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Aug-04-2009 04:45printcommentsVideo

Taser Use in the U.S. is a Serious Problem

Just because we have the guts to talk about it.

Salem-News.com
Scenes from various YouTube video clips of police using Tasers on citizens.

(SALEM, Ore.) - You know, Sigmund Freud would have had a time with the psychology behind police Taser abuse. My story Monday on the new Taser gun that shoots and tortures up to three people at once, did not go over well with the Taser company in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Salem-News.com had a video with this story, our account was closed by YouTube because we carry items like this that shine a bad light on police practices. We will try to replace soon.)

Skateboarding on a sidewalk, being disrespectful, refusing to sign a speeding ticket; these are the reasons some cops use Tasers on people.

I think Steve Tuttle, Taser's company spokesman, feels the heat generating from American awareness. It isn't a level you can simply turn down. Taser use is ridiculous in this country and the video clips I assembled to accompany this article are a hard realistic look at what this device really represents to Americans.

Tuttle wrote to me Monday, objecting to several points in the article. Salem Police also contacted me over referencing a recent arrest-based death that involved a Taser. I corrected the lead to that video link.

I hope every politician reading this article and every taxpayer for that matter, can try to imagine their father, mother, daughter or grandparent being subjected to this level of outright no-holds-barred torture.

There actually aren't words to describe how badly this device is eroding support of law enforcement in the United States. We're the YouTube generation and the controlled atmosphere of the regular media channels is slowly slipping away.

It is being replaced by new media's braver reporters who won't pander or mince words when reporting about a serious problem. In fact I think Internet media is the only hope for discouraging and eventually banning this over the top method of inflicting pain on human beings.

The Taser started out as "an alternative to lethal force". It is important to remember that most police are trained to shoot to kill. In my opinion that is bad business, and one of the few places I have ever heard of that actually trains officers to not always shoot to kill, is right here in Salem, Oregon. The pattern carries across to all of the different local police agencies. They bring in a lot of suspects without killing them.

The dangerous situation is what the Taser was designed for, but as the video shows, they are frequently abused by police. I don't know how or why anyone ever fooled themselves into thinking that this constitutes anything less than excessive force.

Excessive force

It took about 45 minutes to download all of the video clips here and another twenty minutes to edit them into place. Imagine how grisly and revolting it would be if I put a couple of hours into it.

You just don't have to look very hard these days to see a clip of police abusing people with these highly controversial devices.

Tuttle says I was wrong to connect the Taser to 351 deaths so far in the United States, as cited by Amnesty International.

"It should also be noted that by its own admission, Amnesty International has conducted no medical studies and has done no direct evaluation of TASER ECDs. They simply clip news story headlines from the media and look at other open source materials then published their so called 'finding,'" Tuttle said.

From the Amnesty International report, Tasers – potentially lethal and easy to abuse from December 16, 2008, they cite a number of chilling cases that require no medical degree to appreciate.

Among those findings:

"Many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks – far more than the five-second 'standard' cycle – or by more than one officer at a time. Some people were even shocked for failing to comply with police commands after they had been incapacitated by a first shock."

"In at least six of the cases where people died, Tasers were used on individuals suffering from medical conditions such as seizures – including a doctor who had crashed his car when he suffered an epileptic seizure. He died after being repeatedly shocked at the side of the highway when, dazed and confused, he failed to comply with an officer's commands."

"Police officers also used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia."

"In March 2008, an 11-year-old girl with a learning disability was shocked with a Taser after she punched a police officer in the face. The officer had been called to the school in Orange County, Florida, after the child had become disturbed, pushing desks and chairs and spitting at staff."

These are just a sample of the horror stories that abound in American communities over police Taser abuse.

In addressing the deaths that Amnesty International cites, Tuttle said, “Amnesty International’s review is not a scientific study, nor is the organization in a position to reach conclusions regarding the role of the Taser in each case. It can be difficult to determine through autopsy alone whether Taser shocks caused or contributed to a fatal arrhythmia as there are often no direct pathological signs.”

I wrote, “Amnesty International reports that most people who have been killed by Tasers were not carrying weapons. That is a tragedy.”

Tuttle reacted by saying, "Actually, the vast majority of the suspects involved in ANY incident involving the use of a TASER device are unarmed as the TASER is NOT a replacement for deadly force. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, period. Case law backs this up time and time again."

