Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One Good Call, One Bad Argument

One Canadian police department has decided to go with radar guns rather than conducted energy weapons (tasers). That's the good call.

Another police department, miffed at having to wait a month to order new tasers, is arguing for their necessity using an example of taser failure and a questionable study:

[Sherriff] Lathim said he used to have reservations about Tasers because of controversy over their safety record. But now he's convinced that deaths and serious injuries involving them happen because of other medical conditions the person who was stunned had.

He cited a study published this month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine that found 99.75 percent of the suspects shocked by six law enforcement agencies over a three-year period received mild injuries like scrapes and bruises or no injuries at all.

Agencies that lack Tasers often are forced to use weapons with graver consequences, Lathim said. As an example, he referred to the Nov. 3 incident at Tri-Cities Airport when police said Michael Rayfield Hodges busted through a window in the boarding area and got onto the tarmac where a Horizon Air flight was preparing to leave.

A Franklin County sheriff's deputy confronted Hodges, and an airport police officer Tased him, Lathim said. The Taser didn't stop the man because apparently only one of two prongs hit him, Lathim said.

"Had the airplane not gotten the ramp up, (the deputy) would've had to use deadly force if (Hodges) would've gotten on that plane," Lathim said.

A Taser in the hands of the deputy would've provided a safer option for stopping him, Lathim said.

Commissioners Bob Koch and Brad Peck agreed the sheriff's office needs the Tasers that Lathim requested. But since the request wasn't included in the 2009 budget, they said it would be better to wait at least a month before buying the devices.

That's the bad argument. Here's a bit more on the study cited above as well as some information about another study that found increased gun use and in-custody deaths in the first year that police departments utilize tasers.