|There are reportedly some 230,000 TASER weapons in circulation and it is currently being used by some 9,800 agencies, primarily police departments in the United States and Canada. |
Local law enforcement agencies using the TASER often train officers to use the weapon by actually shocking each other.
The use of the TASER on each other in training is meant to prove to the police officers that the weapon does not cause serious injury or permanent damage. For some officers, however, the TASER shock cripples them and they are left permanently damaged by the "non-lethal" stun gun.
One severely injured deputy from Utah relates what happened to him on a website for TASER-injured police officers:
|Let me tell you my experience with the TASER. I worked for 16 years as a deputy/paramedic in Davis County, Utah. We had TASER training, in which the trainers said it was a highly recommended to take a hit. They also said there was no worry as to injury, because the TASER wouldn't harm or cause any long term medical problems. |
I had a 5-second ride. It was the worst experience in my life. To make a long story short, the TASER ruptured C-5,6 and C-6,7 in my neck. I have had to have my neck fused, because of the severe pain. I also have nerve damage, which has left my left triceps, chest, and back muscle paralyzed. Not to mention I can't feel with the first three fingers including my thumb and trigger finger on my right hand. They feel like fat little stumps.
I was able to bench press 350 lbs. and do push-ups all day. Now I can't do 1 push-up, and I can't even bench press the bar! I scored in the top of the physical fitness test at the department and got a day off, now I can't even pass the fitness test.
The Davis County Sheriff's department has turned its back on me. I've been fired from work for B.S. reasons. I'm on disability now, and I have to retrain in something else, at 43-years-old. It turns my stomach to think of going back to school.
My suggestion to all officers is NOT TO TAKE A HIT FROM THE TASER. You probably won't have any problems, but then again I thought that also and look what has happened to me.
Don't take the chance – it's not worth it.
Within a two-week period, police officers from five states filed lawsuits against the manufacturer of TASER, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based TASER International, claiming they had been seriously injured after being shocked with the electronic stun gun during training, the Arizona Republic reported in August 2005.
Four of the suits were filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of officers in Florida, Kansas, New Mexico and Ohio who claimed they suffered "severe and permanent" injuries, including multiple spinal fractures, burns, a shoulder dislocation, and soft-tissue injuries.
Among them was a Hallsville, Missouri police chief, Pete Herring, who said he suffered heart damage and two strokes when he volunteered to be shocked while hooked up to a cardiac monitor as a way to demonstrate the safety of the TASER to his officers.
Herring filed a lawsuit claiming "painful, permanent and progressive" hearing and vision loss and neurological damage in addition to the strokes and cardiac damage.
The 2005 lawsuits pointed to the injury of former Maricopa County sheriff's Deputy Samuel Powers, who filed the first product liability suit against TASER International in February 2004 claiming that his back was fractured when he was shocked during a training exercise.
A doctor hired by TASER International concluded that a one-second TASER jolt was responsible for Powers' fractured back.
Four of the lawsuits charged TASER with misrepresenting Powers' injury to shareholders and the public as a minor shoulder injury. Phoenix lawyer John Dillingham said that if TASER had taken steps to warn police departments of the possibility of injury, other officers might have avoided serious injuries.
Rather than being honest with police departments about the dangers of being TASERed, the company now requires that police officers involved in TASER training sign a document called a "Liability Release and Covenant Not to Sue."
"Any person that volunteers to experience a TASER device electrical discharge ('TASER Exposure') must read and sign this Form prior to any TASER Exposure," the release says.
Given the very real danger that a TASER shock can severely injure a person, an officer would be well-advised not to sign the 6-point TASER release – or allow him or herself to be TASERed.
The TASER release is here in a PDF format.
In signing TASER's "Liability Release and Covenant Not to Sue," the police officers individually "assume all risks" and forfeit their legal rights for protection or compensation under the law in the event they are injured. That's really asking quite a bit from a police officer who may feel pressured to go along and participate in TASER training against his better judgment.
On August 15, 2006, I was assaulted and TASERed on my front lawn by three unidentified and heavily-armed men after calling 911.
I later learned that the officer who had TASERed me, while I was handcuffed and held down by two men, had worked with the Department of Homeland Security in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The assault left me with a broken elbow and feeling quite ill for several weeks. A retired staff scientist from Livermore National Laboratory and a medical scientist both told me that the 50,000 volts of a TASER had probably caused permanent damage. I realize that the TASER is extremely dangerous to one's health and that the public is not being told the truth about the dangers – or the victims.