He continued, "A closer look at the scientific and medical evidence associated with the arrest-related deaths cited by Amnesty International indicates that in only less than 50 incidents a TASER device has been listed by a medical examiner or coroner as a contributing factor or more likely couldn’t be ruled out in an arrest related death and in only a couple disputed cases has a TASER device been listed as the 'cause' of death. In many of these cases, numerous causes, drug overdoses, pre-existing medical conditions, blunt trauma and other factors have also been listed. Amnesty does not dispute these facts; they just conveniently don’t include them in all statements."

The company Tuttle works for has changed the face of police in this country. They were allowed to market this device right under our very noses, and now police use it almost casually, all based on some crazy premise that they aren't completely torturing people when they press the trigger.

Finding guilt and punishing people for their crime is the job of the courts and prosecutors and judges, not law enforcement. They got by without these things for a long time, and something tells me the police did just fine without them.

If you listen to Tuttle, getting zapped with one of these things is about the same as being tagged with pepper spray. Funny, I was gassed in the Marine Corps and between that and pepper spray, I've never heard of anyone dying. Also, somehow everyone ignores the fact that when people are Tased, they lose all control of their muscles. Sometimes they crap their pants, sometimes they strike their heads and receive terrible injuries. There is no dignity in this product, none at all, yet all in the name of police safety, according to Tuttle.

"The TASER is used at the same level as pepper spray at 85 percent of the nation’s 14,500 agencies deploying TASER devices. TASER devices have been used more than 800,000 times against suspects. They are used more than fists, punches, tackles, batons and chemical sprays due to their effectiveness, accountability, and as a safer alternative for a response to resistance for both officers and suspects than the aforementioned tools and techniques."

And now Taser offers its new three-shot model; triple the effectiveness to inflict indignant torture on people, triple the fun for sadistic cops who are a disgrace to their uniforms. That counts for every badge wearing officer or deputy out there who uses this device casually, on frail people, or at any time they could otherwise avoid it. They are the ones blowing this fecal matter into the fan, and there is no going back.

Tuttle's message to the world is that 351 times, people who were violently shocked by skin piercing Taser darts with 50 thousand of volts of electricity, for some other reason... dropped dead.

From the company Website, "TASER® Weapons fire 50000 volts and drop an assailant from up to 15 feet away."

If we don't restrain police from taking possession of increasingly dangerous weapons to use on Americans, we will all in the end be very sorry. Take that one to the bank.

Tuttle and his team of Taser salesmen have it all figured out, there is no question about it. They have the muscle of law enforcement and the money from your taxpayer pocket. The only way to stop it is for the government agencies that fund police to put pressure on these agencies. I don't think they would easily give them up. In a way it would be like taking the latest tool away from a mechanic, or depriving a firefighter of the latest lifesaving equipment, at least in their eyes.

So the second thought is that local citizen review boards should investigate Taser deployments just like when they shoot their firearms in the line of duty. This would at least add some respect to the average citizen.

It would help a great deal if cops just limited the use of Tasers to unavoidable circumstances. That would also help a great deal at restoring some level of faith. Most cops do a good job and their good reputations are being tarnished by this type of publicity. Yet if we ignore the problem it will never go away.

I swear that when I see the video of the police in Iran moving against the people demonstrating for peace under Mousavi, and then look at the cops in this video, I have a hard time not seeing a real correlation.

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

This is the report from the previous day: Police in U.S. Will Soon Have Multi Shot Taser Guns - Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com

_________________________________________________________

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com

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Tasered Tourist December 27, 2009 1:46 am (Pacific time)

As a tourist and Oregon Teacher I was tasered four times by a Seward, Alaska City Police Officer while laying on my back in an ER hospital bed. I had refused medication and didn't cooperate when nursing staff tried to restrain me without any explanation at the Providence Seward Medical and Care Center in Seward, Alaska. As a single parent of a boy with cerebral palsy, I can state that we were both treated with a total lack of dignity, compassion, and respect by the Providence medical staff. I asked that my son be removed from my bed side as the officer pointed the taser at me. I feel my patient rights were violated.


