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Stun Gun Fallacy - How the Lack of Taser Regulation Endangers Lives, ACLU CA, 2005

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STUN GUN
FA L L A C Y :
HOW THE LACK
OF TASE R REGULATION
ENDANGERS LIVES

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
TASER STUDY

SEPTEMBER 2005

Table of Contents
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
PART I. Evolution of the Taser, and its Toll on Human Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Deaths Increasing
Playing “Russian Roulette” with the Heart
A Dearth of Independent Studies
Law Enforcement Has Questions Too

PART II. Taser International Overhypes Stun Gun. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Misleading Marketing Terminology
Exaggerates Safety and Downplays Risks
Questionable Marketing and Compensation Practices

PART III. Training Materials Reflect The Hype . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Conflicting Warnings in the Training Materials
Multiple Shocks
Shocked When on Drugs or Alcohol
Misrepresenting Medical Studies

PART IV. Standards of Taser Use or Lack Thereof. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Allowing for Multiple Shocks
Civil Disobedience
Vulnerable Targets (Pregnant, Juveniles, Elderly)
Handcuffed or Unconscious

PART V. Recommendations for Safer Police Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
State Legislation
Local Law Enforcement and Local Government

CONCLUSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
APPENDIX A. Scope and Methodology of the Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
APPENDIX B. Best Practices Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
APPENDIX C. Departments Surveyed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
APPENDIX D. Data on Local Taser Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
ENDNOTES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Author: Mark Schlosberg
Researchers: Jessica Levin, Shyla Batliwalla, and Julia Daniels
Design: Gigi Pandian
Published by the ACLU of Northern California, September 2005

STUN GUN FALLACY:

How the Lack of Taser
Regulation Endangers Lives
Executive Summary
P

olice use of Taser stun guns to subdue suspects in California and around the nation has increased dramatically
in recent years. Billed by their manufacturer, Taser International, as a non-lethal alternative to deadly force, Tasers have
been purchased and deployed by a growing number of law
enforcement agencies. However, while the Taser is less deadly
than a traditional firearm, it is hardly the non-lethal weapon
its manufacturer promotes under the slogan “Saving Lives Every Day.”1
Between 1999 and September 2004, 71 people in the
United States and Canada died in incidents that involved the
police use of Tasers. In the last year, that number has more
than doubled to at least 148, with 15 post-Taser fatalities in
northern and central California,2 including one case where a
21-year-old man was jolted 17 times within three minutes before he died.
Despite the high fatality rate involved with stun gun use,
officials at Taser International have yet to concede that their
product has led to a single identifiable death and, despite concerns raised by medical experts, the company continues to
downplay safety concerns.
Taser’s controversial marketing practices have not gone unnoticed. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company’s promotion
practices and safety claims are being examined by both the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Arizona
Attorney General.
Several law enforcement agencies have also begun to question Taser’s safety claims and the efficacy of the weaponry. Earlier this year, two major Department of Homeland Security
law enforcement divisions announced that they were not purchasing Tasers because of safety concerns. “There are enough
question marks about the safety of this device. The safety of
our officers and the public is always a concern. It was determined that the device just didn’t fit,” said Barry Morrissey,
spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection.3
Moreover, in April 2005, the International Association of
Stun Gun Fallacy

Chiefs of Police (“IACP”) issued a report recommending that
local law enforcement reassess its Taser training and establish policies. The IACP particularly noted the lack of safety
studies, concluding that “independent data does not yet exist
concerning in-custody deaths, the safety of EMDT [ElectroMuscular Disruption Technology] when applied to drug or
alcohol-compromised individuals, or other critical issues.”4
In light of these concerns and the rising death toll associated
with Taser use, the ACLU of Northern California (“ACLUNC”) has conducted a thorough survey of 79 law enforcement
agencies throughout northern and central California to determine how Tasers are being used. A close review of thousands
of pages of policy and training materials used by departments
reveals that, despite the growing number of deaths, increasing
concern from medical and other experts about Taser safety,
and extensive media coverage of problems associated with
Taser use, the weapon remains largely unregulated.
Of the 79 departments surveyed, 56 have added Tasers to
their weapons arsenals. Of those, 54 provided their Taser-use
policies and/or training materials to the ACLU-NC, which
concluded the following:
n

n

n

Only four departments regulate the number of times an officer may use a Taser on an individual. The others place no
restriction on the number of times a suspect can be shot.
This is particularly troubling considering that several of the
targets in California died after being jolted multiple times.
Only four departments created any of their own training
materials for their officers. The rest relied exclusively on
materials produced by Taser International.
The training materials produced by Taser International
and relied on by local law enforcement grossly exaggerate
the safety of Tasers, downplay their risks, and misrepresent
medical studies on their effects. Most were published in
2003 and 2004 and are outdated considering the sobering
facts that have come to light in the past year.
1

There are a couple of explanations for these results. Certainly,
the failure of many in law enforcement to ask tough questions
early on and take a skeptical approach to Taser International's
representations provide a partial explanation for the lack of
regulation. But Taser International is also largely responsible
for the uninformed use of Tasers because its questionable marketing practices and exaggerated safety claims provide the basis for local police policy.
Given the increasing number of deaths associated with Taser
use, the lack of independent studies on several critical safety
issues, and the lack of policy governing the use of the weapon,
the California Legislature and local law enforcement should
act quickly to impose regulations on Taser use. The ACLU
of Northern California therefore recommends several policy
reforms including the following:
n

Pass Legislation. The California Legislature should pass a
law that allows Tasers to be used solely as an alternative to
deadly force. The British Government currently employs
such restrictions. Tasers are certainly a safer alternative to
firearms, but until more independent safety studies are
completed, law enforcement agencies should be restricted
from using Tasers in non-life-threatening situations.

2

n

n

Adopt Stricter Policies. Local government and local law
enforcement should each independently adopt Taser policies. If local law enforcement will not restrict its Taser use
to life-threatening situations, agencies should, at a bare
minimum, adopt policies to minimize the risk of death
such as prohibiting repeated shocks and protecting vulnerable populations such as the very young, the elderly and
pregnant women.
Revise Training Materials. Local law enforcement agencies should conduct comprehensive reviews of the Taser International training materials, revise them, and retrain all
officers that have already completed the Taser International
training.

This report is divided into five sections. Part I contains an
overview of Taser technology and recent deaths involving Taser use. Part II discusses Taser International’s exaggerated safety
claims and marketing practices. Parts III and IV contain our
survey results. Part III analyzes training materials produced by
Taser International and used by local law enforcement. Part
IV analyzes the Taser policies and procedures used by local
law enforcement in northern and central California. Part V
contains recommendations for reforms. n

Stun Gun Fallacy

PART I. Evolution of the Taser and its
Toll on Human Life
T

aser, an acronym for Thomas A. Smith Electronic Rifle,
has been used in one form or another since 1974. However, the stun guns were not widely used by law enforcement
until recently. In the 1990s, Tom and Rick Smith founded Air
Taser, which they marketed to law enforcement. The Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms certified that the Air Taser
was not a firearm, which meant that the weapon would be
exempt from regulation, leaving Air Taser free to market their
product without government interference or oversight.5
In 1998, the company changed its name to Taser International and developed the Advanced Taser, using a different
electrical frequency and technology. Three years later, the
company went public, trading on the NASDAQ Exchange.6
Since then, the Smith brothers have aggressively and successfully marketed their products, the M26 Advance Taser and
the X26 model. Whereas in 2002, 159 departments had fully
deployed Tasers to each of their officers,7 by 2005, that number had dramatically increased. As of July 2005, Taser International reported that 1,735 agencies in the United States are
at full deployment including some of the largest in California,
such as the San Jose Police Department.8 This marketing success, however, has not come without significant cost.

Deaths Increasing
As Taser sales have increased, the number of deaths associated
with their use has also skyrocketed. Since 1999, there have
been 148 deaths in the United States and Canada following
the use of a Taser, more than half of which occurred in the last
year alone. California has not been immune, with 15 deaths
in northern and central California over the past year. Among
the casualties are:
Andrew Washington, Age 21, Vallejo Police Department:
On September 16, 2004, Washington died after being shot
17 times with a Taser in a three-minute period in Vallejo.9
He was fleeing police after allegedly hitting a parked car. As
he climbed a fence, a Vallejo police officer repeatedly shocked
Washington with a Taser until he noticed that Washington
was having trouble breathing. Police called for an ambulance
and Washington, who had no history of heart problems, was
pronounced dead at the hospital. He was the father of a young
child. The autopsy report indicated the cause of death was
“cardiac arrest associated with excitement during the police
chase and cocaine and alcohol intoxication, occurring shortly

Stun Gun Fallacy

after Tasering.” Later the medical examiner admitted he did
not have enough medical information about the effects of Tasers to know whether it could be ruled in or out. At the time of
the autopsy, he had a manual produced by Taser International
on Tasers, but no other studies or information.10
Gregory Saulsbury, Age 30, Pacifica Police Department:
On January 2, 2005, Saulsbury was at his grandmother’s
home. His family called 911 requesting medical help and specifically asked that police not be sent. According to news reports, members of the Pacifica Police Department arrived first
because Saulsbury was behaving violently. A struggle ensued,
with two officers shooting their Tasers 11 times. A coroner’s
report showed 22 marks on Saulsbury’s body. The confrontation lasted less than four minutes and ended when Saulsbury
stopped breathing and died. The medical examiner found that
a combination of high levels of cocaine, the struggle with the
police, and the Taser contributed to Saulsbury’s death.11
Carlos Casillas Fernandez, Age 31, Santa Rosa Police
Department: On July 16, 2005, Fernandez’ wife told a 911
dispatcher that her husband had been acting paranoid and
delusional but that he was not acting violently, according to
police reports and dispatch tape transcripts. Officers arrived
at their home and, with his wife’s permission, tried to talk to
Fernandez, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs
and was sweating profusely. They checked his pulse, which
was fast. When Fernandez refused to answer questions, officers moved to arrest him. He resisted and officers used pepper
spray, a carotid restraint, and fired six Taser shots at him. After
he was restrained, Fernandez had difficulty breathing. He was
transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.12
According to news reports, the autopsy report indicated that
the cause of death was “drug-induced excited delirium from
methamphetamine intoxication.” However we have been unable to review the report as the Santa Rosa Police Department
has not released it to us.13
These are just a few examples of Taser-related deaths in the
region. However, they share similar patterns with others. For
example, many victims who die after being jolted by Tasers
are under the influence of drugs. In several cases, officers have
Tasered victims multiple times in short period of time. While
we do not know the extent to which Tasers contributed to the
death in all the cases nationally or the 15 in northern Califor-

3

nia in the past year, the rising fatality rate is serious cause for
concern.

