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TASER: Separating Fact from Fantasy

The less-lethal device gives law enforcement a safer option that often blinds critics.

July 29, 2011  |  by

Critics of the use of TASER Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) by law enforcement try to discredit these proven less-lethal devices using four methods of flawed logic, Sid Heal says.

Heal, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department commander with extensive experiance evaluating less-lethal options, explained the four methods in his "Voodoo Science and Non-lethal Weapons" talk at the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) annual training conference in Long Beach, Calif., earlier this week.

Groups such as the ACLU, Amnesty International, media outlets and others typically attack TASERs with pseudo-symmetry, ignoring perspective, pseudo-science, and fallacies, Heal says.

What the heck is pseudo-symmetry, you ask? It's the practice, often found in media reports, of creating the belief that there are two or more viewpoints that are equally shared. Reporters told by editors to get "both sides" of the story would typically quote each perspective equally in a news report.

However, this approach doesn't typically address the effectiveness of the devices or whether they serve as a safer option to deadly force.

Critics also ignore perspective when attacking less-lethal options such as TASERs. Often, emotion-arousing nomenclature is used to sensationalize the issue without adding contextual comparison. TASERs are often not presented as a safer force option.

The use of "pseudo" science to attack TASER devices usually involves the quoting of research that has either been refuted or doesn't follow scientific protocols.

And lastly, fallacies that attack TASERs rely on conclusions based on an invalid inference.

According to Heal, there have been 351 deaths involving the use of TASERs and in all but four TASER has been ruled out as the primary cause of death. Of the 139 lawsuits filed against TASER, 127 have been dismissed or adjudicated in favor of the Scottsdale, Ariz., company, according to Heal.

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