Ted October 24, 2009 2:49 pm (Pacific time)

I totally agree, I am all for law enforcement however, a lot of cops nowdays abuse the power that has been given to them, they walk around with a chip on their shoulder and look down their noses at any non cop, gone are the days when you could walk up to a cop and have a friendly conversation.


george pitts August 22, 2009 12:36 pm (Pacific time)

I am thankful for this chance to comment on this subject. I agree this is a horrible problem, but I strongly disagree with what the problem is. The problem isn;t the tasers or any tool law enforcement officers have to do their job. They should have every tool they may need to do teir job, for they have a very important job to do. The problem that I see is twofold. Number one: they are not doing their job because mostly the wrong people are being hired for the job. Anyone, whose duty it is to keep the peace, that believes himself justified in tasering a fragile senior woman for refusing to sign a speeding ticket, and just to remind everyone, speeding is an infraction not a crime, this person has no business being involved in any way such or matter, in keeping the peace. That person is a sick twisted person who cannot even pronounce the word peace. Police nowdays have no interest in keeping the peace. They are revenue makers. If things were too peaceful they would not have an excuse for a bigger budget next year, and that is their main objective. Second problem are the high and mighty mucky mucks who look at these videos and see people resisting police officer and see nothing wrong. Police work for us and are paid by us and unless a person has committed a crime and is being arrested for it, a citizen of a free country, like the USA is under no obligation to follow unreasonable orders by a peace officer and a real peace officer wouldn't put a law abiding citizen in that position. Anyone watching these videos and not seeing a clear abuse of power, I believe, can only do so because they have already judged the victims as criminals and deserve such treatment. A person pulled over for going five mph over the speed limit should not be thrown in the same basket as an axe murderer or a child molester. Another problem,atleast in Oregon is we have no real seperation of powers within our police force anymore. It use to be that the State Police, the County Police, and the City Police were complete seperate units, and competed for juristiction. This gave us a sort of checks and balance system to keep each agency more honest. Since 1997, though, a cop in this state is just a cop, there is no such thing as juristiction anymore. Interagency cooperation is such that the only difference between agencies is who signs their paychecks. With really only one huge police agency, who is supposed to protect us when it goes rouge. Nobody. thanks


Daniel August 9, 2009 7:38 pm (Pacific time)

Tim after watching the vids it is obvious most of these cops are totally out of shape and use the taser because they move as slow as robby the robot . Get these guys on a fitness program so the public receives proper protection . Most of these obese bubbas would be totally worthless against real violent criminals . Do the police no longer have fitness standards !


Mike August 9, 2009 5:25 pm (Pacific time)

Tasers have actually reduced injuries during arrests. I don't believe that this was ever a replacement or an alternative for deadly force. In certain instances I am sure that it could be used in place of deadly force, but that would be on a case by case situation. I have been a police officer for 16 years and have not been issued a Taser. I can do my job without it, however, my choices for someone that is not responding to verbal commands during an arrest situation goes to physical force pretty quickly. During any fight with an offender I believe (and should) that this will be a fight for my life. If this person escalates the fight with a deadly weapon (knife, baseball bat, etc.) my choices become even more limited. I must now make a decision to either try to fight this person who has a deadly weapon with a baton, physical force, pepper spray, or respond with deadly force. If I opt not to use deadly force, I believe that I am cheating my own family. If I choose deadly force, that is exactly what it will be. I will shoot that person until the threat is gone.

It's really easy to show 1-2 seconds prior to a taser deployment and judge the actions of another. Until you have walked a mile in those shoes, I can not respect your opinion.

Tim King: Well the feeling is mutual, nobody made you choose law enforcement for a career.  You now want to shoot people dead if given a chance.  The good thing about cops in my communtiy is that they don't all see it like you, I am glad for that.  I have seen the worst side of this BS; cops in Vegas gunned down a black teenager who ran away from them.  The officers said had a gun and was shooting at them as they took him out.  My TV station's helicopter captured an entirely different story, the kid was shot in the back, just like that.  As expected, a "new" press release came out and suddenly the police facts were morphed into something totally different.  I have been there for the story where a guy was gunned down by the cops after they hassled him while he walked down the street with a basketball.  The cops pulled over, told him to show ID, and then shot him dead because they believed he was "going for a gun" when all he was doing was getting his wallet as expected.  So I have seen enough of this crap over the years that I call foul on the whole damned thing.  It sucks when cops abuse the law, it is a sham through and through.  Your ranks sport lots and lots of daily criminals who abuse anyone that questions their authority.  I think a new day is here and you guys are going to get away with far less.  More power to cops with brains and hearts.    


