If you have "no place to go," come here!

Tasers saving cops literally seconds during routine traffic stops

intranets's picture

So I was mostly being sarcastic when I proposed cops should fire their tasers first in all situations.

This interesting video from the dash-cam (here) or (here) from last Thanksgiving shows an Austin cop doing exactly this. Eugene Snelling, 32, was driving 70mph in a 65mph zone and wasn't quick enough showing his license and registration.

I checked the tape -- 45 seconds from approaching the vehicle to taser deployment, because someone was speeding five miles over the speed limit.

For advocates of "reporting" cops to IA --

"After an investigation, the department’s Internal Affairs office saw no need for disciplinary action. But then-Acting Chief Cathy Ellison reviewed it and ordered a three-day suspension for O’Connor, who served it and then returned to duty." (Austin Statesman)

But it's ok. Ofr. O'Connor said it was because the stop was supposed to be quick, "very quickly".. And it wasn't going that way, so it's Taser Time (please Hammer, don't hurt 'em)

In a statement to internal affairs detectives, O'Connor said, "I saw it as a very simple thing, a very simple traffic violation that could have been taken very, care of very quickly, had he presented his driver's license and insurance. We could have both been on our way."

He said he pulled his Taser "because he was argumentative, and I thought I might have a problem" and that he fired the weapon, which delivers a shock of up to 50,000 volts, when Snelling appeared to "reach his hand up toward me." He said he was concerned that he could have been hurled into traffic.

O'Connor said he also had not eaten and has a medical condition that "makes you kind of edgy" without food.

Transcripts show that [Internal Affairs] investigators questioned O'Connor pointedly at times.

Detective Cara Boyd asked, "Were you intending to Tase him in the car if he didn't get out? I mean, what was your reason for pulling your Taser out?"

Later, she questioned why O'Connor fired at Snelling and challenged his fear about being shoved into traffic since he didn't move away from the highway after Snelling was on the ground.

But even after he told investigators that he wishes that he had slowed down during the exchange, the investigators concluded that O'Connor had acted appropriately by using his Taser "to gain control and compliance."

You know the kicker of it all? This cop was supposed to be on his way to an 2-hour prior 911 call. Sucks to be tailgaiting while black.

"Last Thanksgiving, O'Connor was heading toward a report of a 911 hang-up that had gone unanswered for two hours. That's when he told investigators he noticed Snelling's car "tailgating" him along MoPac." (Statesman)
No votes yet


Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

taser but a bad cop.
It also looks like Internal Affairs didn't brush it off. A three-day suspension *should* have been accompanied by what is euphemistically referred to as "counseling"; unless this was very unusual, that 3 days is without-pay, as well.

Maybe that doesn't make a big dent in Terrell Owens' salary, but I bet it does in O'Connor's.

As far as why O'Connor chose to stop and harass a guy following him too close while he was supposed to be en route to a 9-1-1 hangup, it seems to me that O'Connor ought to have to explain that as well.

So, intranets, does this fall under the "unsafe" definition of the taser itself, the misuse definition, or the normalization of greater force definition?
And enlighten me. What would you have done with / to O'Connor, here?

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

initially, everything was being "handled internally" O'Connor's boss tried to pass this off as nothing improper. The only reason it ended up at IA was his boss's boss pushed for it. And after the IA finding of no fault... The Chief had to do something or it could have really blown up (lawsuits, reporters, other cops taking this as tacit approval) (also it didn't say suspension with no pay)

So, no, in this case IA did not work. Watch the video again (maybe three times) and tell me if you agree the officer acted appropriately “to gain control and compliance.”

And, is this appropriate response to someone who, in many states, didn't even commit a criminal court offense? Let alone the fact that -- who stops someone for going five over? Let alone, why was this cop driving under the speed limit? I've almost never seen a cruiser going anywhere near the speedlimit. Let alone on the way to a call...

As to classifications, (a) tasers are safe, the scientist told me so (b) misuse on the cop's part (c) normalization on the IA ruling part.

As for what my No Officer Left Behind program would be, I say that Snelling gets to come down to the station and taser the officer. Then we can call it even, and it's a close feedback system where cops would maybe start to think twice before pulling the taser inappropriately. Don't forget, tasers are totally safe, and it is not a big deal to tase someone.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I've seen the video several times, and wrote down the timeline since I couldn't believe it was happening. Having worked with folks in recovery, I am absolutely sure that Officer O'Conner is under the influence of drugs.

What exactly is this 'medical condition' that he blamed as causing him to fly off the handle. Why hasn't he been assigned permanent desk duty because of his 'condition'.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

and shake her scummy droplets all over you.

This persistent dragging up of individual "bad cop" videos in an attempt to condemn tasers is the equivalent of trotting out a dripping Michelle Malkin (pause, visual image moment) to demonstrate that she is a despicable character and a blogger who uses her keyboard to hurt people, therefore all bloggers are despicable and all of them should have their keyboards taken away so they can’t continue to be despicable.

For heaven’s sakes.

Cpl. Thomas O'Connor is a jerk. If I had my druthers he’d be bounced off the force and brought up on criminal charges. He was rude, imperious, cruel, inhuman, abusive, negligent and recklessly endangered the citizen and the passenger and himself and passing motorists for a bad stop for nothing at all. (He himself is responding to a 911 hangup FROM TWO HOURS AGO and he’s driving 65 in a 65 zone? Why, so he doesn’t get there faster? WTF? And then he takes the time to pull over a citizen for doing 70 and tasers him for asking why? And while all of this is going on the 911 call is still not responded to? No defense here. Bad cop. Fire his ass. Charge him. Whatever, get him off the street and out of uniform. Just so we’re clear on that part.

But I don’t get to have my druthers and neither does Intranets, because neither one of us is the new Police Chief in Austin. That would be Chief Art Acevedo, who got handed this bucketful of crap to deal with. I don’t know the intricacies of the Austin PD discipline and grievance process but I’ll bet they’re complicated and frankly I’m happy that Chief Acevedo has to deal with them and not me. Whatever they are, something prevents having Cpl. O’Conner stripped of his uniform and made to crawl over fire ant hills until he is naturally zapped with the cumulative formic acid pain equivalent of 50,000 volts, times two. Pity, that.

Whatever the impediments may be, Chief Acevedo is a clever man. This video has been put up on the APD website along with a commentary condemning Cpl O’Conner’s actions and will be used as a training video, required viewing for the whole of the Austin PD and all new recruits for years to come as an example of unacceptable behavior.

Sometimes we can’t get the form of justice that is obviously deserved, but we can get an alternative that is close. Cpl Thomas O’Conner, jerk that he is, will have to endure the public shunning that his notoriety has brought him along with an unending internal condemnation that he so richly deserves. It won’t be long before Cpl O’Conner leaves APD for a new career as a night watchman, turning time clock keys in an industrial park on the graveyard shift.

In a follow up article, Austin PD Union President George Vanderhule said association representatives also have in recent weeks been reviewing how much it would cost the department to add more modern recording equipment to patrol cars, which would help supervisors more easily review traffic stops, enhance the audio and watch the tapes in slow motion. Some technology makes abuse of authority easier, some will document when it occurs and perhaps prevent it. New technology, lagging public policy, modern times.

But here’s a question. Is this post here because of police brutality? Not really. If Cpl Thomas O’Conner had used pepper spray, would this video be posted here? No. If he had used his baton? Nope. If he had used his fists and boots to bring Mr. Snelling to the ground? Not likely. If Cpl O’Conner had shot Mr. Snelling? Sadly, no, it wouldn’t have been here. The only reason this particular video is presented is because the word taser shows up in the google search whatever coding thingy (I don’t want to get overly technical here about how that works).

Now here’s another question. Does the taser exude some evil ray that turns good men bad? If Cpl Thomas O’Conner didn’t have a taser, what would have happened differently? Would the stop have not happened? Would O’Conner have been reasonable and professional? Would he have employed forbearance instead of force? Or would he have used some other type of force regardless, because he’s a jerk and he was going to explode into unjustified violence no matter what? I’m thinking the latter; yes, speculative, I know, but Cpl O’Conner has had an additional complaint of excessive hostility this last June that does not include use of a taser so he clearly is not limited in his malevolence by particular equipment.

