The medical community disagrees. I'll take them over Amnesty International.
Henry Curtis, Orlando Sentinel
Originally Posted by Yunus
Amnesty International disagrees with you.
Long considered controversial and possibly deadly, police stun guns received a clean bill of health from a medical study released today by the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The three-year study found no links between the 50,000-volt weapons and fatal heart attacks.
"We finally have a real-world estimate of the risk associated with these weapons . . . and we found that to be low," said Dr. William Bozeman of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "That's important because these are violent encounters, and a small scrape or bruise is simply not the same as serious head injury or life-threatening internal injury."
Researchers at five medical schools reviewed 1,201 shock-arrest cases and found just three in which serious injuries could be tied to an electronic-control weapon. Better known as a Taser -- the name of the primary manufacturer -- the weapons are carried by more than two-thirds of U.S. police agencies.
It is the first study of its kind to medically evaluate every suspect who had been stunned and taken into custody. None showed any irregular heart activity attributable to the electrical charge, according to the findings reviewed by the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Controversy over Taser use in Orlando and Orange County stems from the deaths of seven suspects since the weapons were adopted for deputies use in 2001. More than 70 in-custody deaths across the U.S. have been blamed largely on combinations of the suspects' drug abuse, medical conditions and struggles with police.
In half of the study's cases, the suspects had been drinking or taking drugs, which may have contributed to their willingness to resist arrest. The study covered six police agencies in six states. The Marion County Sheriff's Office was the only Florida agency studied.
The study covered the Chandler Police Department in Arizona, the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Shreveport Police Department in Louisiana and the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System, which includes about 80 police jurisdictions in the Chicago area.
Of the 1,201 cases studied, two people died. Those deaths were attributed to a combination of prolonged struggles, drug abuse and pre-existing medical conditions. One man had taken a deadly amount of an anti-psychotic medicine. The other man was overweight with a pre-existing heart condition and was using cocaine.
The three serious injuries tied to stun guns included two men who hit their heads when they fell after being stunned. The third suffered muscle and kidney damage. All recovered, according to the study.
The most common minor injuries were 408 skin punctures cause by the Taser's metal darts fired at a suspect's body to discharge electricity. The darts can penetrate 1 inch of clothing.
Bozeman and his colleagues in the American College of Emergency Physicians noted previous research found injuries to suspects and police dropped as much as 90 percent and police use of firearms dropped at least 50 percent after Tasers became widely used.
When suspects resist, law-enforcement officers have options ranging from takedown tactics to nightsticks, pepper spray, Tasers and the use of deadly force, depending on the levels of resistance.
Former Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary became one of Tasers' most vocal supporters after buying weapons for a pilot program in 2001. Since then, the agency has spent more than $800,000 on Taser products and conducted its own yearlong review of their safety and standards for use.
Agency spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves said issuing Tasers to deputies has saved lives of suspects by preventing confrontations from reaching a point where deadly force would have been necessary.
"We've found them a very effective tool and a very safe tool," Nieves said. "And we've reduced the numbers of officers' injuries and reduced the number of suspects' injuries."