Amy August 7, 2009 9:53 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you Joe. Seems like a lot of "sheep" have been commenting on this article. People are people, cop or not. If it wasn't a tazer that was used, it would have been something else. The real issue is the person behind the taser, not the taser itself. Speaking as a single female, I feel safer keeping mine in my purse. Luckily, I haven't ever had to use it. Note to public: When dealing with cops, STFU and listen.


Joe August 6, 2009 9:55 am (Pacific time)

Ok. After reading all this I have to put in my two cents. The general statements of "All cops are...." or "All citizens are...." are hopelessly broad and have no factual support. Tasers are a tool, just like a billy club, a firearm, a fist or words. Most police officers use them appropriately every day, but that never makes the news. Most citizens are appropriately law abiding and appropriately compliant (not sheep) most of the time, and that never makes the news. The challenge here is to not buy into any of the conspiracy theories, and not to jump to conclusions from two seconds of video tape, and not to assume that just because you watch one cop (or citizen) do something wrong, that everyone else is doing the exact same thing on a daily basis. The sky is not falling people. The police are trying to find new tools to deal with an increasing armed and violent society, while still treating them with the respect that they deserve. Deal with each incident individually, and make sure you have all the facts before you come to your conclusion.


Osotan; August 6, 2009 4:59 am (Pacific time)

yes,"V" for vendetta is quite thought provoking. Here they use they use hardwood "lahtays" like in India, similar to a pool cue, and automatic weapons in the hinterlands or large poulation centers during "political upheaval". The people are sufficiently afraid of the police and military presence is throughout the country. By the way,a slight digression,but according to the net,America has military bases in 130 countries throughout the world. I also read ther are only 190 countries on the planet.I think this story about tasers is part of a bigger plan now being implemented before our eyes. Ten four.


Mary August 6, 2009 1:23 am (Pacific time)

This is the most important part of the story: "If we don't restrain police from taking possession of increasingly dangerous weapons to use on Americans, we will all in the end be very sorry. Take that one to the bank." Unfortunately I fear it's far far too late.


mike_lee August 5, 2009 6:06 pm (Pacific time)

Brillant ballsy report, expect opposition but please keep it up as long as possible, maybe mirror it if you can. The police have no mandate to punish. It erodes public support but it also erodes the personal pride and sense of accomplishment a cop should feel.


Mark Messmer August 5, 2009 6:06 pm (Pacific time)

After watching these clips again and again, it is impossible to tell what is really going on, we see only the second or two before the taseing. Any judgement on weather it is appropriate or not can only be based on prejudicial predispositions. You nor I have no idea what has happed prior to the rolling of the film.


Mike H August 5, 2009 9:33 am (Pacific time)

I am amazed we haven't heard of any lawsuits being filed because of these yet. I believe in controlling the uncontrollable, but not abusing power, which most of these clips show. The one where the elderly woman gets tazered is obviously just not right.


Susan Tackitt August 5, 2009 3:13 am (Pacific time)

The world needs more Tim Kings. I know several Chicago cops I actually trust and Ive talked to them about tazers. They seem to think they are harmless because they actually taze each other. They difference they know its coming but the not so on tazer victoms. When a cop aims one at you it looks like a real gun and when they pull the trigger you think they just killed you. I know because it happend to me. After sorting the event out all who were involved in the post tazing came to the conclusion I was misunderstood. The itchy finger cop is now a flat foot at the local ball park and I have some dignity back for it. I didnt press charges because who wants relive that hornets nest. Thank you Tim King for posting this article although I didnt watch the videos because ive seen enough ugly that no lip stick can make pretty. Thanks Tim King for Serving Our Country in service and as a reporter with grit.


Janie August 5, 2009 12:33 am (Pacific time)

Mark, you look at the clips and see “resisting,” whereas most people look at them and see “already subdued but tortured anyway.” You must think that unless a person is completely “obedient” to cops he is resisting. You may have a slave gene but I don’t. However, your point is well taken: be “submissive” and slavishly “obedient” to your masters like a good subject or you get what you deserve. You did make one good point, albeit unintentionally: you compared the police to the military and that’s a good comparison. The cops have declared war on Americans and have become an army of occupation. They are not armed for keeping the peace; they are armed for war. They have become completely lawless, and look at everyone else with utter contempt. Sickening. You asked “Would you be willing to wade in night after night and deal with the likes of folks these days?” Okay, these “folks” are your fellowmen, and not just that, they are your equals and don’t deserve to be tortured by the State for not being “submissive” enough.


