Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tasers In The News!

A recent snippet of information hit the news recently:

RCMP stop using nearly 600 Tasers

It seems now that the RCMP are removing almost 600 older model M 26 Tasers because they evidently are too safe! Once again, independent tests showed this model did not meet manufacturers specifications 80 percent of the time, and other testing indicated that the devices produced less electrical output than expected 90 percent of the time! Not to let a good news story like this pass, Taser International made the following pronouncement:

"TASER International stands behind the quality and safety of its electronic control devices. It is not unusual for some high-tech electrical devices to experience a slight degradation in the electrical components over time similar to what occurs in other electronic products," said the company.

Well gosh darn, but do I happen to have a few questions? Well certainly! What about the fact these devices will produce more electrical output than expected 10 percent of the time? And is Taser going to tell the public what other electronic products experience slight degradation in the electrical components over time? I don't want to sound snooty, but published information or studies by accredited agencies or schools might be really nice! And once again it seems that completely out of the blue, Taser has come up with some handy dandy never before published response or comment. Never until now had I heard Taser International use the 'degradation of components' line in defending their product...But I guess one has to be creative and flexible running such a company. Taser goes one step further in trying to spin whatever good news can be had out of this story, but never fear, Dave is here to cut through the bullshit of corporate hyperbole, and tell you what they inadvertently are actually saying!

"Our understanding from the BC Solicitor General's release is that many of the TASER M26 tested fell below manufacturers' specifications for energy output. A lower energy output equates to a higher safety margin and therefore, the medical safety of these devices is not in question."

Well, grade one math is fairly simple, so when we subtract 'many' from 'all' we are left with 'some'! So lets rephrase the Taser provided comment above, and see the wonderfully hilarious result!

"Our understanding from the BC Solicitor General's release is that some of the TASER M26 tested landed above manufacturers' specifications for energy output. A higher energy output equates to a lower safety margin and therefore, the medical safety of these devices is completely in question."

So there you have it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speed Kills - Or Does It?

I have to get off the topic of 'Tasers save lives', and go to another that is a bit more close to my heart, 'Speed kills'. I will open with a bit of background on the subject, what Commissioner Fantino has to do with it, and some of my thoughts.

Almost two years ago in Ontario we saw the introduction of a law that significantly raised the penalites for any driver found guilty of exceeding the posted limit by over 50km per hour. In addition, at the time of the infraction, the Police had the right to suspend the drivers licensce and impound the vehicle of the speeding driver for seven days. The new law making these provisions available to the Police and the Courts were suggested by Commissioner Fantino as a method of increasing safety and reducing collisions on Ontario roadways.

Recently, at various events, the Commissioner has stated that this measure was in part responsible for an over 30% decline in fatalities on Ontario roadways in 2008 versus 2007. The other factors he stated were increased vigilance by police, and other measures related to police initiatives.

Interestingly, in 2007 I clocked just over 100 000 kilometres on my van and spent approximately $12 000 on fuel to do so. I also drove just over 50 000 kilometres in my van in the first six months of 2008, and spent over $8 000 on fuel (roughly a one-third increase).

In the entire time driving, I did not significantly change my style of driving or driving habits (I was a courier, in case you were wondering - so speed was important, with safety paramount). I did notice that for most of 2007, my driving speed and style left me driving generally a bit faster on the highway than the majority of vehicles, and at similar speeds in urban areas. In 2008 I noticed my speed left me driving significantly faster than the majority of other vehicles. In 2007 I would estimate one half of all drivers on the freeway travelled between 110 and 125, with roughly one quarter either faster or slower than that. In 2008, I would estimate that half drove between 105 and 115, once again with a quarter either higher or lower. I also noticed a reduction in traffic volumes as the price of fuel increased.