Playing “Russian Roulette”
With The Heart

Finally, multiple applications of the Taser can increase the
risk of death for a couple of reasons. First, it increases the
chance that the electrical charge will hit the heart in a vulnerable period. According to Dr. Tseng, “I think they are dangerous... you are shocking someone repeatedly, it becomes a
bit like Russian Roulette. At some point, you may hit that
vulnerable period.”20
Second, research on pigs by Dr. James Jauchem indicates
that multiple shocks can lead to an increase in blood acid levels and the enzyme Troponin T. While Dr. Jauchem indicated
that the levels he found in his research would only require additional monitoring, other medical experts took his findings
to be more significant. According to Dr. Charles Rackley, cardiologist at the Georgetown University Hospital, if a patient
came to see him with similar symptoms to those Dr. Jauchem
found in his experiments, his “initial impression would be that
meant some heart muscle damage, or heart attack.The combination of the acidosis as well as the heart muscle damage
would put this patient at high risk of developing ventricular
fibrillation or sudden cardiac death.”21

As the deaths have increased, several medical experts have
attempted to provide explanations for how Tasers may contribute to deaths. The Taser works by delivering 50,000 volts
of energy—albeit at a very low amperage—to the body, causing a disruption of its electrical energy pulses and locking up
the muscles.14 While the shock alone does not cause injury or
death in most cases, it may be fatal if it hits the subject during the vulnerable period of the heart beat cycle, is used on
particularly susceptible populations, or is used multiple times
and for an extended time period.
According to Dr. Zian Tseng, cardiologist at the University
of California at San Francisco, if the Taser sends its energy to
the heart at the wrong time, the electricity may cause ventricular fibrillation, a state in which the heart muscles spasm
uncontrollably, disrupting the hearts pumping function and
causing death.15 Dr. Kathy Glatter of the University of California Davis Medical School agrees: “If I hit the heart or create A Dearth of Independent Studies
electricity in the wrong time of the (beat) cycle, it could send While several medical experts have indicated that Tasers—in
certain situations—can be lethal, there has been very little
the whole heart into an electrical tailspin.”16
Further, certain populations may be more susceptible to independent study on the medical effects of Tasers. And,
what few independent studies there are
ventricular fibrillation as a result of a
have been largely limited to surveying
Taser shock. Children, for example, be“I THINK THEY ARE
the existing medical literature, analyzing smaller than adults, may be at greater
DANGEROUS...
YOU
ARE
ing Taser International’s database, and
risk from a taser shock. According to
conducting studies on the effects of TasRoger Barr, professor of BioengineerSHOCKING SOMEONE
ers on healthy people, studies that do
ing at Duke University, the size of the
REPEATEDLY,
IT
not address the vulnerable populations
individual is important “because the
discussed above.
BECOMES A BIT LIKE
same amount of current is injected by
San Diego study—highly touted
the device, whatever the size of the perRUSSIAN ROULETTE. AT byOne
Taser
International22—found “no sigson. So when the person is a small perSOME POINT, YOU MAY nificant dysrhythmias in healthy human
son, whether they be a child or a small
adult or whatever, current intensity, the
HIT THAT VULNERABLE subjects immediately after receiving a
Taser shock.” However, the 20 subjects of
amount that’s flowing in any one space,
PERIOD.”
the study received shocks at a mean durais greater. And any sort of damage that
tion of 2.4 seconds—far below the 5-sec–
DR.
ZIAN
TSENG,
occurs will be greater because the current
ond charge administered by the standard
intensity is greater”(see p. 13 for more on
UCSF CARDIOLOGIST
17
taser models—and none of the subjects
Taser use on children).
were under the influence of drugs or had
Drug users may also be more vulnerany known heart problem.23
able because of the effects that drugs
A study by the Potomac Institute—characterized by Taser Inhave on the heart. Again, Dr. Tseng: “I’ve seen the Taser folks
ternational
as “a major, independent safety study”24—was not
say, ‘Oh, the guy had cocaine in his system, that’s the reason
for his death.’ Well, someone with cocaine in their system is a medical safety study at all, but simply a review of currently
also much more prone to a Taser-induced cardiac arrest. They available data on Taser uses. Despite indicating that, “when the
cannot say that it’s safe in my opinion.”18 The same is also stun technology is applied appropriately, it is relatively safe,” the
true for certain medications that are used to treat psychiatric report also concluded that additional research is needed. The
report “strongly recommend(s) that additional research be conproblems.19
4

Stun Gun Fallacy

Some in Law Enforcement Back Off From Tasers

I

n 2004, Georgia’s DeKalb Police Department purchased 125 Tasers for its officers. At the time, Police Chief Louis Graham
was “a big supporter of Taser” and believed it would be a good non-lethal force alternative. But over the next year Graham
began reviewing the literature on Tasers and, after Taser International issued a bulletin saying that multiple Taser shocks could
impair breathing and respiration, Chief Graham and DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones in August, 2005, opted
to shelve the Taser. Graham said he made up his mind when Taser International “said it could take your life.”30
Chief Graham is not alone. Nationally, several law enforcement executives have challenged Tasers, imposed stricter policies, or discontinued their use. The Mayor of Birmingham, Ala., for example, ordered police to stop using Tasers after a
jail death, citing the need for additional studies.31 A class action lawsuit was filed against Taser International on behalf
of Dolton, Ill., and other yet unnamed municipalities and claims the cities were misled into purchasing Tasers by the
manufacturer.32 The Police Chief of Fort Wayne, Ind., opted against Tasers in light of a lack of independent research on
the effects of Tasers on people under the influence of drugs or with pre-existing heart conditions.33 And the Chicago, IL,
Police Department reversed plans to expand its Taser program following two Taser related deaths in February, deaths that
medical experts blamed on Tasers.34 n
ducted at the organism, organ, tissue, and cell levels.”25
Other studies such as the one conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense—discussed in more detail in section
III—conclude that more research is still needed, especially in
the area of the effects of Tasers on people under the influence
of drugs or with pre-existing heart conditions.

Law Enforcement Has Questions Too

Security (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)
and Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”)) decided not to
buy Tasers out of safety concerns. According to CBP spokesperson Barry Morrissey:
“There are enough question marks about the safety of this
device. The safety of our officers and the public is always
a concern. It was determined that the device just didn’t
fit.”28

Several police officials and law enforcement agencies are
One department in northern California that has held off on
now questioning the adequacy of safety studies as well as the
purchasing Tasers is the Newark Police Department. Chief
merits of using Tasers. In April, the IACP issued a report on
Ray Samuels, while not ruling out the possibility of acquiring
Taser technology, urging law enforcement agencies to reevaluTasers in the future, opted against them because of uncertainate their taser policies and review the medical evidence. It conties about their health effects. As Chief
cluded that “independent data does not
Samuels put it:
yet exist concerning in-custody deaths,
“INDEPENDENT DATA
“What scared me about the weapon
the safety of EMDT [Electro-MuscuDOES
NOT
YET
EXIST
is that you can deploy it absolutely
lar Disruption Technology] when apwithin the manufacturer’s recomplied to drug or alcohol-compromised CONCERNING IN-CUSTODY
26
mendation and there is still the posindividuals, or other critical issues.”
DEATHS, THE SAFETY
sibility of an unintended reaction. I
In other words, data does not exist to
can’t imagine a worse circumstance
OF
EMDT
[ELECTROevaluate the safety of Tasers under the
than to have a death attributed to a
most likely circumstances that law enMUSCULAR DISRUPTION
Taser in a situation that didn’t jusforcement will use them. The IACP
TECHNOLOGY] WHEN
tify lethal force. It’s not a risk I’m
also called for “further research on
willing to take.”29
APPLIED TO DRUG OR
EMDT outcomes, injuries, and in-custody deaths.”27
Also, several police officials—nationally and in northern California—have
either held off on purchasing Tasers,
stopped using Tasers in the face of increased deaths, or have strongly regulated the weapons in their departments.
The two largest law enforcement divisions of the Department of Homeland
Stun Gun Fallacy

ALCOHOL-COMPROMISED
INDIVIDUALS, OR OTHER
CRITICAL ISSUES.”
–INTERNATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF
CHIEFS OF POLICE

Unfortunately, despite the lack of independent studies on Taser’s effects, the
questions raised by independent medical experts, and concerns from many in
law enforcement, Taser International
continues to aggressively promote the
weapon as a non-lethal device and exaggerate the safety of its product. n

5

Part II. Taser International
Overhypes Stun Gun

I

n recent years, Taser International has vastly exaggerated
the stun gun’s safety, downplayed medical concerns, and
engaged in marketing practices that are questionable at best.
Despite concerns by medical experts, and even warnings from
government officials that Taser has worked with, the company
keeps up these practices.
While the company continues to market Tasers as a “lifesaving” alternative to firearms, it is clear that, for the most
part, Tasers are used in situations in which officers would
never—and could never legally—use a gun. The company actively encourages law enforcement to use the weapons in these
broad circumstances—not just in the face of possible imminent death or grave bodily injury when officers must resort
to firearms—but also to handle far less threatening situations
ranging from the resistance or flight of unarmed suspects to
verbal displays of hostility and non-compliance.

Misleading Marketing Terminology

cal holds, and other weapons. Yet, dangerously and incongruously, reading the fine print of their marketing shows that Taser
International is saying only that the stun gun is less lethal than
firearms—not less lethal than other law enforcement tools.
In calling its stun gun non-lethal, Taser International slickly
uses the military definition of the term, rather than the “less-lethal” terminology used by law enforcement. By using the term
“non-lethal,” the company implies that its weapons are lessdeadly than other “less-lethal” alternatives. But, according to
the U.S. Department of Defense, any weapon that is merely
intended to “significantly reduce the probability of…fatalities
or injuries as compared with traditional military weapons which
achieve their effects through the physical destruction of targets,”—such as firearms, grenades and missiles—can be called
“non-lethal.”37 In other words, when Taser labels its weapon
“non-lethal” it is merely saying that the stun gun is less lethal
than a firearm, not that it is “non-lethal” as commonly understood by law enforcement or the general public, or even less
lethal than other forms of force used by police officers.

To justify their stated marketing goal of making the Taser a
standard-issue accessory for every police officer, Taser International aggressively promotes very broad, frequent, and re- Exaggerates Safety and Downplays Risks
peated use of what it claims to be a “non lethal” product. The Further, in many of its press releases and other public statements,
company does not market Tasers as a “backup” weapon for use Taser International does not qualify its use of the term non-lethal
in extraordinary situations, but rather promotes it for “every at all, and simply leaves it open to a more literal interpretation by
day” forms of resistance and uses of force.35
the public, the news media and policy makers.38 In public stateIndeed, the company does not merely promote Tasers as a ments about the effects of Tasers, company officials continually
strictly defensive weapon to be used only in the face of active downplay the risk associated with the weapons. Taser CEO Rick
and very dangerous threats. Rather, it
Smith, for example, has said “we tell peopromotes Tasers for use as an offensive
ple that this (the Taser) has never caused
ACCORDING TO THE
weapon, to sometimes be used pre-empa death, and in my heart and soul, I beU.S. DEPARTMENT OF
tively and preventatively—in the absence
lieve that’s true.”39 Company spokesperof any actual physical threat being presDEFENSE, ANY WEAPON son Steve Tuttle has said the Taser poses
ent, much less a threat to life. The trainno greater risk than taking the painkiller
THAT
IS
INTENDED
TO
ing materials even depict a model usage
Tylenol,40 and Taser President Tom Smith
“SIGNIFICANTLY
REDUCE
showing a naked, fully prone, unarmed
has asserted that there is “no scientific of
man, surrounded by armed police ofmedical evidence to suggest that these are
THE PROBABILITY OF...
ficers, being shocked simply so that he
dangerous devices.”41
FATALITIES
OR
INJURIES
will roll over on the ground.36
Finally, despite the fact that in 18 of
So, while the company slogan is “Sav47 cases reviewed by the Arizona ReCOMPARED WITH
ing Lives Every Day,” the vast majorpublic,42 medical examiners indicated
TRADITIONAL MILITARY
ity of shocks fired by police officers are
that Tasers were a cause of death, a conWEAPONS...”—SUCH
AS
not actually alternatives to gunshots,
tributing factor in a death, or could not
but rather alternatives to other, non-life
be ruled out as a cause of death, Taser
FIREARMS, GRENADES
threatening forms of law enforcement
International has yet to concede that
AND MISSILES—CAN BE the Taser contributed to death in even
apprehension, control and force techCALLED “NON-LETHAL.” one case, not even in the case of Andrew
niques—batons, chemical sprays, physi-

