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'LESS THAN LETHAL' | Maker says they're safe, but a county study finds they can cause heart rhythm problems -- even death
January 31, 2008
BY FRANK MAIN AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reportersfirstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Tasers could soon become standard equipment for Chicago Police beat cops as a "less than lethal" alternative to guns, but a Cook County study has found the electric-shock weapons can trigger heart rhythm problems -- and even death.
The city is seeking bids for 2,500 tasers, far beyond the 350 now in use by the department. The department also is considering putting cameras on Tasers to record how the weapon was used.
Tasers are not cheap. Some departments have spent as much as $1,000 per weapon.
The pistol-like weapons expel two darts connected to 35-foot-long wires. The barbs deliver an immobilizing 50,000-volt shock.
"We view them as a less-than-lethal option," police spokeswoman Monique Bond said of the department's Tasers, which were discharged 181 times in 2006.
But Dr. Andrew Dennis, a Stroger Hospital trauma surgeon and part-time Des Plaines police officer, warned that Tasers can kill.
He was part of a team in the Cook County trauma unit that studied pigs over the last two years. In one test, 11 pigs were hit with 40-second electrical bursts. After a 10-second delay, they were zapped again for 40 seconds. The bursts caused "significant rhythm problems," and two pigs died of ventricular fibrillation, Dennis said. Other tests showed the barbs' location can affect the heart's rhythm, he said.
"I am not anti-Taser," he said. "However, I think the device does have the potential for lethality."
Dennis said officers often are trained "that it cannot hurt anyone, and that's not true."
"I think the potential for harm is small, but it does exist. In no way, shape or form do I think Tasers should come off the market, but education should be modified so officers are trained for the potential risk," he said
Officers should have access to automated external defibrillators in case a suspect goes into cardiac arrest because of a Taser, Dennis said.
A Taser International spokesman said the firm questions the way the study was conducted and pointed to other studies on humans that did not find a link between Tasers and heart problems. Dennis, in turn, questioned the independence and methods of those studies.In 2005, the Cook County medical examiner's office ruled that Ronald Hasse, 54, died following the use of a Taser. A Chicago Police sergeant used the device to subdue Hasse, who was unruly and high on methamphetamine, officials said.
Electrocution was the primary cause of death, and drugs were a contributing factor, the autopsy found.
Taser International, which counts former Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard as a consultant, disputed the autopsy.
The Chicago Police Department suspended the distribution of more Tasers after Hasse's death, but the ban was lifted after the department deemed them safe.
How in the hell can they say tasers are safe???
Cops are killing people just because they are too fucking lazy to get off their donut eating asses and chase someone who is trying to run or resist.
Come on motherfuckers...you(police) are in shape...at least most of you are now days... you shouldn't have that much of a problem taking down someone who is drunk, old, or out of shape.
I think they should ban the tasers along with guns...do away with them and go back to fighting with sticks...no body dies that way.
There has to be a better way...what about using a more mild form of the taser? Less volts???
It's just boys wanting more toys.
Here is what a police officer on another board had to say...."Holy crap, 40 seconds, x2??? Damn skippy a couple of them died. It's the difference between a couple of well placed strikes to subdue someone, and beating them half to death. Morons!"
Okay so you tell me that in the heat of an adrenaline rush this cop is going to be able to hit someone in the right place???? Oh come on you morons...you can't hit a subject in the leg with a gun, so how are you going to make sure you hit them with a taser in the RIGHT place? Not going to happen. Plus tell the truth...most cops go to work everyday hoping they get a chance to taser or even shoot someone...Police live for the moment.