is one of the few scientific studies of Taser's electric jolt in which the company did not participate.

"The findings show the energy delivered by the weapon to be considerably understated by the manufacturer," the Journal study said. "These findings place the weapon well into the lethal category."

Officials with Scottsdale-based Taser International Inc. condemned the findings, saying they are exaggerated, erroneous and "beyond the laws of physics."

And then they got personal:

Taser contends that the author of the Journal study, electrical engineer James Ruggieri, does not have the technical expertise to make conclusions about stun guns. Taser is suing Ruggieri for defamation over his claims in a presentation and testimony in a wrongful-death case last year that Tasers can cause fatal heart rhythms....

Taser has repeatedly attacked Ruggieri's credibility since he made a presentation critical of the stun guns to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in February 2005. Taser claimed his presentation was based on "junk science" and "propaganda" and that his conclusions have been disputed by numerous government, university and medical studies.

Some of Ruggieri's claims were independently verified, including his assertion that Taser had misapplied Underwriters Laboratories standards in suggesting the stun gun could not cause ventricular fibrillation.

Taser sued Ruggieri in November, several months after he announced the Journal findings at an engineering conference in Chicago.

In a news release last year, Taser described Ruggieri as a high school dropout with no medical training.

Ruggieri said he left high school to attend college in New York. He later obtained a master's degree in computer science from the University of Phoenix.

Ruggieri's resume shows that he is a professional engineer with licenses in five states. He said he has investigated electrical accidents for federal agencies and helped write electrical safety standards for top electrical laboratories and commissions.

Then they went after the journal that published Ruiggieri's findings:

Taser officials challenged the academy journal, calling it an "obscure bulletin," saying none of the peer reviewers was qualified to assess the findings.

"That unfortunately allowed Mr. Ruggieri to utilize inappropriate science and flawed mathematics in attempts to support his unsupportable conclusions," Taser's Tuttle said.

Journal Editor Marvin Specter said the academy is affiliated with the National Society of Professional Engineers and is made up of experts in several engineering disciplines.

The Journal lists a technical review committee for Ruggieri's study that includes 20 engineers, including one well-known Taser consultant. The reviewers' identities are confidential and have not been released, Specter said.

Specter said Ruggieri's paper went through a rigorous peer-review process before being published in the biannual journal.

Just as the spread of Tasers to every cop on the street acts as an electric fence to contain dissent, the intimidation techniques of Taser executives and their lawyers chill the scientific community. These tactics are not new. Early Nazi Germany and Reagan/Bush administrations are probably the most familiar examples, but you can find these techniques used by any totalitarianist who must appear to be democratic. When will they understand history and learn that the path of life is towards liberation?

by Canadian
Sunday Mar 11th, 2007 4:48 PM
You are most welcome - I'm always glad to share what I have in hopes that it will help to bring about change. The article you quoted from also references conclusions from an international testing lab in British Columbia which found that two stun guns were significantly more powerful than the manufacturer specified. When Taser challenged the lab's findings, the lab backed off its results and said their findings could not be relied upon. One of the tasers generated 30.42 joules/pulse of energy in conditions designed to simulate contact with human skin, 84.5 times greater than the manufacturer's specification of 0.36 joules/pulse. The report's author was scheduled to testify at the September 2006 inquest into the death of Robert Bagnell, upon whom the two tasers in question were used. However, the inquest was suddenly and abruptly adjourned on the day he was to testify.

Strangely enough, Taser was granted "standing” at the coroner’s inquest, with two lawyers representing them from a high-powered Canadian law firm.

It's extremely frightening that a weapon manufacturer can be so all-powerful. It's unlike anything I've ever witnessed.

I wish you much luck with your campaign to keep tasers out of the hands of Palo Alto police.
The charade may be coming to an end.

After secretly meeting with police, Palo Alto's Taser task force is now ready to vote on March 27. Recap and follow-up story at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/03/24/18382419.php
by Enoch Choi, MD
Thursday Mar 29th, 2007 11:08 PM
I've posted my comments about my involvement in the Task Force here:
http://search.medhelp.org/blog/enochchoi.php?catid=14
by Naunie
(astralglitter-AT-hotmail-DOT-COM) Thursday Jul 19th, 2007 11:12 AM
Canadian,

Would you be able to provide me your email? My mother is a doctor, writing an article on the lethal Taser cases and is trying to get some more information on the cases you posted here. She doesn't understand computers that well and has asked me to write you on her behalf, and provide an email. IF you could contact us, that would be wonderful. Thanks so much.

astralglitter-AT-hotmail-DOT-COM

Kate

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