6

Stun Gun Fallacy

Promoting Taser Drives Up Stock Sales

I

n March, 2003, Taser International was still a relatively small company trying to mainstream its product. The stock price had been mired in the $3-5 dollar
range for the past several months.46 However, Chandler
Ariz. presented a significant sales opportunity. One of
the company’s master trainers, Sgt. Jim Halsted,was an
employee of the Chandler Police Department and, without disclosing to his chief that had received stock options
from Taser International, He gave a Taser presentation to
the Chandler City Council.47
Halsted aggressively pushed the product and, with Taser International’s president watching from the audience,
urged the Council to purchase one Taser for every officer.
Halsted downplayed the safety dangers of the weapon,
claiming, “No deaths are attributed to the (Taser model)
M26 at all. That’s absolutely incredible…We put a BandAid on that person. There is no injury.” Halsted made an
effective presentation and the Council that night moved
to approve the expenditure of nearly $200,000 for 300
Tasers and supporting equipment. Halsted and Taser International, however, never disclosed to the Council that
the sergeant was not only working for the city, but had a
financial stake in the Taser sale going through.48
Halsted and his family had received more than 1,000
shares and options for Taser stock and stood to gain significantly if Taser stock increased.49 The Chandler sale
helped launch Taser stock’s meteoric rise. On March 27,
2003 the stock was valued at $4.26. For the quarter that
ended March 31, 2003 Taser reported its largest ever
earnings of $.08 per share—in part due to the Chandler
sale.50 Just two months later, the stock had more than
doubled to $8.99 per share.51 And the stock continued
to increase and trade at extremely high levels, until January 2005 when the Securities and Exchange Commission
announced it was opening an inquiry into Taser’s marketing practices. Had Halsted cashed in his stock and
options at Taser’s peak, they would have been worth over
$300,000.52
Such practices present a clear conflict of interest. According to Professor David Harris of University of Toledo School of Law, “you have police officers who are
supposed to be looking out for their departments when
they have another competing interest.” Even companies
that sell products to police departments see it this way.
According to Paul Pluff, spokesperson for gun manufacturer, Smith and Wesson, “I see it as somewhat of a conflict of interest. We don’t do it.”53 n

Stun Gun Fallacy

Washington, who died after being Tased 17 times by Vallejo
police in a three minute period. Taken together, Taser’s marketing leaves the distinct impression that the product is safe,
well tested, and, despite evidence to the contrary, will not lead
to fatalities.
This is not the only example of Taser International overexaggerating the safety of its product or otherwise engaging
in questionable business practices to promote sales. Taser International maintained that no medical examiner had found
Tasers responsible for contributing to any deaths, until the
Arizona Republic reported on several autopsy reports that implicated Tasers as a potential contributing factor.43

Questionable Marketing and
Compensation Practices
The company has also engaged in questionable business practices to promote and sell its product and close sales. For example,
Taser granted stock options to several “master trainers, ” some
of whom promoted Tasers to their own police departments and
city councils without disclosing the options.44 In one example,
a Minneapolis police officer was, at the same time, receiving
stock options from Taser and serving as the Minneapolis Police
Department point person on Taser purchasing decisions. Furthermore, in San Francisco, Taser International paid a Phoenix,
AZ, city council member to make a presentation about Tasers to
the San Francisco Police Commission without disclosing to the
commission that the council member was a paid consultant for
Taser.45 Overall, these practices are ethically dubious and raise
questions about the credibility of Taser’s representations of its
product.
The company has touted the few animal studies it has conducted as proof that Tasers are safe.54 However, it does not
routinely disclose that the principle researcher in many of
those studies, Taser International’s medical director, Dr. Robert Stratbucker, was compensated for his work with stock
options, a form of compensation that potentially creates an
incentive to find favorable results.55
Particularly worrisome is Taser International’s claim that its
weapon is safe to use on small children, including toddlers,
and that the company was “unaware of any scientific data that
suggest the use, or multiple uses of a Taser device would result in [a] regrettable outcome.”56 This despite the fact that
the company was, at the time of making the statement, aware
of the research by Dr. Jauchum, discussed in the section on
health risks, and knew about the opinions of Dr. Rackley interpreting those findings.57
Taser International’s questionable business practices and
safety claims have spurred the SEC to open an investigation into its practices and the Arizona Attorney General has
launched an investigation of the company.58 n

7

Part III. Training Materials
Reflect The Hype
A

s could be expected, the training materials produced by
Taser International mirror many of the misrepresentations
the company has made in its presentations to the public. This
is cause for concern because training materials help provide
the foundation for how police officers use the weapons. Unfortunately, as we learned from our survey of law enforcement
agencies throughout northern and central California, the vast
majority of law enforcement agencies rely exclusively on company-produced materials—some of which are outdated.
Of 56 agencies surveyed by the ACLU-NC, only four departments created or used any of their own training materials. All other departments surveyed exclusively used training
materials created by the manufacturer. The most recent version of the Taser International training materials is Version 12.
However, of the departments using Taser’s training materials,
only 13 used the latest version. Another 11 departments used
Version 11, and the others used older versions, two using the
2002 Version 6.
Even the most recent versions 11 and 12 contain significant
misrepresentations about the safety of Tasers and encourage
the liberal use of the weapon, giving officers a false impression
of the risks of using Tasers on potential suspects. In short, the
survey found that the power-point presentations used to train
officers exaggerate overall safety, encourage multiple uses of
the weapon, downplay the risk of using Tasers on people un-

Training Materials By Department
Training Materials
Version

Number of
Departments

Version 12

13

Version 11

11

Version 10 (or 10.1)

6

Version 8

3

Version 7

4

Version 6

2

Version 4

1

Other59

2

Own Materials60

4

Not Stated

10

61

8

der the influence of drugs, and misrepresent the few medical
reviews that have been done on Tasers.

Conflicting Warnings in the Training
Materials
Though some of the claims in Version 11 of the training materials have been changed in Version 12, both versions seriously
downplay any health risks and leave the impression that the
weapon is never deadly.
Version 11 is most egregious in claiming that Tasers pose
no risk of death. A slide titled “What TASER Weapons Don’t
Do,” states “No reports of TASER weapons causing death.”62
The materials also state that “there is no medical evidence that
the TASER T-Waves in any way cause or contribute to heart
or respiratory failure,”63 and that “no deaths have ever been
attributed to the use of TASER technology.”64 This despite the
fact that at that time the materials were produced, 39 people
had died in the United States and Canada in Taser-related incidents.65
Version 11 also claims there have been no long-term injuries
associated with the weapon. Under its “medical safety” section, the instructor notes state:
“There have been an estimated 50,000 volunteers who have
been exposed to actual applications of the M26 and X26.
There are over 3600 documented field uses of the weapon
as well. It is estimated that only 30% of the field uses are
reported to TASER International, hence it is estimated
that there have been over well over 17,000 field uses of
the M26 and X26. There have been no long term injuries caused by the TASER. The use of the Taser technology
causes incapacitation and thereby secondary injuries can
occur. This includes cuts, bruises, abrasions caused by falling. These short-term injuries are secondary in nature and
are reversible injuries.”66
At the time the materials were produced, Taser International
had been made aware of at least one case where an officer “volunteer” was significantly injured as a result of the stun of a
Taser. In 2002, Samuel Powers, a deputy with the Maricopa
County Sheriff’s Department, suffered a compression fracture
to a vertebra in his back following a Taser shock. When Version 11 training materials were issued, a doctor working for
Taser International had already written a memo on the incident for the company and Deputy Powers had filed a lawsuit
against the company. Since then, several other officers have

Stun Gun Fallacy

reported and/or filed lawsuits against Taser International for
Version 12 does contain a warning about the potential daninjuries ranging from ruptured disks and other fractures to gers of multiple cycles and urges avoiding “prolonged applijoint injuries. Moreover, the Phoenix Police Department, cations whenever practicable.”73 However, another slide titled
which once strongly recommended officer exposure during “Follow up Action” states that the “Taser operator should be
training, now prohibits voluntary exposures.67 In the month prepared to apply additional cycles if necessary.”74 And in reof August, 2005, alone, officers in at least five states filed suit sponse to the question: “When should an officer be prepared
against Taser International for Taser related injuries, including to use more than one cycle?” the answer given is:
multiple spinal fractures, burns, a shoulder dislocation, and
An officer should ALWAYS be presoft tissue injuries.68
pared to use more than one cycle.
Despite increased scrutiny of Taser
This is especially true for subjects on
IN THE MONTH OF
stun guns in the news media and elsedrugs or EDPs. Officers should use
AUGUST 2005 ALONE,
where, the latest version of the training
as many cycles as necessary to either
materials—Version 12—contains many
gain compliance from the subject or to
OFFICERS IN AT LEAST
similar problems. Some of the provisions
allow other officers to safely restrain
FIVE STATES FILED
have been changed. For example, Verthe subject while he is incapacitated
sion 12 contains warnings in small print
SUIT AGAINST TASER
(during the cycle).75
that state “the very nature of physical
INTERNATIONAL
Not only are repeated and even limitincapacitation involves a degree of risk
less
cycles encouraged, but they are speFOR TASER RELATED
that someone will get hurt or may even
cifically encouraged for subjects under
be killed due to physical exertion.”69 It
INJURIES INCLUDING
the influence of drugs. Further, there
also states that “in rare instances, subMULTIPLE
SPINAL
is no mention in the training materials
jects may experience physical exertion
about some of the fatal consequences
type injuries including injuries to musFRACTURES, BURNS,
that multiple Taser shots could cause,
cles, tendons, ligaments, backs, joints
A SHOULDER
or warnings by independent analysts of
70
and stress fractures.”
the dangers of repeated applications. Nor
DISLOCATION,
AND
SOFT
However, on four separate occasions,
is there any mention of Andrew Washthe materials continue to indicate that
TISSUE INJURIES.
ington, the young Vallejo man who died
Tasers are harmless. The materials
after being shocked 17 times in a threecontain virtually identical language to
minute period.
Version 11 and state:
There have been no long-term injuries caused by the
TASER. 71
Deputy Powers and countless other officers who have suffered long-term injuries from the stun gun—and even Taser’s
own doctor—might disagree. The problem, of course, is that
police departments in California and around the nation rely
on Taser training materials to educate their officers. Certainly
Version 12 has some additional warnings that Version 11 and
other prior versions did not have, but most departments do
not have this most recent version—relying on older versions
—and even the most recent version grossly misrepresents the
potential damage Tasers can cause.