Matt August 4, 2009 10:58 pm (Pacific time)

while I've never been tazed I've had good and bad experiences with interactions with Police. The Bad out weighed the good and I fear being around police because they are always right, they can do what ever they want with no reprecusssions.


Anonymous August 4, 2009 10:30 pm (Pacific time)

the guy at the end musta deserved it since the crowd cheers and a guy says "good shot" (minute 2:06)


Janie August 4, 2009 10:04 pm (Pacific time)

And ps, don’t EVER call the police for help or anything else. If you do, something WILL happen.


Janie August 4, 2009 9:55 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Tuttle roams the earth like the predator he is, seeking out the faintest whiff of criticism of his torture toy. There’s one place you won’t find him, though and that’s in Washington, D.C. The fedgov (along with localgov) can’t even pretend to care. What we are seeing now is what has been happening all along in jails and prisons. Google “shock value progressive” and read the 1997 article about the prevalence of jail torture, or “the torture state’s domestic face” for an article about restraint chair torture by Will Grigg. Keep up the good work.


Mark Messmer August 4, 2009 6:28 pm (Pacific time)

Hi Tim, I have enjoyed many of your article but think you are way off on this one. Many of the clips that I see here show people resisting officers. I think that in the past, people who acted this way were just beaten with truncheons. Why would you expect a cop to lose teeth or perhaps worse cause a serious head injury on say a drunk or in some other way impaired individual? I know that you are a former marine, would you be willing to wade in night after night and deal with the likes of folks these days? I think not. Many people are not like you or I, in other words reasonable people. In many ways a taseing by a cop works far better than the old fashion way of just beating the hell out of them, to get them to comply. Perhaps discharge of a taser should require the same sort of scrutiny as discharge of a firearm. But to equate a single taseing with torture dose little but cloud the debate. Most police departments require cops to be tased before they can use one.


Roy August 4, 2009 5:03 pm (Pacific time)

"There actually aren't words to describe how badly this device is eroding support of law enforcement in the United States." Well said, I couldn't agree more. The last incident on the video was fitting to end with. Soon it won't just be one man standing. On a lighter note, but along the same lines... V for Vendetta's a movie worth the watch. In reference to pregnant women, here's a recent one. http://www.inquisitr.com/31910/police-taser-pregnant-mother-in-the-back-at-her-kids-baptism/


Freedom Fighter August 4, 2009 4:31 pm (Pacific time)

This will only get worse as all or liberty's are being taken away. I pray we never see Marshall law come to our beautiful country.


Henry Ruark August 4, 2009 1:13 pm (Pacific time)

To all: From some ongoing incidents, both gun- and Taser-related, encountered in more than forty working years as reporter at many levels, in both small and large cities, and even once on a college campus,it is my pleasure to confirm and congratulate Editor Tim on this open, honest, and democratic report. "That's the way it is" fits the story precisely, and the wails and whines from the maker/marketer profiting from profoundly painful and often fruitless application of this terrifying weapon is worth just what it earns here: Contempt for and disbelief of statements obscuring the obvious dollar-driven motives for production and pressure to use the three-times more dangerous version. We who can read,understand and undertake effective public opinion action on this growing issue owe S-N/Editor Tim still another very large bundle of kudos for the courage and dedication displayed here every day. What makes it that much more obvious and more valuable is the striking lack of anything even remotely parallel in the rest of Oregon's too-placid midstream media.


Ron Derby August 4, 2009 8:42 am (Pacific time)

You sir are just another bleeding heart liberal that never met a criminal that couldn't be convinced to be a good citizen if only authorities would take the time. Tasers provide control of the uncontrolable and liberal weenies just hate that.

Editor: Are you as little and insignificant as you let on?  "Liberal" people, that is who you think Tasers are for?  You are a serious joke and I thought I's put your pathetic little comment here for people to get a laugh.  Have you always enjoyed devices that torture my fellow American citizens?  You sound like a fascist Nazi pig.


John August 4, 2009 8:12 am (Pacific time)

Maybe we should use Taser realated like alcohol related, the powers that be would listen. Then pass laws to eliminate the TASER usage.

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