Cpl Thomas O’Conner is a ticking time bomb, something is wrong with him and he needs to be in another line of work. The core problem here isn’t the taser, or any inanimate object. The problem is Thomas O’Conner, and all the people like him. They should not be in positions of authority and responsibility. What is broken is not technology, but the civil service system and government morality that allows a Thomas O’Conner to continue on as a trusted law enforcement officer. That’s what needs to be fixed.

So how about turning Austin into Iceland? That should make everything better. :-)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Well, I certainly hope someone got their paycheck from the taser manufacturers...

And how, exactly, is systemic misuse of tasters by law enforcement, and law enforcements subsequent refusal to ever fire anyone for abusing citizens, not relevant to wether or not tasers are safe. The question of safety isn't how something performs in a lab, but how it performs in the field. In the field, it this weapon has killed hundreds of people, usually in instances where physical restraint would have gotten the same result with no fatality. The problem is that the Taser industry has lied about how lethal it's product is, and police have decided that tasers are a tool of first resort.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez's picture
Submitted by nezua limón xol... on

"As for what my No Officer Left Behind program would be, I say that Snelling gets to come down to the station and taser the officer. Then we can call it even, and it’s a close feedback system where cops would maybe start to think twice before pulling the taser inappropriately. Don’t forget, tasers are totally safe, and it is not a big deal to tase someone."

This seems very fair.

.delusions of un mundo mejor.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Every time a cop tasers somebody, he has to be tasered when he gets back to the station. Why? Because it's too easy to divorce yourself from the reality that you're torturing someone if you're just pushing a button and know that someone will excuse you for it.

Those who disagree should view the Milgram Experiment.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

-Stanley Milgram

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

bringiton, this post is here because I suggested that firing a taser immediately (because they are safe) would save officers risk to themselves and save time. I was half joking about tasering all suspects, including your grandmother when they get pulled over for speeding.

Then I came across this video.

It is not the example of a "bad cop" or look at this jerk. There are literally thousands of those videos on YouTube. This is posted because a taser was whipped out because it was used for compliance and it was used because someone did not immediately obey.

Is this a situation where a gun would have been used instead? Then why do we allow a taser to achieve "control and compliance"?

What would have happened to the officer if they pulled out a baton and started beating the guy as he exited his car? That officer might even be in jail.

But, no, taser use is perfectly fine. No IA review will discipline people for using tasers, because they are "safe and appropriate". And this video is an example that my joke isn't as funny because we are REALLY CLOSE to tasering all suspects.

Do I think sans taser, this cop would have started wrestling with the guy for not exiting the vehicle fast enough? Would the cop have shot him with a gun for "pushing him into traffic"? Would he have pepper sprayed the guy for raising his hand? NO! But a taser seems a-ok to point at people and order them around.

You can try to blame one person as a jerk, but the ease and convenience of tasers is what made this video possible.


The only reason the new Chief did anything, is a PR stunt to save face... "When the incident and tape became public last week, Chief Acevedo announced the tape would be used for training purposes, to show officers what not to do."

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Precisely, intranets. To follow BIO's reasoning you have to believe that every situation in which an officer used a taser to incapacitate a subject would have required him to do the same if he were wielding a baton, a beanbag shotgun, a sock with a bar of soap in it, you name it, and that the officer would have actually done so.

I highly doubt that this is the case. Taser is to billy club as lethal injection is to stoning. They accomplish the same damn thing, but one is hygienic, scientific even, while the other is bloody and animalistic and not at all photogenic. (Heck, if you didn't know what was going on, you'd think the taser victim was dancing! C'mon, you can't call that torture!)

I guarantee you 99% of these penny-ante thugs, the "bad apples", would not have pulled out a nightstick and started smashing the guy in the face with it, because they remember Rodney King and they know the camera's rolling. So instead they just push the button, and bang, the guy falls down and they cream their jeans. So they're in heaven.

But forget about them. The vast number of taserings are performed by the "good guys" and they are going to become more and more preemptive as time goes by. Why? Well, the real question is, why not taser? Once you've decided to put on the cuffs (which, apparently, can happen at any time now), why dick around?

Is it any wonder that the number of taserings is rising exponentially? Have the plebes really gotten that much more uppity, or is it simply that Remote Control Torture is too convenient for Americans to resist it? And what does it say when excruciating pain becomes the hallmark of those who "serve and protect" us?

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

Submitted by lambert on

A chart would help...

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

Fuck technology that normalizes torture.

Fuck reasoning and research that parses suffering.

Fuck Corporations that profit from the normalization of torture and suffering.

It doesn't say anything in the Constitution about the right to "zap arms." I'm not a strict constructionist per se, but just because something has been invented and can be manufactured fairly inexpensively doesn't mean we all have to go play Taser Tag, does it?

The old saw that 'comedy is tragedy plus distance' (the distance of time having passed) comes to mind. Tasers are a sort of dystopian version of that, as the tic-tic-tic of the clock creates an increasing urge to "control" the moment by zapping a suspect. It is a stopwatch enforcement tool--time is money, tasers are cheap, let's go!

Tasers are a physical and psychological weapon (you are powerless because I can taser you again if I want to), and a dehumanizing one at that (as if guns aren't dehumanizing--and nightsticks and mace and...). I suppose if one possesses a secret desire to wield wizard powers on the general public a taser would make a terrific and powerful wand, but this ain't Middle Earth, so run along little necromancers. Perhaps, when the air is dry, you can rub your socks on the carpet at home and zap grandma silly. One could get quite a charge out of that, and it's a homemade zapper!


kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

It's hard to find any absolute stats on taser use.

But you can find this:

The number of deaths from taser use is increasing dramatically.

I'm right there with you, MJS.

Tasers are instruments of torture, being used by some authoritarians the way a billy stick is used, but hi-tech and emotionless. Except it's not, really.

Oh, yeah. I'm losing my civility on this issue. In fact, anyone who wants to waste time bloviating about how safe they really are, how the cops just gotta have them to be secure from all us likely perps, has at the very least succumbed to a toxically viral corporatist (from the orcs who make the goddamned expensive monstrosities) and authoritarian (from the orcs who dreamed up the security-industrial state) meme.

And if someone chooses to get all livid and have hissy fits and act insulting because I have no respect for your taser-lovin' authority, kiss 50,000 volts for me, okay?

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

9% of deployments on minors.

In 2004, Cincinnati police used Tasers in 629 incidents. In 102 of those, the weapons were ineffective because of heavy clothing worn by the suspect or other factors.

Tasers immobilized suspects in 527 incidents, however, including 52 in which the suspect was under 18. (Enquirer)

Taser guns were used on suspects 554 times in 2004, 540 times last year and 216 times through May of this year -- with one death in custody.

The use of chemical irritant has virtually evaporated -- 124 times in 2004 and just 35 instances last year. (

(Note the decline in pepper spray, ie. they used whatever is most convenient)

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

From a PowerPoint presentation by Mark Kroll PhD at the 2007 American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) meeting; Potential Errors in Autopsy Reports of Custodial Deaths Temporally Associated With Electronic Control Devices: A Cardiovascular Perspective

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Mark Kroll PhD is on the board of directors of Taser International.


bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

KB: “The number of deaths from taser use is increasing dramatically.”

Bold statement, must be some pretty firm evidence behind it. There is that graph, but what exactly is it titled? “DEATHS AFTER TASER SHOCKS” Not “Deaths FROM Taser Shocks” but “AFTER.” Not necessarily the same thing, is it?

Maybe there’s more information in the newspaper article that accompanies the graph:

In dozens of cases nationwide, autopsies showed the victims died of a heart attack, cocaine intoxication or underlying causes such as heart disease. But autopsies in at least five cases found Tasers were a contributing factor in the deaths.

Huh. Not 78 cases but just 5, and in those the taser is called “a contributing factor” rather than a cause of death. What does “contributing factor” actually mean?

”Any factor(s) pertaining to an illness, injury or associated care problem experienced by the patient/ client which has an impact on their health and/ or well-being”

From the newspaper article:

A county coroner in Indiana ruled that electric shock contributed to the death of James Borden, who died in an Indiana jail after being shocked several times while handcuffed. The jail officer faces two counts of felony battery. Pathologist Ronald Kohr ruled Borden died of cardiac dysrhythmia, or disorder of the heartbeat. He listed an enlarged heart, pharmacological drug intoxication and electric shock as contributing factors. But a pathologist working for the jail officer's defense, Dr. Cyril Wecht, wrote in a memo that there was no basis to conclude the Taser contributed to Borden's death.

