How Many Lives Have Been Saved from Death or Serious Injury by TASER?

Bias in So Called TASER Deaths?

What does one do with more TASER Kills, TASER Death Headline Fails?  Perhaps these errors could serve as a classic case study in bias & speculation. It might provide insight on how perceptions become reality.

To begin, the tragic death of a Brazilian named Roberto Laudisio Curti in Australia story  continues its challenge with incorrect headlines.  For example, read the original headline:  21-Year-Old Brazilian Tasered To Death By Australian Police.”  That’s incorrect, yes?  Nope.  The autopsy results & cause of death have not been concluded.  Headlines are meant to entice readers, so clearly this article won’t make the same mistake?  Nope.  The article states in an opening lead, “That’s right: Laudisio Curti was tasered to death.”  The story made no bones about it and firmly convinced readers that a cause of death is known.  Yet, this is not true & thus the news organization had to make correct these libelous statements on April 12.

The damage was done and if you had read the original article, you might have concluded that the TASER ECD was the cause of death.  You would most likely then form an opinion about this issue.  Your perceptions – not based on fact or science – then become your reality. 

Now imagine an opinion poll at the end of that original story that asks, “Should the New South Wales Police be held accountable for this death?” When you read the uncorrected version, do you think that those incorrect words had any influence on the poll?  It did.

Even in today’s Daily Telegraph, the media incorrectly states, “Officers positioned a mannequin of Mr Curti’s body… where the fatal stun gun shot was fired.”  The fatal stun gun shot?  So much for the cause of death not determined yet.  That came, “Police in Taser death re-enactment after Brazilian man Roberto Laudisio Curti died in Sydney’s CBD.” Note the  “TASER death” use in the headline & other hyperlinked stories on that samepage.  Interestingly, there’s also no mention of the pepper spray use.

Pepper Spray? Do a Google search with these key words & you get a lot of results in 26 days since Mr. Curti’s March 18 death:

• Curti + TASER + Killed: 416,000 results

In 386 days since the death of Dominic Chiodo on March 18, 2012, there have been very few stories relative to Mr. Curti.  Last week, this story, Coroners Court probes death of a man after he was sprayed with capsicum by police, provoked some research on comparing TASER vs pepper spray bias.  Note the results:

• Dominic Chiodo + Capsicum + Killed: 515 results  (using pepper spray” vs. “capsicum” nets even less results: 246 results)

Why compare this to Dominic Chiodo? 

There are many similarities but what’s interesting is the bias when a death occurs involving a TASER ECD.  There is very little outcry when someone dies in custody when other products are used.  In fact, how many of you knew that police said they used pepper spray to try to subdue Mr. Curti?  Why aren’t the headlines “Pepper Spray Killed?” 

The interesting aspect to this comparison of these two similar situations is in the numbers:

“Curti” + “pepper spray” + “killed” gets 3,360 results vs 416,000 replacing “pepper spray” with “TASER.” 

So how did a story involving both pepper spray & TASER ECDs fail to mention the pepper spray in 99.9 percent of the stories?  How does the media continue to state TASER Kills when causes of death aren’t known?

This is certainly a case that makes you go, “Hmmmm.”

TASER and Excessive Force

Let’s review excessive force for a moment. Clearly, this is the bane of existence of any community as there are no winners when this occurs. Many times it happens when there is no evidence available to back up an law enforcement officer when it becomes a “she said/he said case. An article from the Denver Post entitled “Denver police paid $1.34 million in 2011 to settle excessive-force lawsuits,” showed just how costly this is for cities.

Note the average dollar pay out per officer per year to settle use of force cases:

• Denver – $697 per year per officer
• Chicago – $2,930 per year per officer
• Los Angeles – $2,200 per year per officer
• Philadelphia – $1,360 per year per officer

If any of you reading this aren’t saying, “HOLY SMOKES!” — well you should be as this is a tremendous waste and cost to taxpayers.

Perhaps, it’s important to discuss the future of policing technologies. We know statistically that use of TASER ECDs reduces injuries to officers AND suspects (US DOJ Report) so we know TASER ECDs can make a difference but they have to be in the hands of all patrol officers for maximum effectiveness for this reduction. Most suspects won’t wait for a supervisor to show up (just ask a local cop.)

But there can me more that can be done to reduce these claims. For one, better policies and enhanced scenario-based training — not just for TASER ECD usage but for all reponses to resistance.   Agencies can also make sure they have TASER CAM recorders that record the use of any TASER ECD deployment.

Burnsville PD with AXON On-Officer Camera

Finally, let’s discuss the one other technique that can help — on-officer videos that record from the officer’s point of view like our TASER AXON on-office camera. Before you say this is a TASER sales pitch take a moment to see what the City of Burnsville, MN did with their AXON cameras at Burnsville Police Department. Want proof? Watch this progressive law enforcement ageny’s video they put on YouTube — the proof is in the pudding:

It’s time that taxpayers demand to get more return on their investments for safer communities at a lower cost. You can be sure that TASER is doing all it can to make that our mission.

If you don’t think video is the solution then perhaps you should know that an International Association of Police Chief’s survey has statistical data that indicates that 96.2 percent of the time, the recording of the event exonerated the officer of the allegation or complaint.   That alone is worth the costs and more than provides a return on investment.

TASER Stats & Usage: How Many TASER ECDs Have Been Sold and How Often Are They Used?

These are the most common statistics requested by press & our clients:

  • As of June 30, 2011, TASER International has sold approximately 559,000 TASER® brand electronic control devices (ECDs) worldwide to more than 16,300 law enforcement & military agencies.
  •  More than 7,000 of these agencies deploy TASER ECDs specifically to all members of their patrol officers.
  • TASER devices are sold to in 107 countries.
  • In addition, approximately 239,000 TASER ECDs have been sold to the general public since 1994 (we founded our company selling to consumers).
  • Field Use/Suspect Applications:  1,406,243 ± 2%
    Training/Voluntary Applications: 1,293,942 ± 7%
    Total TASER ECD Applications: 2.69 million+ (as of August 31, 2011)
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