"...Dr. Jeffrey Ho...is one of only a few medical researchers examining the use of Tasers on humans, but his research is financed by manufacturer Taser International."
Those suspecting that Ho's presentation might be something less objective than "Just the facts, Ma'am", had their suspicions confirmed immediately, when Ho began with:
"Headlines would lead you to believe that, yes, they [Tasers] are very dangerous. This actually sways public opinion. It encourages a misapplication of logic, which I'll talk you through..."
Clearly, we were faced with a man on a mission: to guide the ignorant Unwashed Masses out of their headline-induced delusions. Noble? Perhaps - but definitely not objective. (Although one might naively assume that the people chosen by Palo Alto's mayor to guide the city's decision on Tasers did not need an emergency physician flown in to teach them how to read the morning headlines - the task force included a deputy public defender, deputy district attorney, rabbi, local emergency physician, engineer, school nurse, and a mediator with a Harvard B.A. and Stanford PhD. - perhaps the doctor's diagnosis was not entirely incorrect: the deputy district attorney later stated that Ho's presentation alleviated many of his concerns!).
Given the lack of objectivity, it was hardly surprising to hear Ho tell the task force that his researchers could not find any change in rested adults after they were Tasered: "We did not find a thing", he declared. But it was odd that he seemed to be dissuading his audience from reading the actual publication of his research findings, by describing it as "medically-oriented. It's probably a little boring".
The paper was not boring - in fact, it was an eye-opener (despite the bizarre language born from the marriage between medical and law enforcement obfuscation: e.g., using "subjects who experience an ICD event" to mean "persons who die in custody"). Although Ho told the task force "We did not find a thing", his paper reached a different conclusion. Substituting the more generic term "Conducted Electrical Weapon" or "CEW" for the trademark "Taser", and the more genteel term "exposure" for "shock", the study tracked levels of substances found in blood that are used to identify whether a person has muscle injury. Regarding those substances, the paper clearly states:
"... we did demonstrate increased levels after CEW exposure"
In plain English: after Taser shocks, the blood tests showed signs of muscle injury, similar to that seen following exertion, even though the subjects were at rest. This is not consistent with Ho's claim: "We did not find a thing". The paper goes on to state:
"These findings were not unexpected..."
This directly refutes Ho's other claim made to the task force:
"We really expected to see something, even if it was minuscule change...we didn't find that...".
The paper shows that they found what they expected: signs of muscle injury. The paper also revealed a noteworthy event omitted entirely from the presentation: one test subject was admitted to the hospital for cardiac evaluation after the Taser shocks, when blood tests revealed elevated levels of an indicator of damage to the heart muscle.
The significant discrepancies between Ho's published report of his study, and what he told the Palo Alto Taser task force, called for clarification. Seeking that clarification, I sent email to Ho on June 4 but received no response. On July 21 I asked again, this time hoping I might jog his memory by including a YouTube link to the relevant 3-minute excerpt from my video recording of his 35-minute presentation (the excerpt shown below). I also copied the task force and city council on the email - but still no response.
On Aug.6 the silence was finally broken - well, sort of. YouTube notified me that they removed the video excerpt, in response to a copyright infringement claim! The notification never stated who made the claim. Worse, it never stated exactly what I supposedly didn't have the rights to: the video itself, or Ho's words, or Ho's image - or some other image that appears? Fortunately, the case for copyright protection in a public meeting is virtually unsupported, so those details are not needed to refute the claim. California law, the Brown Act, clearly states that a public meeting can be recorded and broadcast by any member of the public. That squashes any copyright claim of the images. It also states that any writings distributed to officials in a meeting are public records. As the presentation began, after a request from the deputy district attorney, Ho agreed that the words of his presentation would be distributed to task force members (shown in the video below). That squashes any copyright claim on the words.
So what are we left with? Unanswered questions:
- How does Ho explain the significant difference between what he published and what he told the task force?
- Why is the city council not seeking clarification of the only medical presentation received by its Taser task force?
- Why has the process of arming Palo Alto's police with Tasers been rife with lies and deception?