Electric shock was also listed as one of four causes of death for Jacob Lair, a 29-year-old who died last June after a struggle with police officers in Sparks, Nev. The autopsy report said methamphetamines combined with delirium, the Taser and restraint combined to kill him.

A coroner in South Carolina also ruled the Taser contributed to the death of William Teasley, who died in August after he was shocked at the county jail.Teasley died of cardiac arrhythmia, with the Taser and health problems, including an enlarged heart and heart and liver diseases, contributing.

As deputy medical examiner in Orlando two years ago, he [Dr. William Anderson] ruled that the Taser contributed to the death of Gordon Jones, who was cocaine-intoxicated when he was Tased multiple times. Another pathologist contradicted Anderson's ruling.

The Taser was one of several methods used to restrain William Lomax, a 26-year-old who was under the influence of PCP when he fought with security guards and a Las Vegas police officer earlier this year. He died after being handcuffed, shocked several times and held down, Murphy said. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy said the Taser played a role in Lomax's death, but couldn't say how big a role.

Horrible, sad stories. But in terms of what caused their deaths, along with the taser these cases have multiple other possible causes including restraint, drug intoxication and underlying disease. Would these people have died if the taser had not been used, as so many thousands of others have with the same pattern of risk factors?

"There's not a single one of those that you can make the sole cause of death, and not one that you can ignore," Washoe County Coroner Vernon McCarty said of Lair's case.

What we do know for certain is that “deaths from taser use” are not increasing dramatically.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Then I would guess the taser use data
are probably accurate.

i guess you'd probably guess the data from some RJ Reynolds executive indicating that there is no link to lung cancer from cigarette smoking is probably accurate too. but, of course, i'm just guessing. do tell us again about the "plutocracy" won't you bringiton.

and remember: if you don't like tasers = you hate the troops!

and remember: waterboarding = it's just a "tool" (Dick Cheney agrees!)


Submitted by lambert on

sock_puppet Kroll has a doctorate. He also has a history of not disclosing his affiliation with Taser while trading on his credentials, so it's perfectly understandable how people might not immediately regard him as a corporate sock puppet and shill. Let's be reasonable, here.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Isn't there the legalese about fragile eggshell or whatnot.

It doesn't matter that a person is hopped up on meth to the point of near death, or enough coke in their system to kill a donkey. You punch the guy in the face or shoot them in the back with a taser, and well tough cookies for you if they die from whatever else it might be.

Of course cops, and Taser Intl and electro-lovers everywhere don't have to abide by this premise, for whatever reason.

You intervened and electrocuted a person. It doesn't matter how the die, just that they did. Just imagine it is like Schrödinger's cat.

bringit, do you work for Taser Int'l? Maybe own stock or something? I get it, the number of Jews who died from Tasers is vastly overstated.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

The graph from Kroll only shows frequency of use of the taser. It says nothing good, nor bad, just how often. Intranets claimed the rate is rapidly increasing. Lambert asked for proof. KB said it was hard to find. I found it and put it up. What difference does it make that Kroll is tied to Taser? None at all. His data support intranets' claim.

I didn't, and wouldn't, use Kroll's work to support taser use because of his commercial ties.

More lies, misrepresentations and strawmen from Fauxmer. Typical. Unable to make a coherent argument? No problem! Tell lies about your opponent, make something up and feign outrage; irrational blustering authoritarianism once again. Better stick to Mr P-Niss, that's your area of expertise.

Lambert, you know better, think it through again. What difference does Kroll's affiliation make to the truth of how often tasers are used? None. If anything, his closeness makes the numbers more reliable. What difference does it make where the truth comes from, so long as it is true? None. The figure supports intranets claim.

Now about KB's false claim of escalating "taser-caused" deaths? ****crickets****

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

work for taser, never have, no affiliation whatsoever. Just interested in the truth, not unsupported opinion, and preventing injury and death which is the net effect of tasers when used appropriately.

Jews? You have data on how many people are tasered broken down by religion?

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Intranets claimed the rate is rapidly increasing. Lambert asked for proof. KB said it was hard to find. I found it and put it up.

Sorry, but intranets didn't make such claims. I searched this whole page for "increasing" or "exponential" or "rising" or "rapid".

I never made that claim, but I did provide the ponies.

I have been very careful after I learned you like to ignore the main argument and run off with examples and data which disprove a minor point.

Do I think taser usage is increasing? Of course, just look at the sales figures. More tasers, more usage (duh). Do I think the number of deaths from tasers is increasing, yes, see previous argument. More zaps, more deaths (unless there is ZERO correlation between 50,000 volts and people's heart problems)

Is the number of deaths per taser deployment increasing? (ie. this could be influenced by using taser once, not say 12 times in a row, or being smarter with the usage of tasers). From the looks of the BJS data, no one tracks this accurately.

"and preventing injury and death which is the net effect of tasers when used appropriately."
So is locking people in a shed. I say we lock all people in sheds that way we can all avoid injury and deaths. I have a study where I locked 10 women in a shed in my back yard and all of them avoided injury and death.

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

And if it's not crickets, it's doubtless the memes clicking together.

The Seattle PI presents data up through 2004. It's doubling every year from 2000. That's increasing, the last time I looked.

I think it's time to look really carefully at who Taser International gives campaign contributions to. It might also be interesting to examine who its major shareholders and board members are. I know they're also selling tasers as nonlethal weapons to the D.o'D, and they're right in there with the Active Denial bag of goodies the DoD wanted to test on the American and Iraqi public.

The Dominionists at the Pentagon do love them some heathen torture in the name of Jeebus.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

It might also be interesting to examine who its major shareholders and board members are.

Like former Taser International board member Bernie "love nest" Kerik? Who was indicted along with other TI board members and chief executives on insider trading charges. Including misrepresenting saftey data on their product. Is that what you mean KB?


Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

exponential increase in rate of death, and Kelley B in a later post in this thread who backed that down to "increasing".

Farmer is trying to mess with your head.

The data comes from a board member.
To me that suggests the board member has access to data that OUTSIDE OBSERVERS DON'T HAVE.

I said in the beginning that this incidence was an incident involving a bad cop. Rather than agree with that, the anti-taser faction goes off on the implement the bad cop chose to use; and when you, sensibly, point out that they're cherry-picking for "taser" rather than allowing for general bad behavior by cops, they ignore your legitimate contention.

I don't want to be in Chief Acevedo's shoes.
That corporal is as skanky as Tom Coleman, but unlike the guy who engineered the anti-black "drug raid" in Tulia, that corporal is in uniform driving a marked vehicle.

So he's giving all APD cops a bad name just by continuing.

It appears that the rationale for this fight has ceased to be the safety of the implement and become the use of the implement; and there is apparently, in the view of Intranets and Kelley B, NO INSTANCE in which the implement can be legitimately used.

Okay. Fine. Moratorium. Ban tasers for 18 months, and compare the numbers of deaths of prisoners after arrest augmented by "old fashioned" means -- pepper spray, batons, multiple officers tackling/sitting on a suspect -- I remember one sweaty night almost 30 years ago facing down a woman the size of an all-pro lineman, who was so high on angel dust she tore a car door off its hinges -- and have the autopsies look for contributing factors: pepper spray is a poison, adrenaline surges lead people to do stupid things that can (and have and will continue to) cause them to injure themselves in ways that don't show up on the outside (internal bleeding from busted ribs, e.g.); shock often follows sudden and extended exertion, and meth, dust, coke, even heroin can kill in combination with shock, heart disease, aneurysm, etc.

But of course those deaths will be okay because the evil taser didn't contribute.

Geesh. GIVE IT A REST ALREADY. Do you want cops like Corporal O'Connor in that video shooting people at traffic stops?

I don't, but someday he's liable to.
From the Austin American-Statesman article on Chief Acevedo's use of the video for internal training:
O'Connor's suspension was his second in his 13 years with the department. He received a one-day suspension in 2005 for a minor patrol car accident, and has since received a third: A disciplinary memo in June giving him a day off without pay said he shouted at a motorist who accidentally entered a funeral procession on Interstate 35, then pulled the driver over and issued a proof of insurance citation.

