Friday, December 5, 2008

Still Please Don't Tase Me, Bro! [UPDATED] Is Taser LYING?

(Hat Tip GannettBlog)

The Columbia Journalism Review released an item on Friday alleging that Taser International made false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Taser stated that Gannett Co, Inc -- publishers of numerous daily papers and the USA Today -- agreed to vet stories about Taser products before publishing in the settlement of a 2006 law suit filed by Taser against Gannett. Gannett and the two papers that ran the item about potential Taser deaths yesterday.

The CJR item states:
  • There was no such agreement according to Gannett.
  • In two SEC filings, Taser claimed that the newspapers “would review articles regarding the Taser device with us prior to publication”—an extraordinary breach of journalistic standards.
  • Taser’s general counsel initially stated the claim to Wall Street analysts in an earnings conference call, adding that it was “in order to ensure accuracy.”
  • Gannett denies ever making such an agreement.
  • The initial suit was dismissed and a summary judgement was issued forbidding taser from suing again.

Current San Francisco Chronicle editor Ward Bushee, the Republic’s editor at the time of the settlement, and Randy Lovely, the Republic’s current editor, said they were unaware of Taser’s statements until asked about them recently by CIR, and denied that any such agreement ever existed.

“Taser’s assertion in the SEC filing is completely false,” Lovely said. “The Arizona Republic would never allow a source to review a story prior to publication. To do so would completely violate our journalist principles and standards of independence. The Republic has aggressively reported on Taser during the past few years, and we stand behind the full scope and accuracy of our stories.”

If Taser is lying to the SEC about the circumsatnces of the law suit, are they lying to us about the lethality of their products?


A lot of LEO (Law Enforcement Officer for the uninitiated) types still defend the Taser as a non-lethal defense device for law enforcement. In comes the latest study...

A new study has found that the type of Taser stun gun used most by police officers can fire more electricity than the company says is possible, which the study's authors say raises the risk of cardiac arrest as much as 50 percent in some people.

The study, led by a Montreal biomedical engineer and a U.S. defense contractor at the request of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., also concluded that even stun guns firing at expected electrical levels carry some risk of inducing a heart attack, depending on the circumstances.

Taser predictably calls the study bogus.
Taser International Inc., based in Scottsdale, called the study flawed. "Regardless of whether or not the anomaly (high-firing guns) is accurate, it has no bearing on safety," Taser Vice President Steve Tuttle said.
The study had the highest to date number of devices and found that. "9 percent of the guns tested abnormally high was significant enough to recommend a freeze in using X26 stun guns made before 2005."

Further, more questions were raised by the study about Taser use on those with heart conditions.

Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer in Montreal who co-authored the report with two Chicago doctors, said they may have understated the risk Tasers pose because there is little available research on the effects of the weapon on humans, especially those who have heart disease. Although Savard said he recognizes the value of less-lethal weapons, he added that he is convinced Tasers can kill in some circumstances.

"Scientists who had evaluated the Taser to start with said, 'Well, there's zero probability of death.' I'm sure that's not the case," Savard said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

"I'm 100 percent certain that cardiac diseases increase the risk of death after receiving Taser shock. I think there's enough scientific evidence for that."

The impact of use of Tasers on those under the influence of narcotics is also unknown according to the article.

You Still Better Not Tase Me, Bro!

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