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Columns : Editorial

Disarming the Cops

Tasers save lives, so why are activists trying to take them away from you?

February 01, 2005  |  by - Also by this author

They’re at it again. The activists and advocates of the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International are trying to take away one of your most effective weapons: your Taser.

Since the introduction of the M26 Advanced Taser in 1999 and the subsequent development of the X26 Taser in 2003, thousands of law enforcement agencies in North America have issued the weapons to patrol officers. The result has been a significant reduction in injuries to both officers and subjects.

On page 42 of this issue, you can read about how the Cincinnati Police Department issued X26 Tasers to its officers and reaped huge benefits.

But before I reveal the results of that Taser deployment, let me remind you that the Cincinnati PD has been rocked by accusations that its officers use excessive force. In response, local government recently decided it was time to issue Tasers to Cincy’s finest.

OK. Now the results. In the first six months of Taser deployment, Cincy PD experienced a 31 percent decrease in complaints of excessive use of force. If that’s not impressive, then try these figures. Injuries to prisoners have dropped 30 percent. Most importantly, the total number of assaults on Cincy officers has plummeted 70 percent.

You would think that because there is demonstrable evidence that Tasers prevent injury to both officers and subjects that the ACLU and other activists who decry police use of force would be pro Taser. You’d be wrong.

The ACLU and Amnesty use specious arguments and the erroneous reports of some medical examiners who actually know very little about Taser technology to claim that more than 70 people have been killed by police Tasers. They are calling for a moratorium on Tasers.

And these activists will not listen to reason when it comes to Tasers. Even when presented with compelling arguments that the 70 people in question died from abusing drugs and that Tasers can’t possibly kill subjects, they insist that the jury is still out.

Scientists who are experts in the electric circuitry of the human heart will tell you that it is highly unlikely that the M26 or X26 can affect the heart. It just doesn’t have the current, the flow of energy, to kill.

Florida-based cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Aurelio Duran was recently asked by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to give an opinion on the potential cardiac effects of the Taser. His verdict? There basically aren’t any.

“The amount of energy delivered by this device is very small, 3.8 milliamps,” Duran testified. “This is the amount used by an internal pacemaker in which the electrodes actually touch the heart. This is a very, very small amount of electricity. If I take that same electrode and pull the wire back a little bit so that it doesn’t touch the heart, the pacemaker will not be able to pace the patient.”

What the good doctor is explaining is that our skin and the tissue around our hearts provide so much resistance that small electric charges such as a Taser stun cannot possibly affect the rhythm of our hearts. This same resistance is why external defibrillators that are designed to affect heart rhythms through the skin are, on their lowest setting, about 30 times more powerful than an X26 Taser.

Interestingly enough, a study recently published in a major peer-reviewed medical journal demonstrated that it takes 20 times the energy of a police Taser to trigger dangerous heart arrhythmias in pigs weighing as much as 70 to 250 pounds. Pigs are great stand-ins for humans in cardiac studies, so this is a very valid experiment.

Here are the facts about Tasers. They are extremely effective less-lethal weapons. They save lives of both cops and subjects. And the current they deliver can’t possibly kill a human being of at least 70 pounds.

Oh, there’s another truth to state before I go: Civil libertarians won’t be happy until you’re armed with Nerf balls.

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