O'Connor, 46, ranked second among all officers in the frequency with which he filed use-of-force reports, according to a 2004 American-Statesman series about use of force by police. O'Connor had worked in the pedestrian-heavy Sixth Street entertainment district, and the newspaper reported that O'Connor had recently been cited in a performance evaluation for rudeness to citizens.

O'Connor is now assigned patrol duties in Central-West Austin.

O'Connor's a 13-year APD veteran, and 46 years old, and still a corporal in uniform?
Got the second-most use of force citations in the department, has had multiple suspensions and reprimands, and is still behaving this way to the public he's supposed to serve and protect? He needs to be fired, posthaste. The guy's psychologically unfit for the job -- and APD must be having a hell of a hard time recruiting to have to leave him out on patrol. Now, Austin's one of the most anti-cop towns in Texas; but this guy needs to be discharged, and yes, he needs to lose his TCLEOSE. Something is very very wrong.

IT'S the exact same issue as gun control.
IT'S not the inanimate object that's evil.
IT'S the deliberate misuse of that inanimate object.

By the way -- the five of us who eventually corralled that woman, by use of a heavy bedspread as a combination cargo net, straitjacket, and blindfold -- all spent the better part of two weeks getting over the sprains, strains, abrasions and bruises. She spent the better part of a month in detox; as she was not a servicemember but a dependent, this was done at a civilian facility. The husband she had taken a knife to lost the use of two fingers, and the sight in one eye. Moral: Don't pepper spray somebody hopped up on angel dust -- it's a horse tranquilizer, so they're not gonna feel it, and you'll just piss 'em off.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Because he’s just a cop, and everybody knows all cops are scum. Hell, they aren’t really even human, just automatons with no feelings or principles at all.

Intranets writes: The only reason the new Chief did anything, is a PR stunt to save face… “When the incident and tape became public last week, Chief Acevedo announced the tape would be used for training purposes, to show officers what not to do.”

But no, actually, that isn’t true, at least not according to the same newspaper articles Intranets cited in his initial post. What did Chief Acevedo really do, according to the Austin American-Statesman?

First, a few facts:

The traffic stop/taser abuse happened Thanksgiving, 2006
The offending cop was suspended on May 17, 2007
Art Acevedo was appointed Austin Police Chief in July, 2007

When the rogue cop O’Conner attacked an innocent civilian in Austin, Art Acevedo was working for the California Highway Patrol. When the Austin PD Internal Affairs Board spit out its whitewash, Acevedo was still in California. When Austin PD Acting Chief Ellison suspended O’Conner for three days, nowhere near enough punishment, Acevedo had not yet been hired by Austin. Acevedo had no involvement, no authority and no hand in any of what had already transpired. Once Acevedo took the Chief’s job, there was nothing he could do about decisions that had already been made. O’Conner served his suspension and that ended the process – and yes, he got off way too light.

Once Acevedo took the Chief’s job, what did he do about the O’Conner travesty? From the same Austin American-Statesman editorial cited by Intranets:

After an investigation, the department’s Internal Affairs office saw no need for disciplinary action. But then-Acting Chief Cathy Ellison reviewed it and ordered a three-day suspension for O’Connor, who served it and then returned to duty.
When Art Acevedo, the new chief from California, saw the video, he strongly disapproved of O’Connor’s action but saw in the footage what some would call “a teaching moment.” He released the video, told officers to watch it, and made it clear that any officer who did the same as O’Connor would be in serious trouble. The chief’s warning was appropriate and welcome.

And from an earlier journalist article in the American-Statesman also linked to by Intranets:

Days after he took office, Acevedo first saw the videotape and a stinging memo from the Austin Police Monitor's Office, which summed up its response: "We believe that Corporal O'Connor was far too quick on the trigger."
"It was very upsetting to me," Acevedo said in an interview last week. "What I saw wasn't consistent with my expectations of the men and women of the Austin Police Department. Our job is to de-escalate stops, not escalate them. The way the officer conducted business, he absolutely escalated the situation."

So. Acevedo condemns O’Conner’s actions. Acevedo turns the tape into a teaching tool, one that every Austin PD member – now and in the future – has to watch as an example of unacceptable behavior. Acevedo is the one who releases the tape. Acevedo speaks out publicly to condemn O’Conner’s actions. And more importantly, Acevedo leads (demands?) a public denunciation of O’Conner and an apology to the victim from Austin PD members.

Again, from the editorial cited by Intranets:

But what’s genuinely encouraging is the reaction of officers who watched the video and not only disapproved — we think most officers would — but spoke up about the need for an apology, a personal apology. As professional law enforcement officers, they don’t want to be associated with the kind of behavior on display in the video.
The willingness of various officers of the Austin Police Department, including several members of the Austin Police Union, to offer a personal apology to a driver who was attacked during a traffic stop by an officer with a Taser is heartening. It’s an indication that the department’s rank-and-file will not turn a blind eye to unprofessional conduct by one of its own, and that, in turn, will inspire greater public trust in Austin officers and the department.

How, out of all that from the sources he himself cited, does Intranets conclude that Acevedo’s release of the videotape was a PR stunt? Why does Intranets “cherry-pick” his own sources, leaving out the parts that undercut his false assertions? Why does Intranets defame a good man, someone he doesn’t know and clearly knows nothing about? Is it because he sees all police as evil creatures, less than human, not deserving fair treatment or simple decency?

And what has Acevedo actually been doing as Chief about unjustified violence and other unacceptable behavior by Austin PD officers? He has fired one officer for killing a suspect even though a grand jury declined to press charges, and fired another officer for endangering civilians by shooting at a fleeing burglary suspect. He has also suspended two veteran sergeants (10 and 15 days, no pay) because they did not properly follow up on an unsubstantiated allegation made against a third officer by a crackhead streetwalker. (The accused officer no longer works for Austin PD.)

Art Acevedo is a good man. We know him well out here in California, where for more than 20 years he’s labored to improve police behavior, stamp out corruption and strengthen community trust in law enforcement. His passion is living a life committed to public service. In addition to his professional work, Art and his whole family have given thousands of hours to charitable acts. An immigrant from Cuba, Art has spent his adult life giving back to the country that took in him and his family. He is a quiet, decent, sincere and honest man who works every day to make the world a better place in which to live, and he deserves more in return than false disparagement.

Intranets, you owe Art Acevedo an apology.

Note: You keep spreading falsehoods and I'll keep knocking them down, "minor" point - in your opinion - or not. When I make a mistake I own up to it. Will you do the same, or just complain about being caught out?

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

What I was saying is that the APD had no problems with this guy (in terms of those who said 'report bad cops to IA' who did nothing). O'Connor was happily serving on the force no troubles, and if this video would have never hit the media, guess what? NOTHING.

The only reason the new Chief is making anyone watch the video is because it showed up on the news. This video and officer behavior would have gone relatively unknown forever if his dashcam video wasn't on the internets and 6'oclock news.

That is what I was saying, and it's good what Acevedo did and I made no remark about his character, that really is irrelevant. But, tell me... is he really culling through the archives finding other bad officer video footage that could be training material? Would he have made this mandatory viewing if it wasn't on the news? To suggest so is a little naive.

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

The PI data show deaths roughly doubling every year from 2000. The frequency of use (not death) also rises in a concave upwards curve from 2000. Unfortunately no clear data on taser associated deaths is available for recent years with hundreds of thousands of uses per year.

However, deaths doubling every year from 2000-2004 fits a 2N function, and therefore are increasing exponentially over this period.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

By all means let’s keep the record straight. I was apparently overwhelmed in this busy, busy thread and misattributed a true statement, one for which I later provided supportive data.

It was in fact Scarshapedstar who wrote upthread: “Is it any wonder that the number of taserings is rising exponentially?”

My mistake. Apologies to all offended.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Sarah, I have stated before I am not against Tasers, per se, just the overwhelming use of them as a convenience tool, rather than talking or waiting, or calming down, it is used to gain control and compliance immediately. I think in situations you describe where you could have justified shooting the bear-like woman because your life was probably at risk probably justify a taser. I think situations where you see a suspect with a knife, that is far enough away... Ok, scratch the knife example I realize the effective range of a taser is in the kill zone for a knife. Maybe, a super drunk combative frat dude, sure. It's the issue of instead of taking two steps backwards and seeing if the suspect actually is combative, these cops in most of these instances are going on the offensive to gain compliance.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

That is what I was saying, and it’s good what Acevedo did and I made no remark about his character, that really is irrelevant. But is he really culling through the archives finding other video footage that could be training material? Would he have made this mandatory viewing if it wasn’t on the news? To suggest so is a little naive.

