Force Science News #132:

FS News readers react to Braidwood Taser Report

 

Editor’s note: As the world reflects on the anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, we at Force Science extend our deep gratitude and admiration to the men and women who lost their lives helping others during that tragedy, and to their families whose sacrifice does not go unnoticed. We remember…and we won’t forget.

 

Our readers react to Canada’s Braidwood Taser report

 

We asked for your reactions to the recent recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry to restrict use of the Taser by law enforcement agencies in British Columbia [see Transmission #130, sent 8/17/09 -- Click here to read it now in the FS News archive]

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Here’s a representative sampling of your feedback. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. Writers are expressing their own views, not necessarily those of their agencies. Out thanks to all who shared their opinions.

 

LEOs should band together to highlight flawed data

 

It would appear that the (politically motivated or intimidated?) chief law enforcement officers in British Columbia have already capitulated to the positions advanced by the good Judge Braidwood. It is imperative that the remainder of the law enforcement community band together to both highlight the flawed data upon which the report relies and vigorously object to the fallacious conclusions reached. Failure to do so will result in the diminution of the value of, or the outright loss of, what has proven to be the greatest tool available to today’s LEOs for use in safely and effectively de-escalating potentially violent confrontations, which has demonstrably reduced the incidence and severity of injury to both suspects and officers alike.

 

Jim Wilson, Sr. Dpty. City Atty.

 

Modesto, CA

 

 

“Written by someone who hasn’t been there”

 

Some very good ideas in the Braidwood report regarding training and the gathering of use data are overshadowed by a bureaucrat then hedging his bets by restricting use. Appears to be written by someone who hasn’t been there, but gets to Monday-morning quarterback decisions made by those who have.

 

Corporal Jim Wickman

 

Winter Springs (FL) PD

 

 

“No in-custody deaths, no lawsuits, no officer injuries”

 

If Mr. Braidwood had a family member who entered a sudden mental crisis resulting in serious violence against others and police arrive to subdue his relative, wouldn’t he want authorities to use a device like Taser to keep his relative and police safe during the altercation? If police in Canada do not have such a device available to them—and pepper-spray/foam, Asps, PR-24s, straight batons, 30mm rubber bullets, bean-bag shotgun rounds, capture-net guns, etc. usually DO NOT have effectiveness against a mentally deranged person—what’s left? Lethal force.

 

How long would Mr. Braidwood stand behind his overly rigid view against CEW deployments as he stood at the funeral of his loved one?

 

My non-sworn Medical Center Security Dept. has used the Taser since 2004 – successfully, with no in-custody deaths, no lawsuits, no officer injuries in violent encounters with those in mental crisis. Violent episodes episodes before that always resulted in knock-down, drag-out encounters injuring my officers almost every time, no matter what assaultive behavior training we had or non-effective protective equipment we relied on.

 

We’ve fully deployed the Taser 17 times for control and compliance to cease violence or the immediate threat of violence. We’ve documented over 76 incidents where the mere presence or display of the device gained compliance. It has been a HUGE win-win situation for us.

 

Lt. Gregory Lawritson

 

University of California, Irvine

 

Orange, CA

 

 

Reporting mere display should not be required

 

I don’t know of any court that considers the display of a baton or pepper spray or a firearm as a use of force, so why have we assigned the Taser some special meaning? The idea that displaying (not using) a Taser is a “use of force” that requires special documentation is very flawed.

 

With Taser displays documented, should a department decide to audit the number of times an officer displays the Taser, it could lead to the subjective and possibly false finding that the officer “displays the Taser too much or “not enough.”

 

When we talk about use of force we are talking about the actual physical motion and contact of one human being coming into contact with or using tools that come into contact with another human being. If we make the connection that display equals usage then wouldn’t an officer who is trained in physical combatives, armed with a gun, baton, and pepper spray be a walking use of force as well? The pepper spray, baton, and firearm are all on the officer’s body and in plain sight to a suspect.

 

If we continue to be mired in the idea that display equals use then officers may be hesitant to display the Taser and instead use another, less appropriate force option and put the suspect, themselves, the public, and other officers at risk.