Multiple Shocks
Similarly, Taser training materials encourage multiple shocks
and downplay the risks. Version 11 indicates that 32 percent
of field applications use more than one “cycle,” or hit, and,
in the instructor notes section, the materials state that “the
students should anticipate using additional cycles to subdue
suspects.”72

Stun Gun Fallacy

Shocked When On Drugs or Alcohol
The Taser training materials also contain misleading information on the potential effects of Tasers on people under the
influence of drugs. This is a critical issue because a large percentage of the targets of police force are under the influence
of drugs or alcohol.
Nonetheless, in Version 11, Taser International claims that
“animal studies prove cocaine does not make the heart more
susceptible to electrically induced fibrillation.”76 Meanwhile,
Version 12 states, under a section entitled “Medical Safety:
Drugs” that “no arrhythmia provocation occurred even when
the animals were given the stimulant drugs epinephrine and
isoproternol, agents that make the heart more susceptible to
electrical stimulation.”77
Several external reviews, however, conclude that more study
is needed in this critical area and, as discussed above, several
medical experts speculate that cocaine and other drugs may
make the heart more susceptible to fibrillation. The IACP
has concluded that more study is needed on this critical issue,78 and the British government in its review concluded that

9

“the possibility that other factors such as illicit drug intoxication, alcohol abuse, pre-existing heart disease and cardioactive
therapeutic drugs may modify the threshold for generation of
cardiac arrhythmias cannot be excluded.”79
To say that animal studies prove the safety of Tasers on people under the influence of drugs in the face of experts’ skepticism and an increasing number of deaths of people on drugs
when hit by the Taser, at the very least, gives officers a false
sense of security about the safety of the weapon when used on
vulnerable suspects.
At the same time that Taser is touting the weapons’ safety on
drug users, it is encouraging officers to act quickly and early to
deploy a Taser on such individuals.80 The combination of misleading safety claims coupled with encouragements of liberal
usage could be a recipe for disaster and lead to more deaths.

Misrepresenting Medical Studies

study” by the U.S Department of Defense that says:
Analyses provided by law enforcement agencies indicate that
increased use of the TASER M26 and TASER X26 has decreased the overall injury rate of both police officers and
suspects in conflict situations when compared to alternatives
along the use-of-force continuum.
The study concludes that Electro-Muscular Incapacitation
(TASER) is likely not the primary causative factor in reported fatalities.84
Again, Taser’s connection to the study was not disclosed although it was billed as independent. Nonetheless it concluded
that there are risks associated with Tasers, that multiple applications of Tasers can cause serious problems, and that more
research is needed on sensitive populations. Information obtained by the Arizona Republic showed that Taser officials “not
only participated in three panels to determine the scope of the
study, analyze data and review findings, but also provided the
bulk of research used in the study.”85 In fact, the DOD study
recognizes the potential problems of relying on information
provided by Taser International:

Further, the medical studies mentioned in Taser International’s training materials are largely taken out of context and lack
relevant information, giving law enforcement agencies the impression that Tasers are safer than they actually are. In Version
12, Taser presents the “independent
conclusions” of studies that are actuThis analysis relied on the data
THE TASER INTERNATIONAL
ally not independent or are taken out
collected by Taser International.
of context.
The Taser International database
DATABASE CONTAINS
One slide in the training materials
contains a large number of reA LARGE NUMBER OF
lists the conclusions of Dr. Anthony
cords from a wide variety of usRECORDS FROM A WIDE
Bleetman, who says he does “not beers. However the records are not a
lieve that any of the deaths described
statistically representative sample
VARIETY OF USERS.
in subjects who have been TASERed
and are potentially influenced by
HOWEVER THE RECORDS
during their arrest can be conclusively
a number of sources of bias.86
linked to the use of these devices.”81
ARE NOT A STATISTICALLY
It also appears as if Taser InterWhile he is identified as a consultant
REPRESENTATIVE
SAMPLE
national may not have supplied all
at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital
the information it had to the DOD
AND ARE POTENTIALLY
whose opinion is “independent,” the
for the study, which states that “no
materials neglect to mention that Dr.
INFLUENCED BY A NUMBER reports were identified that describe
Bleetman had previously been hired as
bone fractures resulting from the
OF SOURCES OF BIAS.
a consultant by Taser International.82
rapid induction of strong muscle
The materials also fail to mention
–U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
contraction” caused by Tasers.87 At
that while Dr. Bleetman concludes
DEFENSE REPORT
the time, Taser officials were aware
that Tasers are “essentially safe on
of Deputy Powers’ injury and his
healthy people,” he adds that “it is
pending legal action, and may also
worth remembering that the Adhave known about other officer injuries.88
vanced Taser is to be used only as an alternative to firearms
When preliminary results of the DOD study were released,
and any outcome measures should be considered in this conTaser
International issued a press release touting it as a “matext.”83 Clearly, Taser training materials envision a much more
jor independent safety study” that demonstrated Tasers were
liberal use of the weapon, and as described in section IV, the
“generally safe.” Capt. Daniel McSweeney, a Pentagon offipolicies of police departments throughout northern and cencial, cautioned Taser International to “tone it [the company’s
tral California provide for their use under a wide range of cirrhetoric] down,” but eventually approved the press statement
cumstances.
because he believed that Taser International was “some kind of
In a second slide, the training materials cite an “independent
10

Stun Gun Fallacy

Some Police Parrot Taser’s Hype

O

n Feb. 20, 2005, Robert Heston died after being Tased five times by Salinas police officers. At a press conference,
Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega defended his officers’ use of Tasers and denied they played any role in Heston’s
death, blatantly parroting Taser International’s promotional materials. For example, he said “These reports clearly indicate that the Taser technology, while not risk-free, is among the safest use-of-force options for our police officers to
have.”
Consider the wording used by Taser International CEO Rick Smith in a Nov. 30 press release criticizing a report by
Amnesty International:
“These reports clearly indicate that the Taser technology, while not risk-free, is among the safest use-of-force options for
our police officers to have.”
Chief Ortega also told reporters: “This compilation based on independent police, medical and scientific study clearly
supports that Taser’s non-lethal systems are reducing injuries and saving lives every day.” A verbatim quote is used in Taser’s
Nov. 30 press release.95
Moreover, the Salinas Police Department continues to downplay indications that the Taser played a role in Heston’s
death. The autopsy was initially performed by Terri Haddix of Stanford University, who performs autopsies on a contract basis for the Monterey County Coroner’s Office. While the report has not been made public, news reports indicate
that Haddix listed the Taser as a contributing factor in the death along with methamphetamines. The Monterey County
Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the coroner’s office, had the findings reviewed by another pathologist John Hain and
then sent the report to a third individual, Steven Karch, a former San Francisco medical examiner. Despite these reviews
and the length of time since the death, the autopsy report has yet to be released and neither the police department nor
Taser International have yet to concede that the Taser contributed to the death.96 n
partner with us [the DOD], since we purchase and field their
systems.” When interviewed about the study, McSweeney noted that Taser had “been at the center of several controversial
issues,” and urged independent studies.89
Despite potential bias, the DOD study does not conclude
that Tasers are completely safe. It notes that “although likely
to be uncommon, severe unintended effects might occur.” The
report also concludes that there is insufficient data to accurately assess the risk of Tasers causing ventricular fibrillation
in “very small children, the elderly, and individuals possessing
potentially mitigating factors such as underlying heart disease

IF LONG PERIODS OF UNINTERRUPTED
EMI ACTIVATION DID OCCUR, THE RISK
OF UNINTENDED ADVERSE EFFECTS
SUCH AS CARDIAC ARRHYTHMIA,
IMPAIRMENT OF RESPIRATION, OR
WIDESPREAD METABOLIC MUSCLE
DAMAGE (RHABDOMYOLYSIS) COULD
BE SEVERE.
–U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
REPORT
Stun Gun Fallacy

or drug intoxication, for example.”90 The report also states that
multiple applications of the Taser can pose serious problems.
According to the report:
Field experience indicates that in most cases only one or a
small number of 5-second activations are needed to achieve
and maintain control of the subject. However, repeated or
constant activation of the devices can deliver constant electrical output, which results in sustained muscle contraction
with little of no muscle recovery period
period. If long periods of
uninterrupted EMI activation did occur, the risk of unintended adverse effects such as cardiac arrhythmia, impairment of respiration, or widespread metabolic muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis) could be severe.91
Another section of the training materials cites a study by the
British government stating that “the risk of life-threatening or serious injuries from the M26 Taser is very low.”92 While the study
concludes that the risk from Tasers to healthy people is low, it says
“the possibility that other factors such as illicit drug intoxication,
alcohol abuse, pre-existing heart disease and cardioactive therapeutic drugs may modify the threshold for generation of cardiac
arrhythmias cannot be excluded.”93 Further, the British government only authorizes the use of Tasers as an alternative to deadly
force, a much more narrow and restricted use of the weapon than
Taser advocates and U.S. police departments follow.94 n

11

Part IV. Standards for Taser Use
or Lack Thereof
C

ompounding Taser’s safety issues is the fact that the stun indicating that multiple applications “may impair breathing
guns remain largely unregulated in police departments and respiration,”99—very few agencies in northern and centhroughout California and the nation. Of the 54 departments tral California have a policy in place limiting the duration or
reviewed, there are very few restrictions to prevent abuse and number of jolts officers may administer to a person. In fact,
misuse of the weapon. From the stanout of the 54 agencies surveyed, only four
dards that police departments require to
agencies had any language whatsoever in
OUT OF THE
use the weapon, to protections for spetheir policies warning against or prohibit54
AGENCIES
cific sub-populations, there is very little
ing multiple shocks.
in terms of regulation to guide Taser use
One department that has such regulaSURVEYED, ONLY
by law enforcement officers in northern
tion was the Stockton Police Department,
FOUR AGENCIES
in central California.
whose policy states:
HAD
ANY
LANGUAGE
While the British government only
Officers should avoid using more than
authorizes Taser use as an alternative to
one Taser at a time on a suspect. If the
WHATSOEVER IN
deadly force, the California law enforceinitial Taser becomes disabled, a second
THEIR POLICIES
ment agencies surveyed by the ACLUTaser may be deployed. If the Taser does
NC permit their use under a wide range
WARNING AGAINST
not gain control or is ineffective, repeatof circumstances. Most commonly, howed deployments shall not be done.100
OR
PROHIBITING
ever, police use Tasers when dealing with
The Fremont Police Department also
MULTIPLE SHOCKS.
a “violent or potentially violent” indiregulates multiple applications, but in a
vidual. This standard is extremely subdifferent way:
jective as few departments define what
they mean by “potential violence.” Indeed, almost any suspect
Absent exigent circumstances, examples of generally procould be viewed as “potentially violent,” and in the absence of
hibited uses of the TASER X26 are: Maximum of four (4)
any specific guidelines, officers are given near total discretion
applications, either Drivestun or Discharge mode, whethin using a Taser.
er from a single or a combination of multiple TASER(s)
The Atherton Police Department, for example, places the
units.101
Taser on the force continuum just after verbal commands,
While each of these policies instructs officers that it is inpermitting their use before officers may use pain compliance appropriate to repeatedly shock an individual, there are, unholds or any other hands-on techniques.97 In other words, the fortunately, exceptions to the rule. The vast majority of deTaser is the preferred force option available to officers and is to partments have no policy on the books to prevent multiple
be used whenever force is warranted—even in relatively minor applications.
situations.
Fortunately, not all police departments are so lax in their
Taser use. The Sacramento Police Department, for example, Civil Disobedience
requires the weapon be used not only in the face of a threat Tasers are marketed to and touted by police departments as a
to officer safety, but that the threat be both “credible” and way to decrease police shootings and injuries to suspects and
“imminent.”98 This type of language at least signals to officers officers. Passive resisters, however, pose no threat by protestthat Tasers should not be used in every force situation and ing peacefully and refusing to leave a certain area. While a
that they should be reserved for use in especially dangerous policy that only authorizes Taser use on “potentially violent”
individuals might arguably prevent their use on passive resistsituations.
ers, it, in fact, provides little direction or protection against
use of Tasers on passive resisters because the term “potentially
Allowing for Multiple Shocks
violent” is too broad and subject to the interpretation of an
While several reviews of the available Taser studies urge lim- individual officer.
its on multiple applications of the weapon—even Taser InOf the police departments surveyed, only 10 (19 percent)
ternational recently issued a training bulletin on its website have any policy prohibiting or regulating the use of Tasers on
12