This is a repetition of your earlier claim, despite what Bringiton says to refute it, and without any further backup, and you are casting aspersions on the APD chief by innuendo and implication.

The only reason the new Chief did anything, is a PR stunt to save face… “When the incident and tape became public last week, Chief Acevedo announced the tape would be used for training purposes, to show officers what not to do.”

"I made no remark about his character, that really is irrelevant."
No, it isn't, and anyone who looks at either the editorial you cited or the other Austin American Statesman article will see that Acevedo has articulated standards for the officers of the APD and is working to enforce those standards. So yes, your claim that "that really is irrelevant" is disingenuous at best and outright dishonest at worst, because you're using it to shrug off real action taken to address the very problem you cited when you first posted the video.
"To suggest so is a little naive" is a variant on the time-honored "some people say" meme so beloved of the neocons when confronting the truths that inconvenience them and their spoutage, and it grieves me to see you sink to this level as I think you're both a better logician and a more persuasive writer than this indicates; but again it reveals a very strong and obstinate prejudice against police officers -- even the ones who are working to address the concerns of the community and who are in fact serving and protecting the public to the best of their ability. Shame on you.

Furthermore, acting chief Ellison's suspension of O'Connor was probably the best Ellison could do at the time. Was it enough? No. Should O'Connor still have a badge? No. But those decisions aren't mine to make, and I do have firsthand knowledge of exactly how high the flames of resentment can flare, and how fast, when a "female" contradicts one or more male officers -- in this case overriding the IAB to require a three-day suspension.
So let's give her the props she deserves too, eh?

There are good cops in APD, and apparently some of them are not just on the streets but in the upper echelons of the department. Time we acknowledge that.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Ok, from what I can tell the apology from APD members was spontaneous and unrelated to Acevedo or at his request, other than making them watch the tape.

I still cannot figure out if the tape was released to the media by Acevedo. Or if the tape release was in response to something other than Acevedo being outraged. So I'm probably wrong about the circumstances, this is all I found, "New Police Chief Art Acevedo posted on an internal Web site Saturday evening [9/29/07] a video in which Cpl. Thomas O'Connor used his Taser on Eugene Snelling,"

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Are you kidding me. I said a police Chief of a major city does stuff that might be political or even go as far as PR stunts??!! Noo... that is unimaginable?! Really? Really? Muster up all the faux outrage you can.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and a bullet would have; but there was no need for that.

What was needed was a sufficient number of people, and a big enough, strong enough, restraining device to enable those people to *safely* nullify the threat. We had that (well, okay, it took us about 20 minutes to get it all together); and she had already stabbed the husband before the first patrol unit arrived. *That* is the real tragedy, IMNVHO.

So while I'm an advocate of legalizing industrial hemp -- for almost as many reasons as I am of converting to biodiesel and going back to the vehicle technologies of the 1980s/early 1990s -- imagine if you will a 4-cylinder engine that could put out more horsepower than a V-8 built just six years earlier -- and of bringing the speed limit down to 60 mph, which is safer and more fuel efficient, and while I really think the "war on drugs" is being used to hide a "war on the poor" and a "war on minorities" -- I do think there are some chemical substances humans should not be free to use at will. Innocent bystanders get clobbered too often.

Submitted by lambert on

In clear cases of error, it's best simply to admit the mistake, address the concern, and move on. There's an excellent example of this upthread.

NOTE Funny word, "argumentative." That's what O'Connor said of Snelling! As I've said before, we're all better off telling stories and sharing experiences.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by lambert on

(And my tactical speech comment was not directed to you, Sarah.)

If one doesn't have the basic confidence that one's interlocutor isn't honest, why engage? It's a waste of time.

EOM == End Of Message, IIRC.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

An editorial from the Austin American-Statesman on September 29, 2007, accompanying the same-day news article by writer Tony Plohetski referenced in Intranets’ original post:

A somber Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is seen on the video asking officers to consider three questions as they watch how a fellow officer conducted a minor traffic stop last year:

Would they want their family members to be treated in the same manner as the suspect if stopped by an officer?

Would officers be proud of the Austin Police Department if someone outside of the organization saw the tape that recorded the officer’s rudeness and unprovoked use of force?

Acevedo looks directly at the camera and asks the third question: “I really want you to take a good hard look inside of yourself and determine, `Am I that officer - am I treating people that way for minor traffic violations?’“

Acevedo ends his talk on the video by answering his third question: “If you are (this officer in the video), please change your behavior because this administration owes it to the hard-working men and women of the department to hold people accountable. In circumstances like this, we will hold people accountable and the penalty will be very severe.”

Those questions signal a titanic shift in the Austin Police Department. It’s a welcome shift that will benefit officers and Austin. With those questions, Acevedo drives home problems that tend to undermine public confidence in police, specifically a lack of transparency that cloaks wrongful - at times outrageous - conduct by Austin officers.

The editorial also gives original credit for wanting to use the O’Conner video as a training aid to Austin PD police monitor Cliff Brown, who presented it to Acevedo. The new Chief saw it as a vehicle with which to start transforming the department, so good on both of them.

The Editors go on to say of Acevedo:

He is shining a light on wrongdoing by officers and building a department that officers and residents can be proud of.

And isn’t that what’s needed? Isn’t that what all of us here, and decent people everywhere, want? There are a lot of bad people out there, and some of them are cops. It’s a big job to transform the culture of a department, as Acevedo is doing, and he needs support rather than skepticism and unfounded criticism.

The good news is that there are many more senior police administrators who feel as Acevedo does. THE big movement in law enforcement today is called “Community Policing”. Formalized under Clinton, the goal is to re-establish local law enforcement as a part of the community rather than being in opposition. It requires enormous effort, and no small amount of trust, from all concerned and implementation has been slower than what was hoped for. Still, men of Acevedo’s age and persuasion are now moving into Chief’s positions all across America and implementing reforms.

Unlike many here, I am encouraged by these changes and increasingly confident that local and state law enforcement practices are moving in the right direction. The other encouraging aspect is that this movement is being driven from the bottom up, by officers who came up through the ranks, rather than by fiat from a central authority. Community Policing is a people’s movement, it is here to stay, and it is completely antithetical to the kind of centralized top-down authoritarianism desired by Plutocrats and Dominionists. More good cops like this, please.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Cpl. O'Connor should be encouraged to persue another line of work. If APD really wants to keep him onboard, then he should be assigned to a post with little contact with the public. Really, his memo of protest for his suspension was pathetic. The only positive element for his behavior is hopefully he will be remembered for all eternity in his department as an example of how not to behave. He should not be allowed to remain with APD long enough to qualify for a pension. Taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of his antics any further yet reward him beyond his currently collected compensation. He brings disgrace to his fellow officers by remaining with APD and they are the ones that should encourage him to move along.

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

If you really think we're having fun being argumentative with you, Sarah, you really misunderstand the nature of the conversation we are trying to have here.

Tasers are instruments of torture. The farmer really isn't kidding. Although he really may be trying to mess with your mind, its because your thinking seems incredibly callous on this.

Tasers' extensive use in police departments today is largely due to the salesmanship of that stellar personality, Bernard Kerik. Bernie became a millionaire off of Taser International.

I would say the majority of people here are trying to get you to think seriously about the misinformation you've assimilated into your world view. Unfortunately, it is misinformation that is all too common among many. We are not having fun with this.

We are trying to fight an idea we view as destructive that seems to have planted itself in your mind.

Tasers are devices of torture, developed and sold to legitimate police by individuals who want to profit off of the police state.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

Are you suggesting one can have a moment of clarity (or an epiphany or awakening, if you prefer) without being zapped into it? And just how did humanity do this for thousands of years without being tazed? Impossible! Civilizations didn't rise and fall without tasers! Historically, the noisome hoi polloi didn't get in line without Electric Correctioning!

Maybe some enterprising inventors could have combined Tasers with the Clapper: Zap On! Zap off!