 

Corporal Max Lewis

 

Hillsboro (OR) PD

 

 

Declaring a moratorium seems “logical”

 

The public should be made aware of the real risks inherent in Taser use, and policy should be made in light of those risks. As it stands, we still do not have an abundance of independent, impartial, and rigorous research results that address the weapon’s mechanism of action, efficacy, safety, long- and short-term effects.

 

Further reputable research could fill these data gaps. We may discover that the weapon requires further limitation or even discontinuation. We can do all the experimental studies we can design on healthy individuals (or swine) under ideal conditions, but we will not know until we examine real world outcomes. This will require police services and cities to be completely transparent with outcome statistics for expert review in an objective, scientific manner. We have not had this kind of cooperation.

 

It seems logical that we would first declare a moratorium, then engage in rigorous research upon which sound policies could be created.

 

Zygmunt Riddle, founding member

 

Canadian Civil Rights Movement

 

W. Vancouver, BC

 

 

Conclusions first, then the “research”

 

What Mr. Braidwood “thinks” Taser devices do or do not do reminds me of the medical examiner in Ohio who “thought”” Tasers kill. So instead of doing an unbiased autopsy she and her staff set out to support their theory and without any real proof, listed the Taser as a significant contributing factor in the deaths of 3 people. I feel Mr. Braidwood reached his conclusions prior to conducting the “research.” How else can he ignore the overwhelming evidence that Tasers save lives and protect both officers and suspects?

 

Jerry Staton, Training Director

 

Affordable Realistic Tactical Training

 

Del Valle, TX

 

 

Another “sheep” telling the “sheep dogs” what’s needed

 

Braidwood has somehow convinced himself that in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving, police officers have the time to weigh all of their options like judges do when taking several weeks to render a written decision.

 

Braidwood is another “sheep” wanting to tell the “sheep dogs” how the “wolves” should be handled. That is bad only because he doesn’t comprehend what happens at the tip of the spear.

 

To expand upon the old quote “Use of force is like making sausage: even when it’s done right you still don’t want to watch”—Braidwood has never ‘made sausage” and he obviously doesn’t know how its made. He just wants to be safe in his bed with what he thinks is a clear conscience while brave men and women make the sausage in some dark alley where he doesn’t have to hear, smell, taste and see it. Hopefully this damage can be undone, or at least contained to Canada.

 

Spcl. Agt. Frank Mulkearns, firearms/force instructor

 

DHS/ICE

 

Burke, VA

 

 

Braidwood needs to work the street in real life

 

WOW!! How long until they try to implement some of these standards here?

 

If Taser is actually such a threat to the heart and in general, why is it that all the controlled training exposures have not lead to one single death?

 

This Braidwood needs to go out and work the street and see how well some of these techniques he puts forth actually work in real life. Wait until a suicidal subject actually starts to commit the act!? Does that include waiting until they start stabbing or shooting themselves? Incredible!! I bet he has a nice desk to sit behind inside a secure building.

 

Det. Paul Blanchard, Training Coordinator

 

Cape Coral (FL) PD Police Department

 

 

Counter-training the public must be a priority

 

As a police trainer and experienced officer, I find it extremely frustrating when so called “experts” take such a public and obviously flawed stand. It seems that Braidwood drops the ball by failing to actually do his homework. Go to the real experts, look at the realities involved in working on the street, solicit feedback from those who actually do the work, and by all means go to the most recent/up-to-date medical facts. In short, educate yourself before making bold and sweeping changes, the effects of which are significant.

 

I think we in law enforcement have to take some responsibility for the media’s ability to sensationalize our work, especially in regard to use of force. We have not traditionally done a good job of educating the public about what we do and why we do it. We have a history of secrecy that has only served to conceal truth from the public.

 

This needs to change. It is not enough that we do more to educate and train ourselves, we must now also make it a priority to counter-train the general public. I say counter-train because the reality of media coverage of police use of force is that it is sensationalism, not truth. I routinely have to counter the influence of the media when training new officers. I think we need to extend this kind of education to the general public whenever and wherever we can.