The conditions under which I had been TASERed, for example, were completely misrepresented by the police to the local press and the Chicago Tribune. The press, however, repeated what the police had said, saying that I had been TASERed after "a prolonged struggle" and in order to subdue me – both utterly false.
After a 9/11 memorial event I hosted on Veteran's Day, one of the participants told me that he had heard that a police officer from Kane County (Illinois) had been severely injured in TASER training. He only knew that the officer's last name was Rink.
I called the sheriff's department for Kane County and the police departments of the towns in the county, but no one had heard of an officer named Rink who had been injured by a TASER.
Then I called a number of households bearing the name Rink without any luck. A few days later I started from the back of the list and reached a man named Richard Rink who lived in a small town called Elburn.
I told Richard that I had heard of a police officer named Rink from Kane County who had been injured with a TASER. "Do you know anything about that?" I asked.
"Yes," Richard said. "He's my son Gregory."
Mr. Rink told me that his son had been very badly injured but that he was "on his feet" again. I asked him where this had happened.
"Naperville," he said. Naperville is a large, well-to-do, and suburban town west of Chicago, home of British Petroleum (BP) USA, along with its 130,000 residents. It is actually just a few miles south of where I live in Hoffman Estates.
Mr. Rink was reluctant to say much about the details of the incident or his son's injuries and took my contact details, which he said he would pass on to his son.
"He's had it," Rink said. "He's just about ready to talk to the media."
But the younger Rink is apparently not quite ready, so I scoured the Internet and newspaper clippings to see what I could find about Officer Gregory Rink's experience with the TASER.
There were articles about Greg's high school achievements in track and football and about the songs he wrote for his sister's record album. There were articles about police incidents the 34-year-old Rink had been engaged in and awards he had won – but there was not one word about his being injured by the TASER. How odd, I thought.
I called the local newspaper in Naperville and the Chicago Tribune's local office and asked them if they had heard about the story. Although the editors were both very interested, they said they had not heard a word about it.
All of my calls to the police department and the officials at city hall were routed to an Officer Dave Hoffman, who was not answering his phone.
Finally, I got through to Sgt. Lisa Burghardt. I asked her about Rink. She admitted that she knew about the case. "Is he was back on the job?" I asked.
"No," she said. When I asked how badly he was injured and when it had happened, Burghardt said, "Due to city policy, I can't talk about this case."
"I cannot confirm or deny anything about this case," Hoffman, the designated spokesman, said when I finally reached him. "Risk Management" has to approve what he can say about the case, he said.
I then called the legal department for the government of Naperville and was told that I could talk to the City Attorney Margo Ely.
I told Ely that, as a journalist, I am looking into the TASER-related injury of Officer Gregory M. Rink of the Naperville Police Dept.
Ely immediately went on the attack. She wanted to know who wanted the story and how I had found out about it. She said I was "irresponsible" to be asking questions about Officer Rink's condition.
When I said that I thought Naperville should be open about what happened to Officer Rink, a public servant, because he had been TASERed on the job, with a device paid for by the taxpayers, Ely said my opinion did not matter because I had not been to law school.
I said that Rink's story is an important story that needs to be told because it is the public that is usually on the receiving end of the TASER. I also said that I found it hard to believe that Naperville had suppressed the story for so long. She rejected the characterization that the story had been suppressed and refused to say anything more – hanging up the phone.
Facing a wall of silence, I wrote an open letter to Peter T. Burchard, the city manager for Naperville.
"If TASER International sold these TASERs to Naperville having told them that they are harmless and non-lethal, then you should sue TASER for having lied in their description of the product," I wrote. "It does not benefit the government or people of Naperville to suppress this story about the injuries suffered by Officer Rink as a result of being TASERed.
"This story is clearly being suppressed. If a police officer is injured on the job due to the use of a TASER this is not a private matter. This is a public matter. It is the public of Naperville who is most likely to be on the receiving end of a TASER in the hands of the Naperville police. The public paid for the TASERs and the public pays the police and elects the city government. This is NOT a private matter of the health of Officer Rink. This is a public matter at the center of an international debate about the use of the TASER by police.
"If the TASER is causing such injuries to police, what is it doing to the public? What makes you think this is a harmless device that will not cause permanent damage to people who are TASERed?" I asked the city manager.
"I think you would agree that such a subject concerning public health should not be suppressed. I would hope that Naperville would see the wisdom of discussing this matter openly," I concluded.
I have, however, not received a single response from any of the officials of Naperville. They evidently intend to keep the story of the TASER-damaged police officer away from the public.