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Maybe some enterprising inventors could have combined Tasers with the Clapper

technology news: i seek exciting investor opportunity for you!

Dec 02, 2007
Andrew Chung
Staff Reporter

The Taser is going wireless.

Until now, the electric-shock gun consisted of two barbed darts attached to wires that shoot out and strike the victim, immobilizing the person with 50,000 volts of electricity, causing severe pain and intense muscle contraction.

But the wires could only extend a few metres. With the new "extended range electronic projectile," or XREP, the Taser has been turned into a kind of self-contained shotgun shell and can be fired, wire-free, from a standard shotgun, which police typically have in their arsenal already.

The first electrode hooks on to the target, the second electrode falls and makes contact elsewhere on the body, completing the circuit and activating the shock. It can blast someone as far as 30 metres away, and, unlike the current stun guns, whose shock lasts five seconds, the XREP lasts 20 seconds, enough time to "take the offender into custody without risking injury to officers."


Taser isn't the only company developing electrical stun weapons. Indiana-based Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems has, in a prototype phase, a futuristic weapon that sends out a streak of lightning, apparently by projecting an ionized gas or ionizing the air itself with a laser, which conducts the electricity forward. The technology could potentially also be used to disable vehicles and, in the future, to help militaries neutralize incoming rocket propelled grenades.

Taser expects its new products to be available by mid-2008.

remember: if the Board of Directors say it's true, it's true.


MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

According to the L.A. Times article a 32 year-old male suspect who died in custody after being tasered, "passed out in the back seat of a patrol car after struggling with officers shortly before midnight Friday..."

Taser Thread Clarification: I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but the plural of "death by taser" is not as clear.

But civil rights groups and Amnesty International have criticized the use of the Taser because more than 230 people have died in the United States since 2001 after being shocked with it.

When in doubt I go with Amnesty International. But that's me.

The suspect in this story was violent and combative, and is now as dead as a nailed to the perch Norwegian Blue parrot. Probably not someone I would want to hang with, and now I won't have to. This so-called tool, the taser: it's kind of like including punishment in the arrest, a two-for-one gift of liberty unbound!

Tasers: Peace Through Strength! Strength Through Voltage! Voltage Through You!


Submitted by lambert on

Why this conspiracy of silence on the left?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

the question is: will any single payer healthcare plan in the future cover taser related injuries... i mean indignities!, heh, jeepers, pleez don't sue me.


bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

when the anecdotal evidence is fully exhibited; it’s the half-told story that so often misleads.

Let’s have the entire LA Times article here to chew on, why don’t we? Sometimes the whole story can be so instructive:

Death of man
shot with Taser is
under investigation

A sheriff's spokesman said the man fought with deputies when they arrived at the scene of a disturbance in South L.A.
By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 4, 2007

Authorities are investigating the death of a 32-year-old man who lost consciousness sometime after being shocked with a Taser gun during a confrontation with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

Cesar Silva, who authorities suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, passed out in the back seat of a patrol car after struggling with officers shortly before midnight Friday, said Steve Whitmore, a department spokesman.

Silva was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Whitmore said Monday.

The Sheriff's Department's internal affairs unit and the district attorney's office are investigating.

The Taser, which delivers a 50,000-volt shock at five-second intervals, was used because Silva was so combative and had injured at least two deputies, Whitmore said.

But it may not have been effective, because deputies had to use force to get Silva under control, Whitmore said.

"Eyewitnesses indicated there was a real struggle. He had a deputy's leg in a hold," said Michael Gennaco, head of the sheriff's Office of Independent Review.

An autopsy is expected to be completed in a few days. Preliminary information from deputies indicated Silva was shot and shocked with the Taser's nitrogen gas-propelled darts, then shocked again by direct contact with the gun, Gennaco said.

The Sheriff's Department was one of the first large law enforcement agencies in the country to widely deploy this new generation of the Taser gun.

But civil rights groups and Amnesty International have criticized the use of the Taser because more than 230 people have died in the United States since 2001 after being shocked with it.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Sid Heal said in an earlier interview that although deaths had occurred after Taser use, none had been conclusively linked to the gun.

He said the Taser had probably saved many lives by avoiding the use of firearms.

Responding to a neighborhood disturbance call Friday, deputies tried to arrest Silva shortly after 11 p.m. in the 1300 block of East 79th Street, an unincorporated area of South Los Angeles, Whitmore said. Deputies said they found an agitated Silva in the frontyard.

He fought with two deputies, and at least three more officers arrived to assist before the Taser was used, Whitmore said.

Now let’s run through the usual claims that are made about tasering and see how they apply to this story:

Cops are rampantly tasering innocent civilians. Not this time; the police were there in response to a complaint.

Cops are too quick to deploy the taser. Not this time; five officers wrestled with Silva trying to control him and two officers were injured before the taser was used.

The taser killed him. Not this time; Silva was alive and still struggling after the taser was used, and only passed out after he was in the patrol car – well after the taser was used.

So what caused Silva’s death? There’s an autopsy scheduled, so we’ll maybe know more then, but we already know that Silva was agitated, possibly under the influence (fought off five cops, maybe PCP again), had a prolonged physical struggle and was handcuffed; all of these are part of what has been termed “excited delirium”, a term I don’t like but has become a catchall for whatever it is that actually kills these people. Something is killing them, but it isn’t the taser

From MSJ: ”…the plural of “death by taser” is not as clear." What “plural”? Upthread we saw that what had been claimed as evidence of 78 “taser deaths” was nothing of the sort, with only five of them having the taser as a “contributing” cause and in four of those cases the deceased had the very same set of risk factors as Mr. Silva and thousands of others who have died when no taser was used. There is no “plural of death by taser.”

And: “Voltage Through You!” Fifty thousand volts sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Very scary, compared to the 110 volts of household current that hurts like hell, and 220 volts that can surely kill. But voltage is only half the story; it is the potential for a current to flow. Amperage is the quantity of current that actually flows. It’s the combination of the two that determines whether or not a current will flow, and how much damage it does. Think of amperage as an object and voltage as the height from which the object is dropped. A penny dropped from a great height will sting, but that’s it. A cannonball from not very high at all will kill you, but from an inch or so it will only hurt. Same with a taser. The voltage is high at 50,000 but the amperage is very low, just 2.1 milliamps. (The actual voltage delivered in practice will be much lower and variable, but let’s stay with the maximum possible.) The product of these two (volts times amps) gives an expression of total power commonly expressed as joules. The maximum total power delivered by a Taser at its power source is just 0.36 joules, while the minimum power that represents a risk to health is 5 joules.

Another way to think of it is that a person can build up a charge of 20,000 volts from so-called “static” electricity, but because the available current is very low (microamps) and the total duration of the discharge is very short, all we feel is a sharp sting with the spark; about 60 millijoules. If high voltage alone could kill, we’d all be sure to not drag our feet in the wintertime. A taser doesn’t deliver nearly enough power to affect the heart.

MJS: ”When in doubt I go with Amnesty International. But that’s me." Oh, it can be both of us. What does Amnesty International have to say about tasers?


“Nobody really knows exactly why these people are dying, we only know that people are dying after they are Tasered,” said Cox. “When we started doing our first study, 70 people had died in the United States. Now it’s nearly 300 people who have died in the United States. They’re Tasered and then they die. We’re calling for a study to find out exactly why.”

And here:

The manufacturer of Tasers and law enforcement agencies deploying them maintain that they are a safer alternative to many conventional weapons in controlling dangerous or combative suspects and that Tasers have saved lives by avoiding the resort by officers to lethal force.

As a human rights organization, AI acknowledges the importance of developing non-lethal or "less-lethal" force options to decrease the risk of death or injury inherent in police use of firearms or other impact weapons such as batons. We support the development of such force options.

AI is concerned about the number of in-custody deaths and wants to reduce them. So do I. AI isn’t certain why people are dying in custody and they want to know why. So do I. AI wants a study to determine if tasers may be a cause. So do I. AI supports the development and use of “less-lethal” means of subduing recalcitrant subjects of arrest. So do I. AI wants tasers, and presumably other means of force, to be used appropriately. So do I. Where we differ is over what constitutes “appropriate.” Studies underway, along with open discussion, will clarify that parameter. I am in agreement with 90%+ of what AI says, and the difference will be sorted out based largely on studies that quantify physiological risk versus benefits in lives saved and injuries avoided.

