We’d be remiss if we didn’t single out other great investigations into Taser, like this one from CBC News and Radio-Canada. The two news organizations teamed up to produce an amazing piece that aired Thursday night in Canada. The Arizona Republic, Taser International’s hometown paper, published a piece on the findings in Friday’s paper. Here’s their lede:
A new study has found that the type of Taser stun gun used most by police officers can fire more electricity than the company says is possible, which the study’s authors say raises the risk of cardiac arrest as much as 50 percent in some people.
The study, led by a Montreal biomedical engineer and a U.S. defense contractor at the request of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., also concluded that even stun guns firing at expected electrical levels carry some risk of inducing a heart attack, depending on the circumstances.
The researchers’ analysis contradicts Taser’s position that electric shocks from the weapons cannot kill. The study said the results raise questions about quality control in the stun gun’s manufacturing and decline in performance over time.
Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at the University of Montreal, designed the technical procedure for the CBC’s testing based on Taser International’s specifications.
Savard told CBC News it is scientifically significant that about nine percent of the Tasers fired in the tests delivered more current than they are supposed to do, especially since he believes no one is verifying the company’s claims.
“I think it’s important because Taser is not subjected to international standards,” Savard said. “When you use a cellphone, well, cellphones have to respect a set of standards … for the electric magnetic field that it emits. The Taser, well, nobody knows except Taser International.”
Savard said the cause of the increased current could be either due to faulty quality control during the stun guns’ manufacturing or electrical components that deteriorate with age.
The findings are troubling, since police officers are trained to aim a Taser at the chest, said Savard, who studies heart rhythms and how they are affected by electrical stimulation.
“When you combine an increased current intensity with a dart that falls right over the heart for somebody who has cardiovascular disease or other conditions such as using drugs, for example, it can all add up to a fatal issue,” Savard said.
The piece is the CBC’s latest in their ongoing investigation into Tasers, which really took off after the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who died after being shocked by police Tasers at Vancouver International Airport.
Canada’s press has been leading the way in Taser coverage over the past year as interest in the U.S. has waned. This piece is the latest example of that.