From Eddie Griffin (BASG)
Blogging For Justice Day, April 19, 2009, AfroSpear
With all due respects to the Office of Chief of Police, it is imperative that I express the deep concerns of the African-American community about the tasering death of Michael Jacobs, age 24.
We have always been concerned about innocent people dying at the hands of police, especially under unwarranted circumstances. But the Department had been forewarned during the Mendoza administration that tasers were lethal. As the numbers claimed nationally and internationally, our fears were confirmed. Since 2001, there have been 351 taser deaths.
At first we did not fault our own police department for being duped into believing these were non-lethal weapons. Instead, as the numbers began to climb, we took our case to the United Nations and Amnesty International, who now leads the cry against tasers.
We challenged Taser International, Inc., the company that manufactures the device, with allegations of false advertising. When the death numbers were low, our case was weak. But after many battles, the company conceded to establish a set of guidelines to follow in deploying these 50,000-volt instruments safely. These Product Warnings were designed to exonerate the company from culpability in wrongful death situations. (See attachment below)
In a recent interview in the aftermath of the tasing death of Jacobs, Chief Halstead asserted that the officer deployed her Taser as trained and according with policy, which embodies the manufacturer’s deployment warnings. If that were the case, there would be no liability against the Department, and the officer would be immune.
This would leave only the victim to blame for his own death. Because he was on medication, he died. Because he was in an excited state, he died. Because he had a weak heart, he died.
In whatever the cause of death, there is one thing for sure. He died at the hands of the Fort Worth Police Department. He was not a criminal, to be manhandled and treated like a criminal. He died an innocent man.
What can an investigation reveal more than that?
As a community, we literally begged the former chief, Mendoza, not to purchase these deadly devices. Nevertheless, we had to watch helplessly as the Bush administration gave millions of dollars in federal grants to purchase these devices. We watched the death numbers climb.
What good is another investigation? We have compiled case after case, from Texas to Canada, proof that Tasers kill, and that there is misleading comfort in deployment.
The case of Michael Jacobs raises the issue again to the national and international level. It is one taser death too many.
We understand that Michael was mentally ill and was supposed to be taking medication. Either the department knew of his prior medical condition or it did not, and should have proceeded with caution, per product warning.
Secondly, there are many mentally ill patients living openly in the Southeast Fort Worth community, primarily under the guardianship of another family member. And, it is not unusual for one of these patients to forget to take their medication or outright refuse. Many times, these lead to volatile family situation.
The Police Department was wrong to come in and try to manhandle the situation, when medical personnel were summoned to deal with a medical problem. A 911 call does not always mean send the SWAT team into our neighborhood. The life of the subject is more important than the enforcement of authority.
Submitted by Eddie G. Griffin
Attachment from Archives:
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2007
When Valreca Redden, an expectant mother, was tased by a Trotwood police officer, the pain reverberated around the world and the debate reignited.
Clearly, the video of Valreca Redden shows that she was distraught but not violent. She was distraught because she wanted to give her baby over to authorities. But when the officer hesitated and began her asking questions, the mother must have had a change of heart and decided to leave. That is when the officer stunned her.
Does tasing constitute torture? Wrong question!
Taser International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), the maker of the electronic stun gun, have consistently defended their devices being as non-lethal, although nearly 300 people have died after being shocked. To date, the company has successfully fought the United Nations Committee Against Torture and Amnesty International, thwarted congressional inquiries, defended Eighth Amendment challenges of cruel and unusual punishment, and is currently locked into a libel suit against USA Today publisher Gannett Inc. about the mortality risk of the devices.
Taser International's electronic control devices are advertised as “one of the most effective -less-than-lethal devices” used to “to safely incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves.”
But the justified use of such devices for the purpose of subduing a resisting subject is dubious, as shown in the 2004 tasering death of Deacon Fredrick Williams.
Williams was not one of those usual suspects. He was a family man with a decent job and well respected in the community and his church. He was an epileptic having a seizure. As the Gwinnett County sheriff deputies administer 50,000 volt shocks into his body, they repeatedly demand that he “stop resisting”. (How can a man with 50,000 volts of electricity passing through his body keep still, let alone an epileptic? The electric chair only used 20,000 volts.)
According to Amnesty International, there have been 296 similar deaths related to tasing. But Taser International is in denial that it is the fault of their taser devices. On the other hand, the "electrocutioners" are in denial also. They say it is the victim’s fault- either the victim was high on drugs or had a medical predisposition. The newest psycho-babble is “excited delirium”, an overdose of adrenaline like choking on one's own spit.
Over 270 people wiped out, electrocuted by tasers. And now introducing the more formidable laser guided taser cannon, the TASER X26.
The Taser, produced by Taser International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), is the latest toy put into the hands of law enforcement to subdue resistive subjects during apprehension and arrest. But the product manual for the device warns of its misusage.