So were tougher laws and increased traffic enforcement by the OPP solely responsible for the reduction in fatalities on OPP patrolled roads in 2008 over 2007? Or did the high price of fuel make the faster drivers slow down and consequently drive a little safer. Did the high price of fuel also mean drivers were making fewer trips, reducing overall traffic volumes? Interestingly enough, there seems to be a suspicious correlation between the percent decline in traffic fatalities as the increase in fuel costs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Aside, Concerning Respect

I have indicated in an earlier post that I have a great deal of respect for the Police. and that there are a number of things that unfortunately erode that respect. Having to hear about the testimony of the four RCMP officers at the Braidwood Inquiry is a perfect example.

There are also things that restore that respect, and they can come from what you might consider unlikely sources, or situations. Yesterday a report published across Canadian Media contained a prime example.

Staff Srgt. Marko Shehovac, RCMP Golden Detachment, did something that many other Police Officers are simply not 'man enough' to do. What did he do? He apologized. He did so without qualification, or trying to excuse himself. He did so compassionately, and emotionally. And while doing so he accepted full responsibility for, and the consequences of his actions, or his failure to act. And in doing so, he has done something that a hundred Braidwood Enquiries will NEVER accomplish: He restored a bit of credibilty to, and respect for, an organization that has recently come under justifiable scrutiny for the actions of its members.

Staff Sgt. Shehovic screwed up badly. And he realized it. And he apologized for it. It is rather unfortunate it seems that for every Sgt Shehovic we have with the RCMP, we have at least one each of Millington, Bentley, Rundel, and Robinson.

"Having had the advantage of 20/20 hindsight and investigating further into this for the last week, I have come to the realization I had put blind faith in the information that was provided and that I failed to ask probing questions to satisfy myself that the matter was adequately addressed," Shehovac told the council meeting.
"Had I done so, a search of the area would have been initiated on the 21st. For this I am truly sorry to Mr. Blackburn, his family and friends. I am accountable for this error in judgment on Feb. 21st and will accept the consequences."

We are all human. We will all make mistakes. What sets apart those worthy of admiration and respect from those worthy of ridicule and condemnation is the manner in which one deals with the mistakes they have made. There are many who could learn a lot from the experience of Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac, hopefully some will. It is my fear however that most will not.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And Another Thing...

Finally for today, I am wondering just how many different 'bottom lines' there are out there? I kind of just assumed a 'bottom line' was a 'bottom line', but according to Commissioner Fantino, there evidently is an 'irrefutable bottom line'. Perhaps this distinction is needed in case some of us were thinking that he was referring to the 'irrefutable bottom line's' misunderstood and seldom used cousin, the 'refutable bottom line', or even his twin the 'non-irrefutable bottom line' Perhaps also the Commissioner distinguishes between a plain old regular 'bottom line' for those statements he makes without qualification, versus the more exotic 'irrefutable bottom line' for those statements he makes that can be factually supported. Phew, I think after all that I need a drink, so Bottoms up!

The Commissioner Sets Himself Straight!

Well, it seems my job is done! After spending about an hour doing some research, I found two wonderful pieces, an editorial by Michael Den Tandt, and Commissioner Fantino's published reply. I must thank the Commissioner for clarifying matters. It seems now that Tasers actually do not save lives at all, it is simply that they have never been found to have been the direct cause of a fatality.

"...the irrefutable bottom line is there have been no studies, no research, no factual evidence to date that prove that the use of a Taser by police officers in the lawful execution of their duty has ever been found to have been the direct cause of a fatality." (Commissioner Fantino, in response to an Editorial piece by Michael Den Tandt - Note the emphasis is my own)

Pardon me for stating the plainly obvious, but it seems there is a significant contradiction in the two statements! Earlier we had the Commissioner stating "Tasers save lives", and next we have him claiming they simply are not the 'direct cause' of any fatalaties (provided they are used by a police officer in the lawful execution of his/her duty, of course). Well Commissioner, which is it?

And of course I was not serious about my job being done. I will not attempt to refute this most recent statement by the commissioner, because as it is specifically worded, it can be considered both truthful and accurate. The interesting issue is the number of carefully worded conditions that he had to include to 'render' his statement true, conditions which I have highlighted in case some readers didn't notice them jump out of the page! Have a bit of fun for yourself, read the statement, then read it again omitting those words italicised and bolded!