Stun Gun Fallacy

passive resisters. Indeed, the Fairfield Police Department appears to specifically authorize the use of Tasers against passive
resisters. The department’s policy provides that Tasers shall be
used in the following circumstances:
When the actions of the subject (as reasonably perceived by
the police officer) rise to the following levels—uncooperative
or passive, low-level resistance, active resistance or aggression, and life threatening assault or assault likely to cause
great bodily harm.102
Other departments, however, take a more progressive approach, prohibiting the use of Tasers on peaceful passive resisters. The policy of the El Dorado Sheriff Department, for
example, states that “the Taser shall not be used on individuals
who are passively resisting,”103 and the Fresno Police Department has a similar policy.104

Vulnerable Targets
(Pregnant Women, Juveniles, Elderly)
Most of the police departments surveyed had no policies
protecting vulnerable people, including pregnant women,
children and adolescents, and the elderly, from Taser shocks.
Members of these groups may be more likely to be injured
as a result of a Taser shock—be it from the shock itself or
the severe muscle strain caused by the jolt or from falls after
being hit. Even Taser International, in its training materials,
highlights the dangers of using Tasers on pregnant women and
warns that the “risks from falling and other health considerations make it advisable to avoid deployment of the TASER
on pregnant females where practicable.”105
Nonetheless, only 23 departments—or 43 percent of police
departments surveyed—have any policy prohibiting or regulating the use of Tasers on pregnant women. Only 19—or 35
percent—have any policy regulating the weapon’s use on the
elderly and only
10—or 19 perMOST OF THE POLICE
cent have a policy
DEPARTMENTS
restricting the use
of Tasers on juveSURVEYED HAD NO
niles.
POLICIES PROTECTING
But there are
exceptions to the
VULNERABLE
rule. The San
PEOPLE, INCLUDING
Joaquin
Sheriff
PREGNANT WOMEN,
Department, for
example, only alCHILDREN AND
lows the use of the
ADOLESCENTS, AND
Taser on the pregTHE ELDERLY, FROM
nant and elderly
“in cases where
TASER SHOCKS.
deadly force is the
Stun Gun Fallacy

only alternative.”106 The Vallejo Police Department provides
that “the Taser generally should not be deployed against young
juveniles.”107

Handcuffed or Unconscious
Others groups against whom police should never use a Taser
are those who are already restrained (i.e. handcuffed), and
those who are unconscious. A Taser is a dangerous weapon
and should not be used on someone who is unconscious and
posing no active threat to an officer or bystander. However,
of the 54 departments surveyed, only 8 (15 percent) had any
policy explicitly prohibiting or regulating the use of Tasers

What’s to Stop Children from Being
Tased?

I

n recent years, there have been reports around the nation of police using Tasers on children. Two such incidents occurred in Miami, FL. In one case, police used
a Taser on a 6-year-old child who was threatening to cut
his own leg with a piece of glass. Other adults were at
the scene. In another, police Tased a 12-year-old girl who
was playing truant from school and ran away from police
who confronted her.108
The Florida incidents are not unique. Last year, a Tuscon police sergeant shocked a 9-year-old psychiatric
patient who was already handcuffed, because she was
screaming and kicking in the back of his police car.109
And this year, Cincinnati police used a Taser on a 12year-old girl who struggled with officers after she refused
to go to an in-school suspension class.110
In the wake of these and similar incidents, medical and
law enforcement experts have cautioned against the use
of Tasers on children. According to Joe Davis, former
Medical Examiner of Miami Dade, “those things are designed for adults; they’re not designed for children. The
whole idea is to disarm somebody who’s a real threat.
It’s a substitute for shooting a person.”111 And, despite
the fact that Taser International asserts that medical tests
prove Tasers safe on children, Dr. Wayne McDaniel, one
of the lead researchers who conducted the Taser studies
admits that the researchers did not have children in mind
when they conducted their experiments:
“I don’t know that I had ever envisioned the use of this
thing on small children…I don’t think anyone has ever
tried to draw any inferences as far as use in children…
The design of this device is for bad guys.”112
We have yet to document the use of Tasers on children
in California; however, very few departments throughout
the region prohibit or even warn against such uses. n

13

San Jose Police Resist Taser Regulation

I

n April, 2004, a Vietnamese woman named Cau Bich Tran was shot dead by San Jose police officers as she was
holding an Asian vegetable peeler in her home. In response, San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis announced that every
police officer on the force would carry a Taser to avoid such deadly incidents. Thus, San Jose became the largest police
department in California to go to full deployment with Tasers.115
Initially, the San Jose Police Department (“SJPD”) issued regulations governing the use of Tasers. Department General Orders specified that Tasers could only be used:
n

n

To incapacitate assaultive or physically resisting persons to the point where they can be safely taken into custody
and controlled without he necessity to use force likely to cause serious injury;
To be used as a defensive weapon in situation where its use is likely to prevent a Department employee or member
of the public from being seriously injured.

Additionally, the policy contained prohibitions on using Tasers against individuals who were unconscious, noncombative, restrained, or otherwise incapacitated.116
In June, 2004, however, just three months after deploying Tasers, the department gutted its regulations, eliminating
any language regulating officer use of Tasers. Under the new rules, while there is still a general use of force policy, the
SJPD provides no specific rules for when and how officers should or should not use Tasers.117
In response, the ACLU-NC and several other organizations have urged the SJPD to adopt Taser regulations, especially in light of the growing number of stun-gun related deaths and lack of independent safety studies. Yet the
department continues to insist on a policy of no regulation.
On August 1, 2005, Brian Patrick O’Neil died after being jolted during an altercation with San Jose police. Because the SJPD has not provided sufficient details of the incident, it is unclear to what extent the Taser played a role
in O’Neil’s death. What is clear, however, is that in the absence of regulation, more deaths are likely to occur in the
future. n

against the unconscious and only 14 (26 percent) had any
policy regulating the use of Tasers on people who were handcuffed or otherwise restrained.
Of the departments that do provide such protections, the
Capitola Police Departments’ policy states that officers “shall

14

not” use the Taser “against handcuffed subjects” or “subjects
detained in a police vehicle.”113 The Sacramento County
Sheriff Department policy requires that Tasers “shall not”
be used “to arouse unconscious, impaired or intoxicated individuals.”114 n

Stun Gun Fallacy

Part V. Recommendations for Safer
Police Practices
L

ax regulation of Tasers largely stems from the promotional tactics of Taser International, which has repeatedly exaggerated safety claims and provided misleading information to law enforcement and the public. Many in law
enforcement have been too quick to accept without question Taser’s claims, and the California Legislature has yet
to adopt any legislation regulating Tasers. One bill which
would have required some data collection, and prohibited
civilian use of Tasers—authored by Assemblyman Mark
Leno—was defeated following a strong lobbying effort by
Taser International.118
In the absence of adequate regulation, it is more than likely
that Tasers will be used in situations that could be resolved in
less volatile or lethal ways, and that the number of deaths will
continue to increase. Meanwhile, there is scant public information available to gauge the continuing use and impact of
these weapons. The ACLU-NC therefore urges the following
policy recommendations:

State Legislation

under the influence of drugs, the use of Tasers on handcuffed
and unconscious individuals, and on passive resisters.
Further, such legislation should require all departments that
use Tasers to submit copies of their Taser use policies to the
Legislative Analyst Office for analysis and review and should
specify that Taser-use policies are a matter of public record.
Finally, in response to Taser International’s leading claim
that the stun gun reduces other uses of force, we requested
use-of-force data from all police departments using Tasers. We
asked for documentation of all categories of police force used
before and after Tasers were deployed. The vast majority of
departments that responded to our request do not collect this
type of data. However, in the case of the Monterey County
Sheriff Department, which does, the overall use of force increased dramatically after Tasers were deployed.119 We therefore urge any legislation to include a provision that would
require all law enforcement agencies to collect and tabulate
statistical data on all uses of force and that this data be available to the public.

To ensure at least some baseline standards on the use of Tasers, Local Law Enforcement and Local
the California Legislature should adopt legislation mandating
Government
minimum standards for the use of Tasers. Given the increasLocal police chiefs and sheriffs, mayors, city councils, and
ing number of deaths, the lack of independent medical studcounty boards of supervisors should not wait for the Legisies, and uncertainty about the effects of Tasers, the weapons
lature to pass a law regulating Tasers. Several steps toward
should only be used in life-threatening situations. It is reckless
implementing restrictions can be taken immediately at the
and irresponsible to use these largely
local level. As for law enforcement
untested weapons in a wide range of
involvement, in its report issued in
circumstances, especially in light of the
April, the IACP recommended that
GIVEN THE INCREASING
spike in Taser-related deaths. Certainly
local law enforcement re-evaluate
a Taser is a safer alternative to a handNUMBER OF DEATHS, THE their Taser-use policies and training
gun; but short of life-threatening situLACK OF INDEPENDENT
materials. In urging this process, the
ations, Tasers should not be used until
IACP provided some guidance as to
MEDICAL STUDIES,
we know more about the health risks.
how departments should evaluate poIf the legislature is unwilling to
AND UNCERTAINTY
lices. According to the IACP:
adopt such legislation, the state, at a
ABOUT
THE
EFFECTS
OF
Policies should clearly describe the
bare minimum, should take steps to
circumstances when EMDT may
TASERS, THE WEAPONS
minimize the risk of death and serious
be used. It is not enough, however,
injury from Taser use. To that end, it
SHOULD ONLY BE USED
to establish rules that address only
should mandate regulations requiring
IN
LIFE-THREATENING
when to use EMDT. Policies should
departments to adopt policies regulatalso be explicit as to when its use is
ing the number of shocks that can be
SITUATIONS.
inappropriate.120
administered on an individual, the use
of Tasers on juveniles, the elderly, pregnant women, and people known to be
Stun Gun Fallacy

15

Therefore, the ACLU of Northern
California recommends the following:
1. Adopt Strong Taser Regulations: As previously explained,
Tasers should only be used in life-threatening situations.
Such a policy would allow Tasers to be used in very limited
circumstances and may save lives while avoiding unnecessary
deaths caused by Tasers. Until there is independent testing
evaluating the safety of Tasers on a variety of vulnerable
populations, Tasers should not be used in other situations.
If law enforcement agencies are not willing to adopt such a
policy, they should at least take steps to regulate the weapon
with the goal of decreasing the chance that a Taser will be
used in a situation where it will contribute to or cause a
death. In the course of reviewing the policies of police and
sheriff departments throughout the northern and central
California, we discovered a lack of regulation of Tasers,
but we also reviewed a number of policies that contained
some provisions that did provide better more substantial
protections. While, no one department had a perfect policy,
we took the best out of policies throughout the state and
combined them into a best-practices policy. This policy (attached as appendix B), contains only provisions currently
used by law enforcement. Adopted as a whole, it would be
an improvement over any policy currently used in the region.
2. Create New Training Materials: As previously discussed,
there are several exaggerations and misrepresentations in
the current Taser training materials. Local law enforcement