MJS, no one – especially me – is advocating that tasers be used willie-nillie, without thought for other less assaultive means. But, tell me; in this instance, what would you have the police do differently? Whether talking was tried and for how long is beside the point – if Silvia was going to come along peacefully he would have. Silvia resisted arrest, and a fight ensued. A total of five officers are on the scene, two have been injured and between them they can’t get him under control. What should they do? Keep fighting, at the risk of further injury to them or to Silvia? Pull their batons and beat Silvia into bloody submission? Shoot him?

What, in this specific case, with this suspect, would you have them do?

kelley b's picture
Submitted by kelley b on

Sparky likes to brag that win he wins, he wins, and when he loses, he really won.

What Amnesty International really said:

Amnesty international reiterates its call for the use, sale and transfer of taser stun weapons to be suspended pending an independent and rigorous study into their effects on the health of those stunned. None of the studies cited above include an analysis of the deaths in the USA. A comprehensive study into the safety of the weapon would, at a minimum, include a review of all existing death and injury reports, a literature review, computer modelling, review of existing volunteering experiences, such as of police officers who are tasered as part of their training, and other laboratory studies. Any study must take into account real life situational factors such as the use of tasers in conjunction with chemical incapacitant sprays like OC, and the use of tasers on suspects who are restrained in a prone position. Such a study should be independent of any commercial or security or law enforcement interests. Amnesty International believes that such research should be carried out by, inter alia, a reputable university, research institute or similar body having no direct connection to any company making these devices.

Primary source, sparky.

No Hell below us
Above us, only sky

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

In this case, the suspect was so drugged up, the choices were a Tasering or a Rodney-King-level beating, so either way this suspect was probably going to die from his drug-related euphoria. I'm just saying it is possible a taser contributed to his death, but so probably would have a baton to the head to get the suspect under control.

At any rate, they should have shot him in the head with the taser. That seems to be the way to go, but maybe this is only for black motorist who are not breaking any laws.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Don't start spouting electronics. Your pseudo-Ohms law is so glaringly nonsensical I don't know where to start.

-- "The voltage is high at 50,000 but the amperage is very low, just 2.1 milliamps."
Huh.. really? 105 Watts? oookay.

-- "The product of these two (volts times amps) gives an expression of total power commonly expressed as joules."
Well, commonly, as in the sciences "volts time amps" is known as a volt-amp, what us lay people refer to as a Watt. Typically also known as power. Now, power is also expressed as unit of work typically known as energy expended over time. 1 watt = 1 joule / 1 second

-- "The maximum total power delivered by a Taser at its power source is just 0.36 joules, while the minimum power that represents a risk to health is 5 joules."
Or not. Let's see how many possible ways I can't even imagine how to correct this. Skin resistance is a function of voltage and frequency. A joule at 50,000V is not the same as a joule of 5V. Let alone frequency... DC current versus 1GHz of current. Your 110-volt AC outlet is different danger than say 16 9-volt batteries hooked together.

So let's assume this made up risk to health implied the same conditions of the Taser. Really? So their margin of safety is barely a factor of ten? You do realize this figure of "5 joules" depends on where the current flows. Two electrodes on your left leg can safely administer a lot more current prior to lethal. However two electrode on a sweaty skin on each side of the heart has a much different lethal voltage. Are we talking children, men, women, elderly? What is lethal? How much current can interfere with the E-M field established to keep your heart beating? The current that stops your muscles from breathing? Heart muscle contraction? Because that may differ. Are we talking about how much current will cook your muscles? Do you even know where this "5 joules" comes from?

-- "Another way to think of it is that a person can build up a charge of 20,000 volts from so-called “static” electricity, but because the available current is very low (microamps) and the total duration of the discharge is very short, all we feel is a sharp sting with the spark; about 60 millijoules. If high voltage alone could kill, we’d all be sure to not drag our feet in the wintertime. A taser doesn’t deliver nearly enough power to affect the heart."
Oh jebus. A taser is a static charge shock, tee hee, like when you rub your socks.. tee hee..

So a taser is only 360 millijoules and static shock is 60. Only like getting six winter-time ouchies? Right? Does this pass even the slightest smell test to you?

Do you think it maybe matters that a Taser is applied for 20 second bursts while a static discharge is in the microseconds if not nanoseconds. Do you think period of the shock bursts matters? It is not one 50,000 volt zap, but a make-and-break series of zaps continuing for a period of time. I assume your figure of 360 millijoules is correct.

you are welcome to study the report where this magic number of "5 Joules" comes from, but it really doesn't apply because that is a concept of charge build up which the human body cannot support, rather your clothing would. Also this is a charge build up concept, not two subcutaneous wires discharging a high voltage capacitor through your heart.

Believe it or not, but most "electrocution" shock studies are for voltage applies to the skin, like as if you touched a high voltage, not if a dart punctured your skin which changes your skin resistance dramatically as you can imagine.

International Electro Technical Commission document IEC 479-2:1987. (5 joules = dangerous)

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Is what this thread needs. Hang it, stone it, slit its throat, use a taser or a nuke; whatever it takes. Recycling the same arguments gains nothing. Absent new information I’m not interested in continuing discussions about tasers. There have been multiple studies completed and reviews published and many more are underway. Many of you have dismissed all of these as somehow unacceptably biased; I’ve suggested that those of you who feel this way should join forces and get funding to conduct them in a manner acceptable to you. Short of that, it appears that no amount of evidence will persuade you from your intransigence – so be it. I have no interest in endlessly rehashing position points.

Amnesty International has lots of statements, issued at many different times. I have not disputed that they have repeatedly called for a moratorium on taser use pending the outcome of extensive study; they have indeed. What is also indisputable is that they aren’t going to get it. What keeps getting left out, as in kelly b’s quote above, is AI’s admission that they have nothing beyond suspicion to support the claim that tasers are killing people. AI has called for studies. Multiple independent studies are in process. When those studies are finished we’ll see what they tell us. Until those studies are done, dueling quotes will not serve any purpose beyond whatever has already been achieved and that is apparently nothing.

Are tasers the same as static electricity? Nooo, not at all what I said, another misconstruction. My point, a valid one, is that capacitive discharge events are functionally similar, from static electricity to Leyden jars to tasers to lightening and some can kill you while others cannot. Claims that tasers must be lethal keep revolving around “50,000 volts” as though voltage is the sole issue of lethality. It is not. As intranets so correctly points out, resistance to electrical flow is also important and indeed the darts will increase current flow. None the less, at the maximum capability of the taser a subcutaneous discharge is simply not sufficient to disrupt cardiac rhythm – regardless of the position of the darts. If you have any data or study to show such an effect, please reference it. (And no, the one where the researchers cut open the pig’s chest and discharged an electric shock on the heart surface doesn’t count.)

As to the horrible account of the brutality in London referenced by intranets, by this report it is indefensible. What else it could mean in the context of this thread is unclear. Is it an argument that tasers are the source of police racism or brutality? Xenophon and others have eloquently made the point that police brutality exists apart from tasers. It existed before tasers were in use and will continue even if tasers are banned. The same is true of deaths in custody. Absent any direct evidence of a connection, focusing on tasers will only serve to deflect attention from the real problems.

Bigotry, racism, torture, abuse are all unacceptable. Police brutality is unacceptable. Deaths in custody are excessive. All of them need to be reduced if not eliminated entirely. My opinion, tasers are not on the critical path to achieving those goals.

intranets's picture
Submitted by intranets on

Are you totally nutz? You put out outlandish statements that you back up with "science". Your science is completely wrong and yet you still cling to this "A taser doesn’t deliver nearly enough power to affect the heart."

Your pseudo-science is put up there to convince people you are correct, but unfortunately for you I know a thing or two about the electronic arts and Coulombs, which apparently you do not have the basic fundamentals in.

I don't feel like doing your homework but the "safety" in terms of joules is completely based upon what a heart defibrillator puts out. This is only applicable on the high end of the scale of what will DEFINITELY stop a heart for all humans. It is over engineered to reset your hearts electrostatic field. There are other modes such as muscle damage, momentary contraction / stoppage of muscle contractions (both heart and lung), that occur even if you did not surpass the joules threshold to reset the heart's electric field.