 

I am sure that the debate over this issue will continue and while I think this debate is healthy, it is unfortunate that the safety of officers and those they deal with will likely be compromised by the actions of this commission.

 

Trevor Townsend, training coordinator

 

Everett (WA) PD

 

 

“More injured suspects, more injured officers”

 

What do I think about Braidwood’s conclusions? That is fairly simple and straightforward: With his guidelines implemented, more officers will be forced to use DT more often and the results will be more injured suspects and more injured officers.

 

Steven Silverman, Nat’l Firearms Instructor

 

Dunbar Armored, Inc.

 

Hunt Valley, MD

 

 

The real issue? Educating cops and public alike

 

Ideally those tasked with making evaluations and recommendations that actually affect policing should be placed into role-playing scenarios in the position of the officer and should also spend a reasonable amount of time on the street experiencing these encounters first-hand via ride-alongs. One must “wear the boots” to glean true wisdom. Debates about tactics, techniques, and physical fitness in LE would wash away.

 

The political police culture spends so much effort trying to appease public perception, that they rarely make any effort to actually educate the public in what is reasonable and therefore influence that perception in an informed manner. The trickle-down effect of this impacts law enforcement at the street level through impractical policy and training.

 

To subdue a resistant human is an incredibly difficult task most people just don’t comprehend. The only way to ensure success in these encounters is to maintain a tactical advantage. Anything less is to invite mortal defeat. A tool such as a CEW should not be limited beyond its current and reasonable use or officers will again be subjecting themselves and others to greater harm in the execution of their duties.

 

When the bad-guy is upset, balls his fists, and looks you in the eye, his intent should be recognized for what it is and the tactical advantage must be maintained. The situation should then be resolved by any means possible from verbal skills to intermediate weapons. The real issue is educating even our officers (much less the public) to recognize active aggression/assaultive behavior by the earliest signs and to understand it for what it is.

 

Training Officer Victor Dragano

 

Anchorage (AK) PD

 

 

At last: “Force where it needs to be”

 

Bottom line: Tasers save lives…the life of the officer and the life of the subject/violator. For many years the officer in the field had to deal with unapproachable violators using only his own wits and a few hands-on weapons, not including his service pistol or chemical spray. Finally there is an option that puts the force where it needs to be: in the officer’s hands. The fact is that no amount of physical training can put a subject down quicker the a Taser. In trained hands, it has no equal.

 

Oscar Garcia, DT trainer

 

Customs & Border Patrol

 

El Paso, Texas

 

 

Suspects who choose to fight run risks

 

This is once again an attempt to take a really effective tool out of law enforcement’s hands. Here are the facts: If you are in a confrontation with law enforcement you have a decision to make and that is to fight or to cooperate. If you comply then you will not be harmed in the slightest way. Those who choose to fight with law enforcement assume a risk where they can and are likely to be injured.

 

This tool has made the use of pepper spray and the straight baton almost obsolete. If you use a baton on a suspect they are bruised and sometimes have broken bones; these are lasting injuries. If you use pepper spray, the effects last for at least a couple of hours; if someone has a breathing condition they could have serious lasting effects.

 

When the Taser is employed, the results are immediate and effective. The event is over. The only lasting result is the suspect generally doesn’t want to be Tased again.

 

Capt. Daniel Watson

 

Darlington (SC) PD

 

 

No logical reason not to employ the Taser

 

Since introducing the Taser 2 years ago, our physical confrontations have been reduced significantly. As a department, we have used the Taser a half-dozen times, with not one complaint from the receiver or the public at large.

 

On several occasions the mere presence of the device has been all that was needed to defuse the situation. Other times when it was taken from its holster and the laser dot placed on the subject, that individual immediately stopped his/her activity, preventing serious injury to the citizen or my deputies.

 

I find not one logical reason why a department, especially one with large areas to cover, with limited manpower and large gaps in backup officers getting to a LEO before his/her welfare is jeopardized, would even entertain the notion that this non-lethal tool isn’t a must.

 

Chief Dpty. Dane Tripp

 

Oxford County (ME) SO

 

Written by Force Science Institute

September 11th, 2009 at 8:21 am

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