W

3. Mandate Openness: While we did receive policies and
training materials from the vast majority of departments,
two agencies—the Sutter County Sheriff Department and
the Cotati Police Department—refused to provide any
policy or training documents. Further, a number of departments that we sent follow up requests to for use of force or
police reports documenting the use of the Taser refused to
provide the requested documents. It is difficult to evaluate a
department’s actual use of the Taser without such information. We urge local law enforcement and local government
to adopt policies favoring disclosure of such documents.
4. Use of Force Data Collection: Through our records survey, we learned that the vast majority of law enforcement
agencies do not collect, collate, and analyze use-of-force
data for the various types of force employed by the department. This data is useful to analyzing whether Tasers are
being relied on disproportionately. However, beyond Tasers, this type of information is critical for police managers
if they want to have a good understanding of how force
is being used in their department. We therefore urge local law enforcement and local government to require the
collection, collation, and analysis of use of force data for
each type of force and to disclose such information to the
public. n

Conclusion

hile the Taser stun gun has the potential to save lives
as an alternative to deadly force, it poses a serious
health risk as long as it remains largely unregulated. Deaths in
the aftermath of Taser jolts are increasing steadily, and there
have yet to be sufficient independent studies of the weapon’s
health effects. However this scenario need not continue. Lo-

16

should review the training materials they are utilizing and
develop new training materials that more accurately reflect
the potential danger associated with Taser use and the current state of medical studies regarding its safety.

cal law enforcement should follow the above recommendations and reevaluate its training and use policies. At the very
least, practices currently employed by law enforcement in
northern and central California should be consolidated and
followed so that Tasers do, indeed, save lives rather than end
them unnecessarily. n

Stun Gun Fallacy

Appendix A
Scope and Methodology

O

n May 16, 2005, the ACLU of Northern California sent
Public Records Act requests to several police and sheriff departments throughout Northern and Central California.
The requests were sent to every department that employs 100
or more sworn officers as well as departments that we knew or
believed from news reports used Tasers. At the beginning of
June, we sent another round to a few smaller agencies. In total,
requests were sent to 79 agencies.
Between May and August, we received documents from the
agencies. We reviewed their policy documents and the training materials that were provided. If departments did not respond, we followed up multiple times.
One agency, the Oakland Police Department, was good

enough to invite us to attend the full Taser training presented
to their officers. This experience was extremely informative
and rewarding and we thank the Oakland Police Department
for their openness.
The information we have reported in this report is based on
information we received when we received it. Some departments may have changed their policies and training in the interim. We did not do additional follow up requests after we
received a response. Departments that reported at the time
they did not use Tasers may have since employed them. Other
agencies may have modified their training materials or policies.
The information contained in this report represents the state of
Taser training and policy at the time we issued the request. n

Appendix B
Best Practices Taser Policy
Taken from law enforcement agencies throughout northern and central California. This does not mecessarily
represent the ACLU-NC’s “model policy,” however it
represents some of the best policies currently being employed by regional law enforcement agencies.

Purpose:
To establish guidelines for the deployment and use of the
Taser.

Policy Statement:
To deploy and use the Taser in a manner which maximizes the
safety of all individuals involved in an incident.
(Capitola Police Department Departmental Order No. 60)

Procedure:
I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. Definition: The X26 Air Taser is a conducted energy
weapon that utilizes compressed nitrogen to shoot
two probes up to twenty-one feet. The probes are connected to the weapon by high-voltage insulated wires.
When the probes make contact with the target, the
Taser transmits electrical pulses along the wires and
into the body of the target. The X-26 Taser has a builtin memory to track usage. It has the ability to downStun Gun Fallacy

load information relating to the time discharged, time
of the day and duration of the discharge. (Gilroy Police Department, Addendum to GPD Policy Manual
Section 308, June 2004)
B. Less-Lethal Weapon: As with other “less lethal”
force options, this department is committed to reducing the potential for violent confrontations with the
suspects we encounter. The X26 Advanced Taser technology is one of those items, which when used properly, are less likely to result in serious physical injury
or death. (Gilroy Police Department, Addendum to
GPD Policy Manual Section 308, June 2004)
Although designed to lower the risk to officers and
civilians, and not cause serious injury or death, it is
recognized that any less lethal force weapon has the
potential to cause serious injury or death. (Redding
Police Department, General Order A-43.2 Less Lethal
Force Weapons)
C. Training: The Taser shall only be used by officers and
supervisors trained in its deployment and use. Officers
shall use the Taser in a manner that is consistent with
departmental orders and training guidelines. (Capitola Police Department Departmental Order No. 60)
17

II. DEPLOYMENT
A. Circumstances for Use: Because the taser has the potential to cause serious injury, this type of weapon will
only be used in the following circumstances. (Fairfield
Police Department Policy and Procedure 4310 Degree of Force A19 use of X-26 Taser). The Taser may
be used to overcome resistance from subjects who the
officer reasonably believes present an immediate, credible threat to the safety of the officer(s), the public, or
whenever an officer reasonably believes that a subject
poses an immediate, credible threat to the subject’s
own safety. (Sacramento Police Department General
Order 580.10 Use of the Taser 1/9/04)
B. Verbal and Visual Warnings: Unless it would otherwise endanger officer safety or is impractical due to
circumstances, a verbal announcement of the intended use of the Taser shall precede the application of a
taser device in order to:
1. Provide the individual with a reasonable opportunity to voluntarily comply.
2. Provide other deputies and individual with warning that a Taser device may be deployed.
If, after a verbal warning, an individual continues
to express an unwillingness to voluntarily comply
with a deptuy’s lawful orders and it appears both
reasonable and practical under the circumstances, a
deputy may, but is not required to display the electrical arc (provided there is not a cartridge loaded
into the Taser) or laser in a further attempt to gain
compliance prior to the application of the Taser
device. The aiming laser should never be intentionally directed into the eyes of another as it may
permanently impair their vision. Deputies should
not remove a Taser cartridge in order to display an
electrical arc.
The fact that a verbal and/or other warning was given or reasons it was not given shall be documented
in any related reports. (Sonoma County Sheriff’s
Department, 308.52)
C. Only display when use justified: The Taser shall
not be displayed on calls or incidents unless the officer has specific information about the call or incident that reasonably indicates there is a potential
for the Taser’s use. The circumstances of each call
or incident shall dictate the reasonableness for the
deployment of the Taser. (Capitola Police Department Departmental Order No. 60)

18

D. Prohibited Use: The Taser shall not be used:
1. In potentially flammable or explosive environment;
2. On an individual exposed to flammable liquids
or substances;
3. On individuals who are passively resisting;
4. As a prod or escort device;
5. To arouse unconscious, impaired, or intoxicated
individuals;
6. On an individual operating a running vehicle or
machinery;
7. On an individual who could fall from a significant height;
8. On an individual in a pool or body of water, or
who could fall into a pool or body of water.
(El Dorado County Sheriff Department, Order
No 308.55,56)
E. Use Cautions: Deputies and officers should carefully evaluate the circumstances before using a Taser
on individual who may be more susceptible to injury.
Although not absolutely prohibited, deputies
should give additional consideration to the unique
circumstances involved prior to applying the Taser.
Criteria to consider include:
1. Availability and effectiveness of alternative means
to gain compliance;
2. Time severity of the aggressive behavior versus
the potential harm;
3. Individual who may be at greater risk include:
a. Pregnant women;
b. Elderly persons;
c. Children;
d. Persons with known health problems.
e. Individual who have been recently sprayed
with alcohol based Pepper Spray or who are
otherwise in close proximity to any combustible material (El Dorado County Sheriff Department, Order No 308.55,56)
F. Restrained Individuals: The Taser should not be
used on a restrained subject, unless the actions of
the subject present an immediate threat of physical
injury to a Department member, the restrained sub-

Stun Gun Fallacy

ject, or another person. Members using the Taser on
a restrained subject should use the Taser in a drive
stun mode. (Fresno Police Department Standing
Order No. 2.5.8)
G. Multiple Uses: Officers should avoid using more
than one Taser at a time on a suspect. If the initial
Taser becomes disabled, a second Taser may be deployed. If the Taser does not gain control or is ineffective, repeated deployments shall not be done.
(Stockton Police Department, General Order Q1c, III.C-D)
III. TACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. Members deploying the Taser operationally, if feasible, should be supported by at least one Officer
capable of providing immediate cover. (Stockton
Police Department General Order Q-1c III B)
B. No individual shall simultaneously draw and hold a
Taser and any firearm (Capitola Police Department
Departmental Order No. 60)
C. The M26 shall be carried in an ambidextrous holster on the non-firearm side of the body. Training
shall include drawing the M26 using the on-gun
hand in order to prevent unintentional drawing of
firearm. (Daly City Police Department, General
Order K-1)
D. The target area should be center of mass which allows the electrical impulse to engage large muscle
groups. Officers shall not intentionally aim for the
head, neck, or groin. (Daly City Police Department, General Order K-1)
IV. MEDICAL TREATMENT
Persons who have been subjected to the Taser electronic immobilization device, either the darts or the probes, shall be
treated as follows:
A. Once in custody, the subject shall be transported to
a local hospital emergency room or other medical
care facility. The transporting officer shall advise the
medical staff that the person has been subjected to the
Taser electronic immobilization device and relate the
appropriate time the action occurred. If the darts contact the skin, the puncture sites shall be located and
brought to the attention of the medical staff.
NOTE: IF THE TASERED SUSPECT LOSES

Stun Gun Fallacy

CONSCIOUSNESS, OFFICERS SHALL IMMEDIATELY REQUEST FIRE RESCUE AND AN
AMBULANCE.
B. The transporting officer shall obtain medical clearance
from the appropriate medical facility physician prior
to booking the suspect.
C. If the dart contacts are firmly embedded in the skin,
they shall be removed only by the appropriate medical
facility personnel.
D. One easily overlooked aspect of injury in a tasered
subject is that of falling from a standing position. Potential injuries could include: fractures, contusions,
and intercranial hemorrhage. A thorough physical
examination with particular emphasis on injuries secondary to the fall should be performed.
E. If the Taser darts or antennae are applied directly to
the suspect’s skin, then color photos will be taken indicating the application points of the device.
F. If Taser darts are utilized, then the expended cartridge
and darts should be placed into evidence. (Scotts Valley Police Department, General Order 5.1.6.D)
IV. REPORTING: The use of a Taser constitutes a use of
force and, as such, must be reported according to Department
force reporting procedures. Any member who uses the Taser
on a subject shall immediately notify a supervisor as soon as
reasonably possible. The supervisor shall then prepare an Unusual Occurrence Report which details the events that led to
the application of the Taser, the extent of the subject’s injuries,
and the name of the treating physician. Such Unusual Occurrence Reports shall be completed and submitted through
approved channels to the Chief of Police no later than 0900
hours on the next business day following the incident.
The use of the Taser on a subject shall be documented in
a police report prepared to cover the incident. The report
should cover the complete circumstances surrounding the use
of force. Additionally, the police report shall include:
A. Name(s) of the department member(s) using the
Taser;
B. Serial number of the Taser(s) used;
C. Serial number of the Taser cartridge(s) used;
D. Model of the Taser(s) used;
E. Number of applications and duration of application(s)
(i.e. 3 sec., 5 sec., Etc); and
F. Location and description of application sites. (Fresno
Police Department Standing Order No. 2.5.8) n

