Saturday, February 2, 2008

Don’t Tase Me, Bro!

The latest take-down weapon in a sea of bad behavior: the TASER.

I’m setting aside forensic science today because ever since I saw the University of Florida campus police struggle with Andrew Meyer, I’ve wanted to know about Tasers. Meyer was actually made famous by a YouTube video when his belligerent behavior directed at Senator John Kerry—who had come to speak at the school—got him Tased. And, of course, tased became a verb and money was made on t-shirts and baby bibs with the sad refrain, “Don’t Tase me, bro!”

If you watch the video and listen to the screams, you will be affected. But, how? Do you think, like the ACLU and Amnesty International, that you should side with Meyer, or do you think that police are justified in Taser use?

Now I don’t have 3 or 4-thousand words to debate the subject here, but I will tell you very briefly some of what I found out. Also, there will be a series of links at the end of this article so you can go check it out for yourself; I’ve just saved you some homework.


• TASER stands for Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle, from the Tom Swift series of children's novels written (circa 20th c.); I guess Tom Swift had an electric rifle.
• Tasers, a brand name, are made by an Arizona-based company and they are referred to in the industry as a CED—conductive energy device.
• The latest figure I could find suggests that 11,000 law enforcement, correctional and military organizations, in 44 countries, use its devices

The best reason for using this weapon, and police have been looking for one for centuries, is that criminals return fire. The second best reason is a more modern concept and is that, violent criminals are often hopped up on drugs or stimulants. The usual methodology was to beat, spray, or twist the perpetrator into submission using pepper spray, clubbing, or joint distortion. But since many illegal drugs are painkillers, those former engines of despair don’t always work.

How does a Taser work?

I’m going to quote an article written by Mark W. Kroll, a biomedical engineer because he’s the expert and why rephrase it?

“When you pull the trigger of a Taser gun, a blast of compressed nitrogen launches its two barbed darts at 55 meters per second, less than a fifth the speed of a bullet from a typical pistol. Each projectile, which weighs 1.6 grams, has a 9-millimeter-long tip to penetrate clothing and the insulating outer layer of skin. Two whisper-thin wires trail behind for up to 9 meters, forming an electrical connection to the gun.”

The result is an instant loss of the attackers neuromuscular control and any ability to perform coordinated action or remove the probes. In other words, mine, “It shocks the bejeezus out of him,” Now if you want the full spectrum of biomedical details, I highly recommend the aforementioned link.

Police restraint
I found a statistic that claims about 670 people die each year under incidents of arrest and restraint. Police are obviously convinced that Tasers will make the target feel dazed but will not affect death. (Remember this is to prevent shooting the suspect.) So, I asked my friend, John Brooks, a crime scene investigator with the Fayetteville Police Department, if he had experience with the Taser. John responded that he’d never used one on anybody but he had been tased before and it was indescribable pain but he also said, “when it’s over, it’s over.”

That’s good enough for me.

*Note: I just heard from Mark W. Kroll, PhD; see the specifics—

Here is the link for the 700 arrest-related deaths per year.

Mark W. Kroll, PhD, FACC, FHRS
Mark Kroll & Associates, LLC
Box 23, Crystal Bay, MN 55323
Adj. Full Prof. Biomedical Engineering
California Polytechnic University
Adj. Full Prof. Biomedical Engineering
University of Minnesota
* * *

Thank you to Sandra Upson with IEEE Spectrum Magazine. (selling smaller versions for wider use—metallic pink, electric blue, and titanium silver)


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Stun Guns said...

I really do think that the police get alittle too carried with their authority with the taser guns.

SIFS INDIA said...

Forensic Ballistics is an interesting topic..