Fun With Logic

A fun way of debunking myths like "Tasers save lives" is to apply a little bit of logic, and then see what the often hilarious, or even frightening results are. Since logical thought processes are based in mathematics, we can start with a simple statement like "If A equals B, and B equals C, then A also equals C". Hopefully Commissioner Fantino won't have an issue with that statement, as it truly is "the bottom line"!

Taking this and applying it to "Tasers Save Lives", we can infer that if "saving lives" is a good thing, and a benefit to society (I think no one will dispute this!), then it logically follows that Tasers are also a benefit to society. Going a simple step further, anything that is such a benefit to society should be made available to all members of that society, to attempt to universally promote the benefit. In this case, it really means that all members of the general public, in addition to our police, should be armed with Tasers, as according to Commissioner Fantino, "Tasers Save Lives". Personally I would like a new model X26, one that (hopefully) doesn't generate electrical current higher than the manufacturer claims. I would welcome any use and training tips Commissioner Fantino may be so kind as to provide!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shooting From The Hip

"Tasers save lives and that's the bottom line,"
(OPP Commissioner Fantino - Feb 24 2009)
I find that statement hilarious, even when Taser use is potentially a factor in the deaths of over 360 persons in North America. It sounds a bit like other great slogans or statements: "Breast implants are safe", "The fundamentals (of the economy) are sound", "Speed kills" and the like. When I hear this drivel spew forth from a persons mouth, I tend to lose all respect for that particular individual. Can the persons responsible for parroting crap like this not think for themselves, and come up with interesting and truthful things to say?
Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Police Officers: They have a tough job to do, and many of them do it with a great deal of pride and ethic. I have had 'dealings' with numerous police officers over the last twenty-five years or so, and I can assure you that the majority are motivated, passionate and intelligent individuals who are dedicated to serving the public in their chosen career (please visit On Meeting The Cloaked Traveller if you want more information on this).

But once in a while I read about police force policy changes, or the actions taken by members of a force, or even statements made by some higher ranking Police Officer which quickly erodes that respect. Lately it has been the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police who has been doing a disservice to his colleagues after meeting the press recently:
"Ontario Provincial Police chief Julian Fantino taunted taser critics, saying they'd never walked in an officer's shoes and probably couldn't even pass a basic training course."

Perhaps Commissioner Fantino would care to point out where it is stated that walking in an officer's shoes is a prerequisite to being a 'taser critic'. Additionally, I am quite certain that the majority of so called 'taser critics' could readily pass a police basic training course, as from what I hear they aren't particularly challenging! If Commissioner Fantino wishes, I would be happy to volunteer to do just that, if he could ensure the OPP will cover any nominal and reasonable costs.

Monday, March 9, 2009


It was an article published in the Waterloo Region Record on Februry 25th this year that once again got me asking "Is Julian Fantino really a complete idiot?". I am not suggesting that Commissioner Fantino actually is a complete idiot, but sadly, I have found myself asking that question on at least a few occasions over the past few years. You, the reader, are entitled to answer the question for yourself if you wish: My answer will be kept private out of respect for Commissioner Fantino.

The article is titled "Police admit they Taser too much" by Alexander Panetta (The Canadian Press). In the article, Commissioner Fantino is reported to have made a number of comments at a press conference on the use of Taser's which I view as ill-informed, biased, unresearched, and demeaning to members of the Public he is sworn to serve. This blog is simply an attempt to counter those comments or statments, along with others Commissioner Fantino has made in his role as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

It is not my intent to insult, malign or otherwise harm the character of Commissioner Fantino. I will objectively analyze his statments, counter and even discredit them with facts, statistics, and other research, suggest he provide evidence to support any factual statements he makes, and ask him to retract those statements that cannot be factually supported. I will even poke a bit of fun at the Commissioner if he deserves it! I am guessing Mr. Fantino has relatively thick skin, perhaps he also has a half-decent sense of humour.