19

Appendix C
Departments Surveyed
Departments That Use Tasers

Atherton Police Department
Butte County Sheriff
Calaveras County Sheriff
Capitola Police Department
Clearlake Police Department
Concord Police Department
Contra Costa County Sheriff
Cotati Police Department
Daly City Police Department
El Dorado County Sheriff
Fairfield Police Department
Fremont Police Department
Fresno Police Department
Fresno County Sheriff
Gilroy Police Department
Healdsburg Police Department
Hollister Police Department
Kings County Sheriff
Livingston Police Department
Lodi Police Department
Manteca Police Department
Monterey County Sheriff
Oakland Police Department
Pacifica Police Department
Petaluma Police Department
Pleasanton Police Department
Redding Police Department
Richmond Police Department
Rohnert Park Police Department
Sacramento County Sheriff
Sacramento Police Department
Salinas Police Department
San Benito County Sheriff
San Francisco County Sheriff
San Joaquin County Sheriff
San Jose Police Department
San Mateo Police Department
Santa Cruz County Sheriff
Santa Rosa Police Department
Santa Rosa Junior Collage Police Department
Scotts Valley Police Department
Seaside Police Department
Sebastopol Police Department
Shasta County Sheriff
Solano County Sheriff

20

Sonoma County Sheriff
Stanislaus County Sheriff
Stockton Police Department
Sutter Police Department
Tracy Police Department
Truckee Police Department
Tulare County Sheriff
UC Davis Police Department
Vacaville Police Department
Vallejo Police Department
Visalia Police Department

Departments That Do Not Have Tasers:
Alameda County Sheriff
Alameda Police Department
Antioch Police Department
Berkeley Police Department
Del Rey Oaks Police Department
Department of Police Services-Atascadero State Hospital
Hayward Police Department
Marin County Sheriff’s Department
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department121
Merced County Sheriff’s Department
Modesto Police Department
Placer County Sheriff’s Department
San Louis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department
Santa Clara Police Department
Sunnyvale Police Department
Sonoma State University

Departments That Did Not Fully
Respond:
Atwater Police Department
Cloverdale Police Department
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department

Jurisdictions Surveyed That Contract
Out Services to Another Department
City of Elk Grove contracts with Sacramento County
Sheriff
City of Sonoma contracts with Sonoma County Sheriff

Stun Gun Fallacy

Appendix D
Data on Local Taser Policies

122

Department
Atherton PD
Butte County Sheriff

Multiple

Calaveras County Sheriff
Capitola PD
Clearlake PD
Concord PD
Contra Costa County Sheriff
Daly City PD
El Dorado County Sheriff
Fairfield PD
Fremont PD
Fresno PD

Juveniles

x
x

x

Fresno County Sheriff
Gilroy PD
Healdsburg PD
Hollister PD

Pregnant
x

Elderly

Unconscious

Passive Resisters
x
x

x
x
x

x

x

x

x

x

x
x

x
x

x
x

x
x

x
x
x

x

x
x

Kings County Sheriff
Livingston PD
Lodi PD
Manteca PD
Monterey County Sheriff

Handcuffs

x

x

x

x

x

Oakland PD
Pacifica PD

x
x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Petaluma PD
Pleasanton PD
Redding PD
Richmond PD
Rohnert Park PD
Sacramento County Sheriff
Sacramento PD
Salinas PD

x

San Benito County Sheriff
San Francisco County Sheriff

x

San Joaquin County Sheriff
San Jose PD
San Mateo PD

x

x

Santa Cruz County Sheriff
Santa Rosa PD
Santa Rosa JC PD
Scotts Valley PD
Seaside PD
Sebastopol PD
Shasta County Sheriff

Stockton PD

x
x
x

Tracy PD
Truckee PD
Tulare County Sheriff
UC Davis PD
Vacaville PD
Vallejo PD
Visalia PD
Totals:

Stun Gun Fallacy

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Solano County Sheriff
Sonoma County Sheriff
Stanislaus County Sheriff

x

x

x

x
x

x
x

x
x

x

x

x

x

x
x

x

x
x
23

x
x
19

x
x
x

x

x
4

x
x
14

10

x

8

10

21

Endnotes
1

Taser International Web Site font page www.taser.com.
Robert Anglen, “144 Cases of Death Following Stun-Gun Use,” Arizona Republic, August 8, 2005, available online at
www.azcentral.com. This article cites 144 deaths, however four additional deaths have been reported in Northern California since. They are Tommy Valentine Gutierrez, Dwayne Zachary, and David Anthony Cross, and Timothy Michael Torres.
Christina Jewett, “Suspect Hit With Tasers, Then Dies,” Sacramento Bee, August 6, 2005; Christina Jewett, “Man’s Death
After Taser Shot Probed,” Sacramento Bee, August 17, 2005; Genevieve Bookwalter, “Sheriff’s Office Probes Death of Jail
Inmate After Taser Use,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 20, 2005; Jim Downing, “Man Shot with Taser Dies,” Sacramento
Bee, September 23, 2005.
3
Kevin Johnson, “Federal Bureaus Reject Stun Guns,” USA Today, March 18, 2005.
4
International Association of Chiefs of Police, Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A Nine Step Strategy for Effective
Deployment, April 4, 2005 (“IACP Report”), p. 5.
5
Taser International Website, About Taser, Corporate History, www.taser.com/about/history.htm
www.taser.com/about/history.html.
6
Id.
7
Taser International Quarterly Report, March 14, 2003, p. 4.
8
Taser Internation Second Quarter Earnings Conference Call, July 8, 2005.
9
Christina Jewett, “Suspect Hit With Tasers, Then Dies,” Sacramento Bee, August 6, 2005.
10
Andrew Washington Autopsy Report; Matthias Gafni, “Pathologist Expounds on Autopsy,” Vallejo Times-Herald, February
2, 2005.
11
Alan Gathright, “Man Dies After Police Shock Him with Taser,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 4, 2005; David Herbert,
“Officers Cleared in Taser Case,” San Jose Mercury News, June 25, 2005; Amy Yarbrough, “Police are Cleared in Taser Case,”
Inside Bay Area, June 25, 2005.
12
Transcript from 911 call obtained from the Santa Rosa Police Department via a Public Records Act Request; “Six Shots Preceded Santa Rosa Man’s Death,” CBS 5 News, July 19, 2005, online at www.cbs5.com; Jeremy Hay, “Santa Rosa Man Dies
After Police Struggle.” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, July 17, 2005.
13
Herbert Sample, “ACLU Seeks Police Data on Taser Cases,” Sacramento Bee, August 6, 2005.
14
According www.techweb.comʼs on-line dictionary, amperage is “a measurement of electrical current in a circuit,” as opposed
to volts, which is “is a measure of force, or pressure, behind the current.”
15
Russel Sabin, “Heart Expert Warns About Using Tasers,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2005.
16
Anabelle Garay, “Study Finds Stun Gun Use Is Being Abused by Police,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 3, 2004.
17
Roger Barr, Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio, December 7, 2004; we also interviewed Professor Barr for this report.
18
Alan Gathright, “Taser Sued Over ‘Non-Lethal’ Claim,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 2004.
19
Elizabeth Hume, “Stun Gun Deaths Raise Drug-Link Questions,” Sacramento Bee, November 13, 2004 (citing comments
by Dr. Kathy Glatter).
20
Matthias Gafni, “Autopsy Reveals Taser Use,” Vallejo Times-Hearld, January 6, 2005.
21
CBS Evening News On-Line, February 9, 2005, available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/09/eveningnews/
main672709.shtml?CMP=ILC-SearchStories.
22
Taser International News Release, “Human Cardiac Safety Study of TASER Devices Released,” May 13, 2005.
23
Saul D. Levine, Christian Sloane, Theodore Chan, Gary Vilke and James Dunford, “Cardiac Monitoring of Subjects Exposed
to the Taser,” Abstract, Academic Emergency Medicine, Volume 12, No. 5, Suppl 1, 71.
24
Taser International News Release, “Department of Defnese Full Report on TASER Device Study Conducted by Human Effects Center of Excellence,” April 1, 2005 (repeated reference to Taser “non-lethal” weapons without qualification), announcing the release of the Department of Defense report on Tasers describes the Potomac Study as a “major independent safety
study.” A news release dated March 30, 2005 announced the release of the Potomac Study.
25
Dennis K. McBride and Natalie Tedder, Efficacy and Safety of Electrical Stun Devices, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Report: No. 05-04, March 29, 2005, p. 4, 5.
26
IACP Report, p. 5.
27
IACP Report, p. 19.
28
Johnson, supra, note 3.
2