From Taser Intl.
(You'll note the taser works approximately on a cycle of 17 pulse per second for 5 to 10 seconds or longer)

ADVANCED TASER M18L/M18: 18 watts; 0.50 joules per pulse into load; and 3.6mA avg. current
TASER X26C: 5 watts; 0.07 joules per pulse; and 2.1 mA average current
TASER C2: 5 watts; 0.07 joules per pulse; 2.1 mA average current

Oooops, notice it says average current. Huh, does that matter at all? Ooops, it says 70mJ per pulse?! Does that matter that over five seconds we have injected 6000mJ into your body??!! Uh, oh that looks dangerously like your 5J is dangerous range?!

That is for one five second cycle. What happens with multiple taser applications, or a cop that holds the button too long? There is no maximum limit of how much a suspect can be shocked. (And I realize that energy over time is not the same as a heart defibrillator which applies most energy over one second rather than 30 seconds of taser exposure).

Submitted by lambert on


Every Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale, Ariz., women gather at Dana Shafman's house to watch demonstrations of her sleek new wares, which come in such enticing colors as "metallic pink" and "electric blue." It's like a Tupperware party … only not.

Shafman is peddling Tasers.

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that special someone who wants to pack heat but doesn't want to mess with bullets? At $299 to $349, the C2 Personal Protection System may be the ticket. Taser International thinks its compact new device will be a Christmas hit with women like Shafman, who's loath to carry a gun but never felt safe enough with the knives or baseball bats she kept by her bed to ward off potential intruders. "We have customers who don't want to look like Dirty Harry," says Tom Smith, chairman and co-founder of Scottsdale-based Taser International, which owns the Taser brand name and is the biggest producer of the "electronic-control weapons."

In ads on its Web site, the company features a C2-loving Santa, as well as a self-assured businesswoman on a Manhattan street and the tag line "I will control my own destiny."


And this little note:

For the record, Taser International says "Tase" is not a verb.

Sure it is! "I'm dreaming of a Tased™ Xmas... "

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Intranets, you dismiss my argument and referencing as “pseudoscience” which it is not; but let’s take the arguments you advance and see where that takes us.

Intranets: “I don’t feel like doing your homework but the “safety” in terms of joules is completely based upon what a heart defibrillator puts out.”

I can do my own homework, thank you anyway. You should instead focus on doing yours.

There is no relationship whatsoever between the requirements of external defibrillators and the safety threshold from external electrical shock. External defibrillators, discussed in detail in this free full-text article by The American Heart Association in collaboration with the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation in the journal Circulation, typically deliver from 120 to 300 Joules depending on waveform; some designs offer a stepwise increase if the subject is initially refractory. Newer devices utilize a “biphasic” discharge, where the polarity of the current is first in one direction and then reversed; they can be effective at 70 Joules. These current flows are far in excess of the 5 Joules (5000 mJ) conservatively considered to be the threshold for risk of cardiac rhythm disruption.

As you cite, the output of a Taser can be as high as 0.50 Joules (500 mJ) which is only 1/10 of the minimum considered to be dangerous. In practice, with the variability of resistance from person to person the actual delivered charge is much less. There isn’t anything “pseudo” about these facts.

Intranets: ” Does that matter that over five seconds we have injected 6000mJ into your body??!!

Ah, actually, no – it does not. Each of the shocks is a discrete event; they do not accumulate. As each shock is delivered the current flows from one probe into the body, dominantly through the skin but some through nerves controlling skeletal muscles, and then to the other probe directly or to ground. The charge does not stay in the body, as though one were pouring water into a jug. Consider; I throw a ball up into the air to a height of 50 feet. You are standing on a bridge 500 feet above me. I repeat my throw ten times so the ball has travelled upwards a total of 500 feet, yet it has never come close to reaching you on the bridge. In fact, it has never gone further than 50 feet from my hand. This is the same. However many 0.5 Joule pulses are discharged, they do not ever exceed that magnitude.

Intranets: ” There are other modes such as muscle damage, momentary contraction / stoppage of muscle contractions (both heart and lung), that occur even if you did not surpass the joules threshold to reset the heart’s electric field.”

Assuming you’re talking about Tasers here, please provide references to support these claims. There is no evidence that Tasers have any effect at all on cardiac rhythm, much less “stoppage.” The same for lungs; if tasers actually inhibited breathing we wouldn’t be hearing people shouting during the event. Please either provide references or stop making unfounded claims.

Intranets: ” What happens with multiple taser applications, or a cop that holds the button too long? There is no maximum limit of how much a suspect can be shocked.”

Nothing good can come from continuing to apply a taser when it is not effective, that is, bringing a dangerous subject into compliance for handcuffing and arrest. Most departments now include a maximum number of discharges in their guidelines. Using a Taser without the justification of avoiding injury to the suspect or others is indefensible. Using a taser repeatedly, beyond what is needed to effect physical restraint or in the face of continued resistance by the subject, is also indefensible. Please don’t try to confuse deliberate abuse or stupidity with justifiable use of force. Abuse and torture are indefensible; appropriate use of necessary force within the rule of law is always unfortunate, but not always avoidable.

Again, if you have any references to support a claim that properly deployed tasers are causing death or serious injury, please provide them. Short of that, please stop trying to argue from a basis of electrophysiology; you are embarrassing yourself.

MJS's picture
Submitted by MJS on

Naomi Klein discusses the introduction of tasers into the "3rd Shock" of her Shock Doctrine.

The final showdown over New Orleans public housing is playing out in dramatic fashion right now. The conflict is a classic example of the "triple shock" formula at the core of the doctrine.

- First came the shock of the original disaster: the flood and the traumatic evacuation.

- Next came the "economic shock therapy": using the window of opportunity opened up by the first shock to push through a rapid-fire attack on the city's public services and spaces, most notably it's homes, schools and hospitals.

-Now we see that as residents of New Orleans try to resist these attacks, they are being met with a third shock: the shock of the police baton and the Taser gun, used on the bodies of protestors outside New Orleans City Hall yesterday.

bringiton: your back and forth discussions regarding watts and joules etc. are duly noted. There is a dry, academic feel to all of it, as if the subject were really just a matter of applied electronics, and not of human beings.

You are in favor of tasers being used by law enforcement. I am not. I too shall haunt this thread no more.


bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

MJS: ”bringiton: your back and forth discussions regarding watts and joules etc. are duly noted. There is a dry, academic feel to all of it, as if the subject were really just a matter of applied electronics, and not of human beings.

How better to discuss matters of scientific fact than dryly and academically? Is the absence if histrionics and perjoratives equivalent to an absence of passion? Would I keep coming back here in the face of slurs and damnation if I had no commitment? Is the use of reason and logic in argument somehow indicative of callousness or indifference to human suffering? Must public policy decisions be made solely on the basis of feelings and exclusive of academics?

MJS: ”You are in favor of tasers being used by law enforcement. I am not.”

But it isn’t quite that simple, at least for me. I would be completely content if no force were ever needed in law enforcement. I don’t know how to achieve that. Meantime, I am strongly in favor of minimizing injury and death when force must be used – for the benefit of the subject, for the officers and for bystanders. That desire, in my mind, is based entirely on concern for the welfare of human beings. What evidence there is suggests that tasers, appropriately and judiciously employed, actually do reduce the incident and severity of injuries to subjects and to officers – officers who are also human beings and equally deserving of concern for their wellbeing. The several studies now underway – dry and academic as they may be – will hopefully bring some greater quantification and clarity to that aspect.

It does no good to have this discussion based on the worst police behavior; those officers would behave badly with or without tasers, and need to be dealt with severely regardless of what device they employ.

The question for me is wholly about whether or not to provide law enforcement with an intermediate means of dealing with resistance to lawful arrest or a threat to physical safety, something that will quickly and effectively end a dangerous encounter with the minimum of force and injury. To the extent that tasers – or anything else – can be employed to do that, I can be said to be “in favor.” Having experienced a nightstick blow to my head, tear gas in my eyes, nose and mouth and (volountarilly) a taser discharge, I would in future much prefer the taser. I can assure you there was nothing dry or academic about that set of personal data collection experiences.

If it should be shown that tasers are not better (fewer injuries, fewer deaths) than other less-lethal means, then I shall oppose them. I don’t think that making public policy decisions based on objective measures of safety and efficacy makes me an evil or uncaring person; your perception may vary.