“A lie repeated often enough becomes truth.”
– Vladimir Lenin
Via Alison, seeds of confusion and doubt continue to be sown through an unofficial private/public partnership that has been cultivated between law enforcement officials and the private security sector. Some believe there could be deadly consequences as a result of this convergence.
“Three months before Robert Dziekanski was tasered, the RCMP adopted a change in force protocol that allows officers to fire multiple shocks to control people under certain circumstances.
Until August, officers trained to use stun guns were cautioned to avoid using them more than once because of concerns about health effects. However, the force’s belief that excited-delirium symptoms can escalate and cause death outweighed their worries about the impact of multiple shocks.
But the term “excited delirium” is not formally recognized by the World Health Organization nor the American Medical Association as an actual psychological or medical condition.
However, the condition is being used increasingly by coroners tasked with attributing causes of death among victims in police custody. David Evans, Ontario’s regional supervising coroner for investigations, described it as a “forensic term” not a medical one.
“I think previous to the description of excited delirium, [it] was sometimes called custody death,” he said.
Cpl. Gilles conceded that the policy on multiple taser shots “may be hazardous. We don’t know.”
CBC News just interviewed…and posted this rather one-sided backgrounder featuring University of Miami neurology professor Deborah Mash, the designated go-to ‘expert’ on
bullshit cover stories“excited delirium”. The Lede has more on Professor Mash and ‘excited delirium’, which, as noted earlier this year by an NPR report, “is not recognized by professional medical associations, and [is not] listed in the chief psychiatric reference book.” Part 2 of the report is also entirely relevant, focusing on the vested interest law enforcement officials and [TASER] International have in marketing the dubious disorder and includes the following abridged list of individuals who have died in police custody after being [shocked], with the cause of death listed as ‘excited delirium’:
- June 13, 2005 – Shawn C. Pirolozzi, 30, of Canton, Ohio, dies after police tried to subdue him with a Taser. His death certificate listed excited delirium as the cause of death. The Taser was not listed as a contributing factor.
- April 21, 2006 — Alvin Itula, 35, dies after a struggle with Salt Lake City police. Itula led officers on a foot chase, then fought with them when the officers caught up, according to police. Officers tased Itula and also used pepper spray and a baton. Itula stopped breathing soon after. The medical examiner found that Itula died of excited delirium brought on by methamphetamine and cocaine.
- April 24, 2006 — Jose Romero, 23, dies in Dallas police custody. He was in his underwear, screaming and holding a knife on his neighbor’s porch. Police tased him multiple times. He died shortly thereafter. The Dallas County medical examiner ruled Romero died of excited delirium.
- Sept. 5, 2006 — Larry Noles, 52, dies in Louisville, Ky., after a struggle with police. Noles, an ex-Marine, was standing naked in the middle of a street when police were called. Police said he was agitated. They tased him two or three times. He died a few minutes later. The Jefferson County medical examiner ruled Noles died because of excited delirium and not the Taser.
- Oct. 29, 2006 — Roger Holyfield, 17, dies after police in Jerseyville, Ill., shocked him twice with a Taser. Holyfield had been walking down a street, holding a phone in one hand and a Bible in the other, yelling that he wanted Jesus. After policed shot him with the stun gun, Holyfield went into a coma; he died the following day. A medical examiner ruled the death was probably a result of excited delirium.
- Dec. 17, 2006 — Terill Enard, 29, dies following a disturbance at a Waffle house in Lafayette, La. He was naked and yelling, with a broken leg bone piercing his skin. Police stunned Enard with a Taser; he died several hours later. Police said the forensic report from the Lafayette Parish coroner’s office found Enard died as a result of “cocaine-induced excited delirium.”
So, we know that as a medical term ‘excited delirium’ is meaningless. What else? Well, we also know that electronic control device™SM®OMFGWTFBBQ!!!1 manufacturer TASER International really doesn’t like having its products’ reputation tainted by suggestions of deadly complicity:
“We are taken aback by the number of media outlets that have irresponsibly published conclusive headlines blaming the TASER device and / or the law enforcement officers involved as the cause of death before completion of the investigation. These sensationalistic media reports completely ignore the earmark symptoms of excited delirium shown in the video. TASER International is transmitting over 60 legal demand letters requiring correction of these false and misleading headlines and will take other actions as appropriate. These unsubstantiated, false headlines mislead the public and could adversely influence public policy in ways which could place the lives of both law enforcement and the public at greater risk,” concluded Tom Smith, Founder and Chairman of the Board of TASER International, Inc.
“[C]ould adversely influence public policy in ways which could place the lives of both law enforcement and the public at greater risk”. Try ‘may put our bottom line at risk.’ As Randy Burton of the StarPhoenix notes, in just over a decade stun guns have grown in ubiquity, with TASER International apparently hoping to expand the market beyond law enforcement to the private sphere:
For just $349.99 American citizens can zap somebody with thousands of volts of electricity. Sorry, they’re not available in Canada yet, where Tasers are still classified as a restricted weapon.
But in the U.S. it’s open season, and the company promotion seems very empowering, too.
The Taser website shows an attractive young woman under the caption “I Will Control My Own Destiny.” If not for the pictures of stun guns in four designer colours, it could be an ad for university enrolment.
In the hands of the marketing specialists, the Taser has become just another tool for conducting a successful contemporary life, like a cellphone or a BlackBerry.
You have to get to the fine print in the legal warnings before you learn to watch out for something the manufacturer calls “Sudden In Custody Death Syndrome.” [Apparently someone didn’t get the memo re: change in terminology–mb.] This is marketing speak for “watch out you don’t kill somebody.”
Somehow the warning to “avoid torturous or other misuse” fails to reassure that the Taser will only be used by the right people in the right circumstances. Lethal technology has a way of putting itself in the wrong hands.
While it’s touted as a major step forward in law enforcement, it’s just as likely to be making life much easier for back alley muggers.
Of course, that’s the way technology works. What begins with a very specialized use soon becomes democratized to the point where it’s accessible to the masses. Inevitably, yesterday’s dangerous implement becomes today’s purse accessory.
And so it is with the Taser. You don’t have to look very far to find plenty of examples of its use or misuse, as the case may be.
The things are ubiquitous. In the last 10 years, some 11,000 law enforcement agencies in 44 countries have started to use them. Of these, 3,500 agencies equip all of their patrol officers with the powerful stun gun. As we know, not all uses end with a happy conclusion.
There’s a quote most famously attributed to Benito Mussolini that springs to mind: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Though some dispute its origins, there’s no denying the inherent truth of the statement, even if apocryphal.
JJ does the hammer/nail/head thing:
I hate to keep banging this drum, but that’s tough, because it’s true: one of the first signs of authoritarianism bullying its way into our society is apologist propaganda, including the invention of new quasi-credible-sounding terminology to rationalize inhumane treatment… .
Yeah, “apologist propaganda” and bullying authoritarianism by way of litigious threats (h/t April Reign) and obfuscating press releases. This “quasi-credible-sounding terminology” has been utilized by a corporate entity (and, in a merger of interests, further legitimized by the State) to market a product–“another tool for conducting a successful contemporary life, like a cellphone or a BlackBerry.” Of course, to my knowledge cellphones and BlackBerries have yet to be scrutinized by the United Nations’ Committee against Torture, out of fear that indiscriminate use of the aforementioned lifestyle tools “constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases…could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use.” (h/t Alison.)
Why (vehemently, boldly, zealously) rationalize inhumane treatment, with truth counted among the increasing collateral damage?
In this instance, we know they do so because it is profitable.