22

Stun Gun Fallacy

29

Ben Aguirre Jr., “Newark Police Chief Reluctant to Use Tasers,” www.insidebayarea.com January 31, 2005 (www.insidebayarea.com is the common website for ANG newspapers).
30
David Simpson, “Taser Use to Go on at County Jail,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 11, 2005; Tracey Christensen,
“DeKalb Suspends Use of Tasers,” News11, August 2, 2005, online at www.11alive.com.
31
Barrett Wright and Carol Robinson, “Mayor Halts Use of Tasers By Police,” Birmingham News, July 13, 2005.
32
Tom Rybarczyk, “Dolton Sues Taser Maker,” Chicago Tribune, July 29, 2005.
33
“Ind. Police Forgo Tasers in Face of Health Risks,” policeone.com, February 9, 2005, online at http://www.policeone.com/
police-products/less-lethal/taser/articles/96697/.
police-products/less-lethal/taser/articles/96697/
34
Tom Rybarczyk and David Heinzmann, “Man Hit By Cop Stun Gun Dies,” Chicago Tribune, February 11, 2005; David
Heinzmann and John Chase, “Medical Examiner Ties Death to Officer’s Taser,” Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2005; David
Newbart, “Doctors: Taser Stopped Teen’s Heart,” Chicago Sun-Times, September 4, 2005.
35
The cover of Taser International’s latest training CD, for example, caries the slogan “safety every officer deserves.” Training
CD Version 12, November 2004.
36
Instructor Certification Course for the X26, Taser International, November 2004, slide 130 (video of police using tasers on
individual under the influence of drugs).
37
For example, see letter from Rick Smith, CEO of Taser International, to San Francisco Police Commission, p. 3 (letter undated, but sent in late September or October 2004) citing Joint Concept for Non-Lethal Weapons, United States Marine
Corps, available on-line at http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/docs/NONLETH.HT
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/docs/NONLETH.HTM.
38
For example, see Taser International Press Release, April 1, 2005, and May 13, 2005, supra, notes 22 and 24.
39
Alex Berenson, “As Police Use of Tasers Rises, Questions Over Safety Increase,” New York Times, July 18, 2004.
40
Christina Jewett, “Coroner: Taser Wasn’t a Factor in Man’s Death,” Sacramento Bee, April 14, 2005.
41
Kevin Johnson, “Death Prompts Concerns, Reviews on Use of Stun Guns,” USA Today, February 16, 2005.
42
Robert Anglen, “144 Cases of death Following Stun Gun Use,” Arizona Republic, August 8, 2005 (online at www.azcentral.
com). The Arizona Republic requested autopsy reports in 144 Taser related death cases. It received the reports in 47 cases.
Eighteen reports listed Tasers as a cause, a contributing factor, or stated that Tasers could not be ruled out. In 25 cases, medical
examiners stated that Tasers were not a factor. It is unclear what happened in the other four cases.
43
Robert Anglen and Dawn Gilbertson, “Feds Look at Taser Actions,” Arizona Republic, January 7, 2005; Robert Anglen,
“Coroner: Taser Pushed Revision of Autopsy,” Arizona Republic, August 25, 2004.
44
Thor Valdmanis, “Taser Defends Giving Stock Options to Police,” Arizona Republic, September 24, 2005, “Taser Gave Four
Police Officers Stock Options,” USA Today, January 12, 2005; Also Beth DeFalco, “Stun Gun Maker Gave Stock Options
to Active-Duty Cops Moonlighting As Master Trainers,” Associated Press printed at www.policeone.com
www.policeone.com, (describing how
Jim Halsted of the Chandler Police Department helped convince the Chandler City Council to purchase Tasers while he was
employed by Taser International. The City Council did not know he was receiving stock options from the company); also Alan
Gathright, “Stun-Gun Maker Hires Police to Tout Weapon,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 2005.
45
Robert Anglen, “Firm Paid Councilman to Push Stun Guns,” Arizona Republic, March 28, 2005.
46
Historic stock quotes for Taser at quote.yahoo.com.
47
Beth DeFalco, “Stun Gun Maker Gave Stock Options to Active-Duty Cops Moonlighting As Master Trainers,” www.policeone.com, March 18, 2005.
48
Id.
59
Id.
50
Taser International Press Release, “Taser International, Inc. Reports Record First Quarter Financial Results,” April 21, 2003
51
Historic quotes for Taser at quote.yahoo.com.
52
DeFalco, supra, note 47.
53
Kevin Johnson, “Police on Weapon Company Payrolls,” USA Today, April 24, 2005.
54
For example, the company cites research published in Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology (PACE) Journal. See Taser Press
Release, January 13, 2005. That study, however, did not take into account important factors such as drugs, elevated heart
rates and conditions like heart disease. Robert Anglen, “Taser Doctor’s Credibility Questioned,” Arizona Republic January 23,
2005 (citing an analysis done by Gradient Analytics).
55
See Deposition of Dr. Robert Allen Stratbucker, Robert Chirstian Wolf v. John Bennett Ramsey and Patricia Paugh Ramsey,
May 30, 2002, p. 25 (Stratbucker admitted in response to questioning that he received stock options as compensation for his
research. He was asked to testify about whether a Taser had been used on Jon Benet Ramsey but was ultimately not used as a
Stun Gun Fallacy

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witness after questions about his credibility were raised in the deposition).
Christian Hall, “Taser-Linked Death Ruled a Homicide,” Toledo Blade, April 13, 2005.
57
CBS news report on Dr. Jauchman’s findings were two months earlier—see note 21, supra.
58
Robert Anglen and Dawn Gilbertson, “Taser Safety Claims Draw State Scrutiny,” Arizona Republic, January 8, 2005.
59
Two departments utilize stun guns produced by other manufacturers. The Fresno County Sheriff utilizes the Nova Police
Special Stun Gun and the Solano County Sheriff utilizes the Tasertron stun gun—a much older version. This report does not
analyze either weapon or the training on them in detail. Also, in addition to the Taser, the Santa Cruz Sheriff Department uses
the Ultron II stun gun and has a separate training manual for that weapon.
60
Departments that produce their own training materials may also use Taser International’s materials, but at least also supplement them with their own materials. The Oakland Police Department, for example, uses Version 12 of the Taser training
materials, but also created some of their own materials on excited delirium. In the course of their training, Oakland Police
Department also discussed the Andrew Washington case.
61
Some departments refused to provide training materials, but others simply stated that they had none in their possession and
referred us to Taser International as the provider of their training.
62
Taser International Instructor Certification Lesson Plan and Support Materials, Taser X26 and Advanced Taser M26, January
2004, slide 33 (hereinafter “Training Materials Version 11”).
63
Training Materials Version 11, slide 128.
64
Training Materials Version 11, slide 127.
65
Anglen, supra, note 2.
66
Training Materials Version 11, slide 29 (emphasis added).
67
Robert Anglen, “Officer’s Injury Tied to Taser,” Arizona Republic, December 26, 2004.
68
Robert Anglen, “Police in 5 States Sue Taser in Past 2 Weeks,” Arizona Republic, August 20, 2005.
69
Taser International Instructor Certification Course, Taser X26 and Taser M26 Non-Lethal Weapons,” November 2004, slide
51(hereinafter “Training Materials Version 12”).
70
Training Materials Version 12, slide 38
71
Training Materials Version 12, slides 170, 171, 173, and 174 (emphasis added).
72
Training Materials, Version 11, slide 116
73
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 158.
74
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 188.
75
Training Materials, Version 12, M/X 26 Instructor Review Questions. Emphasis added.
76
Training Materials, Version 11, slide 31
77
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 40
78
IACP Report, p. 5.
79
DOMILL Statement on the Comparative Medical Implications of the Use of the X26 and the M26 Taser, March 7, 2005
(“DOMILL Statement”) para 21.
80
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 186 (Indicates that Tasers are best used in situations with a “hostile” or “potentially hostile” individual and as an alternative to officers going “hands on.”)
81
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 172.
82
A Bleetman, R Steyn, and C Lee, “Introduction of the Taser into British Policing. Implications for UK Emergency Departments: An Overview of Electronic Weaponry,” Emerg Med J. 2004; 21:136-140 (“Bleetman and Steyn have previously conducted a financed literature review for Taser International).
83
Id., (emphasis added).
84
Training Materials, Version 12, slide 174.
85
Robert Anglen, “Taser Tied to ‘Independent’ Study that Backs Stun Gun,” Arizona Republic, May 21, 2005
86
United States Department of Defense, Human Effects Center of Excellence, Human Effectiveness and Risk Characterization
of Electromuscular Incapacitation Devices, October 18, 2004 (“DOD Study”) p. 71.
87
Id., p. 18.
88
Anglen, supra, note 85.
89
Id.
90
DOD Study, p. 70
91
DOD Study, p. 19.
56

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92

Training Materials, Version 12, slide 174.
DOMILL Statement, supra, note 79.
94
Association of Chief Police Officers (“ACPO”), Operation Use of Taser Policy, p. 4 (“Taser will only be deployedin circumstances where firearms officers are authorized to carry firearms. Taser will be readily available and will only be deployed alongside conventional firearms.”); ACPO, Operational Use of Taser Operational Guidance, p. 3 (Authorized Firerarms Officers
(AFOs) are, in accordance with the ACPR Manual of Guideance on Police Us of Firarms, issued with firarms – where the
authorizing office has reason to suppose that they, in the course of their duty, may have to protect themselves or others from
a person who is in possession of a firearm, or has immediate access to a firearm, or is otherwise so dangerous that the officer’s
use of a firearm ma be necessary.”) Both available on-line at http://www.westmercia.police.uk/800/mogpuf/mogpuf2.htm
http://www.westmercia.police.uk/800/mogpuf/mogpuf2.htm.
95
Alan Gathright, “Police Chief Defends Use of Stun Guns,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2005.
96
Clarissa Aljentera, “Taser Death Wariness,” Monterey County Herald, August 4, 2005.
97
Atherton Police Department General Order Oper 1: Use of Force, IV.E., March 2005.
98
Sacramento Police Department General Order 580.10, Use of the Taser, January 9, 2004.
99
Taser International, Training Bulletin 12.0-04, June 28, 2005.
100
Stockton Police Department General Order Q-1c, III.C-D, March 1, 2005.
101
Fremont Police Department Operations Directive Z-13: Taser X26, Less Lethal, September 16, 2004.
102
Fairfield Police Department Policy and Procedure 4310: Degree of Force, February 2005.
103
El Dorado Sheriff Department Order No 308.55, 56, February 2005.
104
Fresno Police Department Standing Order No 2.5.8, April 4, 2005 (“The Taser should not be used on subjects exhibiting
passive resistant behavior.”)
105
Training Materials Version 12 slide 43.
106
San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department, Field Forces Division, Divisional Order: Use of —26 Tasers, July 11, 2001.
107
Vallejo Police Department Special Order 2003-3 (Revised), Taser Use and Deployment Policy, November 30, 2004.
108
CNN, “Police Review Policy After Taser Used on Kids,” cnn.com, November 15, 2004.
109
Robert Anglen, “Police Expand Use of Taser,” Arizona Republic, November 7, 2004.
110
Associated Press, “Police Stun 12-Year-Old Girl With Taser,” available on-line at www.cleveland.com, September 9, 2005.
111
United Press International, “Police Use Stun-Gun on 6-Year-Old,” Washington Times Web Site, November 12, 2004.
112
Lisa Arthur, Susannah A. Nesmith, Jacob Goldstein, “Experts Dispute Data on Stun Guns,” Miami Herald, December 5,
2004.
113
Capitola Police Department Order No. 60: Use of the Advanced Taser, July 10, 2003.
114
Sacramento Sheriff’s Department General Order 2/14: Use of the Taser, May, 2001.
115
Crystal Carreon, “Police to Review Use of Stun Gun,” San Jose Mercury News, September 29, 2004, Cicero A. Estrella,
“Police Shooting in San Jose Stirs Vietnamese into Action,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 2003.
116
San Jose Police Department Research and Development Duty Manual, Policy L 2614 and L 2615 (date of original adoption
unknown).
117
San Jose Police Department Duty Manual, Policy L2614 and L 2615 (revised June 16, 2004).
118
Taser’s opposition was focused largely around the provision of the bill which would have banned Taser use and possession by
private citizens. The bill, AB 1237, was defeated in the Assembly on a narrow floor vote of 38 to 36 against. See bill status at
www.leginfo.ca.gov. The ACLU-NC takes no position on the civilian use of Tasers.
www.leginfo.ca.gov
119
Statistical data provided by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department. While in 2002, the last full year before the department started using Tasers, there were 64 reportable uses of force, in 2004, the first full year after Taser deployment, there were
66 uses of Tasers in addition to 76 other reportable uses of force.
120
IACP Report, p. 13 (emphasis added).
121
The Mendocino County Sheriff responded indicating that the department had not yet deployed Tasers but was in the process
of acquiring them when we spoke with him.
122
In the chart, “x” indicates that the department has some policy regulating the use of Tasers in the particular area. Multiple
refers to multiple applications of the Taser. The other categories are self evident. The Clearlake, Petaluma, and Sacramento
Police Departments blacked out large portions of their departmental policy when they provided it to us. It is therefore unclear
whether the department has additional restrictions or not. The Sebastopol police department indicated to us that they were
in the process of adopting a new policy with additional restrictions and provided us a copy, however that policy was not in
effect when they responded to our request and therefore we did not included in this analysis.
93

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ACLU of Northern California
1663 Mission Street, Suite 460
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 621-2493 n www.aclunc.org

 

 

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