Product Warnings for Law Enforcement from the Manufacturer
Obey Applicable Laws. Carry and use the TASER device in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws as well as your law enforcement agency’s guidance—policies, procedures, training, etc. Each TASER device discharge must be legally justified.
Avoid Weapons Confusion. Handguns have been confused with TASER devices. Learn about the differences in physical feel and holstering characteristics between the TASER device and your handgun. This will allow you to confirm device identity under stressful situations.
Select Preferred Target Areas. The preferred target areas are the subject’s torso (center mass) or legs. Avoid intentionally aiming a TASER device at the head or face without justification.
Avoid Sensitive Areas. Significant injury can occur from TASER device deployment into sensitive areas of the body such as the eyes, throat, or genitals—avoid intentionally targeting these areas without justification.
Avoid Known Pre-Existing Injury Areas. When practical, avoid deploying a TASER device at a known location of pre-existing injury (e.g., avoid targeting the back for persons with known pre-existing back injuries, avoid targeting the chest area on persons with a known history of previous heart attacks, etc.). These injuries may be provoked by such deployment.
Beware—TASER Device Can Ignite Explosive Materials, Liquids, or Vapors. These include gasoline, other flammables, explosive materials, liquids, or vapors (e.g., gases found in sewer lines, methamphetamine labs, and butane-type lighters). Some self-defense sprays use flammable carriers such as alcohol and could be dangerous to use in immediate conjunction with TASER devices.
Control and Restrain Immediately. Begin control and restraint procedures as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so in order to minimize the total duration of exertion and stress experienced by the subject.
Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome Awareness. If a subject is exhibiting signs or behaviors that are associated with Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome, consider combining use of a TASER device with immediate physical restraint techniques and medical assistance. Signs of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome include: extreme agitation, bizarre behavior, inappropriate nudity, imperviousness to pain, paranoia, exhaustive exertion, “superhuman” strength, hallucinations, sweating profusely, etc.
Continuous Exposure Risks. When practical, avoid prolonged or continuous exposure(s) to the TASER device's electrical discharge. In some circumstances, in susceptible people, it is conceivable that the stress and exertion of extensive repeated, prolonged, or continuous application(s) of the TASER device may contribute to cumulative exhaustion, stress, and associated medical risk(s).
Other Conditions. Unrelated to TASER exposure, conditions such as excited delirium, severe exhaustion, drug intoxication or chronic drug abuse, and/or over-exertion from physical struggle may result in serious injury or death.
Breathing Impairment. Extended or repeated TASER device exposures should be avoided where practical. Although existing studies on conscious human volunteers indicate subjects continue to breathe during extended TASER device applications, it is conceivable that the muscle contractions may impair a subject's ability to breathe. Accordingly, it is advisable to use expedient physical restraint in conjunction with the TASER device to minimize the overall duration of stress, exertion, and potential breathing impairment particularly on individuals exhibiting symptoms of excited delirium and/or exhaustion. However, it should be noted that certain subjects in a state of excited delirium may exhibit superhuman strength and despite efforts for expedient restraint, these subjects sometimes cannot be restrained without a significant and profound struggle.
Permanent Vision Loss. If a TASER probe becomes embedded in an eye, it could result in permanent loss of vision.
Seizure Risks. Repetitive stimuli such as flashing lights or electrical stimuli can induce seizures in some individuals. This risk is heightened if electrical stimuli or current passes through the head region.
Muscle Contraction-Related Risks. The TASER device can cause strong muscle contractions that may result in physical exertion or athletic-type injuries. In certain instances this may be serious for some people, such as those with pre-existing conditions and/or special susceptibilities. This may also occur in instances Sudden in-custody death results from a complex set of physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal changes in blood chemistry.
Secondary Injury Risks. TASER-induced strong muscle contractions usually render a subject temporarily unable to control his or her psychomotor movements. This may result in secondary injuries such as those due to falls. This loss of control, or inability to catch oneself, can in special circumstances increase the risk(s) of serious injury or death. Persons who are physically infirm or pregnant are among those who may be at higher risk.
Strain Injury Risks. It is possible that the injury types may include, but are not limited to, strain-type injuries such as hernias, ruptures, dislocations, tears, or other injuries to soft tissue, organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and joints. Fractures to bones, including vertebrae, may occur. These injuries may be more likely to occur in people with pre-existing injuries or conditions such as pregnancy, osteoporosis, osteopenia, spinal injuries, diverticulitis, or in persons having previous muscle, disc, ligament, joint, or tendon damage.
Laser Beam Eye Damage. The TASER device incorporates a laser aiming aid. Laser beams can cause eye damage. Avoid intentionally aiming at the eye(s) of a person or animal.
[Reference Tasered While Black for case study of abuse]