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Police auditors urge overall review of Taser use

Original post made on Dec 16, 2009

Palo Alto police zapped an allegedly bellicose man with a Taser outside a bar early Saturday morning, two days after a police auditors' report was submitted recommending the department do an overall review of its Taser policies and training.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 3:16 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Koa
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

Don't want to get tased? Don't fight an on-duty cop!

Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Tasers do seem to be more dangerous than advertised at first. However, if the alternative is shooting or being shot, Tasers don't sound so bad. The problem, such as it is, with Tasers, is that when they were introduced, a lot of people somehow got the idea that they were risk-free. If people see Tasers as an alternative to firearm use, they have advantages -- among other things, to innocent bystanders. Better training is a good idea -- let's act on that.

Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe all tasers now-a-days need to have a warning sticker on them telling people to not shoot others in the chest area. Shooting someone in the chest can lead to CARDIAC ARREST and INSTANT DEATH in many cases and it is completely unnacceptable that police use them. Improperly trained and most of the time they aim for the chest, just like you would with a gun. We should be training our police on how to properly take down a criminal with hand to hand techniques, not something that is a maybe kinda sorta not really a non-lethal weapon that also causes permanent damage to the nervous system.

Posted by Devon
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm

What is wrong with you people? If you become beligerent and threaten a police officer, the police should be allowed to take you into custody with as little risk to them as possible. " WA,WA,WA, mommy all I did was get drunk and assault a cop". You bleeding hearts need to see someone who has been beaten with a billy club, and I know which method of restraint you will choose.

Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm

When one compares death by use of a taser, I have seen no mention of the conditions under which they occurred. Shooting someone in the chest with a gun is more apt to kill than being shot in the chest with a taser. Guns can make terrible wounds if and can cause permanent disability, e.g. hitting the knee cap. This does not happen with a taser.

An officer must defend him or herself. Choosing a taser over a gun shows restraint which may endanger the officer if the taser does not work - noted in cases above.

When officers are smaller than some belligerents (3rd paragraph of Weekly article); they must be able to remain unharmed both for their own safety and potentially that of bystanders.

Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:03 pm


To Whom it may Concern :

Thanks for passing on Chief Burns comments re where the PAPD is now training their officers to aim their deadly Tasers.

Imagine trying to shoot/aim the Taser accurately- at a moving suspect (moving target) hoping to miss the groin and chest-- but being lucky enough to hit the stomach area.

The training scenario/modifications described by Chief Burns would be laughable but for the ever increasing body count re the victims of the deadly and tortuous Taser (per --as of today--the body count now stands at 461 plus Taser deaths).

I will bet you a dollar that the physicians Chief Burns claims had no concern re aiming the Taser at the stomach---- are on the payroll of Taser International. Any Takers??

Bottom Line: Chief Burns –by way of his continued support of the use of deadly Tasers on the unarmed an vulnerable--- continues to evidence a callous disregard for the safely of the members of this community.

Aram "Ban Tasers Now" James


Subject: RE: taser use
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2009 21:11:51 -0800
From: [email protected]

Ms. (Named deleted by request )

Sorry for the delay. TASER recommends that officers avoid targeting the chest. Our officers are trained to aim for the lower center of mass/back and avoid intentionally targeting the head, neck, groin and chest.

Recently I attended a conference which included a number of physicians who were discussing using the stomach as a target area for the TASER. There was not any concern about aiming for the stomach. Thanks, Dennis Burns


From: ( Name deleted by request) Sent: Saturday, December 12, 2009 1:22 PM
To: Burns, Dennis
Cc: Michael Gennaco; michael gennaco; Council, City; HRC
Subject: taser use

Chief Burns:

I read in the Daily Post that you said the taser will no longer be targeted on the chest, but lower down. You were not specific. What does "lower down" mean?

You never answered my several inquiries as to what part of the body would be targeted.

Is it the stomach? That could cause injuries. Have you checked with doctors?

(name deleted –upon reqest)

Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Dear Editor:
In Saturday’s Daily Post it was reported that the PAPD--yet again--- tasered an unarmed individual who is alleged to have at most been under the influence of alcohol and or disturbing the peace (Suspect Zapped –As PA Taser policy is under review-12/12/09).
From the press coverage it would appear that the tasering was absolutely unnecessary--- and that much less risky options were available i.e., old school policing, talking the suspect down, deescalating the situation---or at worst using hands on techniques to secure an arrest.
With regularity it is those under the influence of drugs or alcohol-- or suffering from some unknown medical vulnerability that inexplicably and unnecessarily die from the effects of a Taser blast. Innocent individuals killed-- more often than not-- for engaging in the most innocuous of alleged offenses.
The body count from this deadly weapon has now reached 459 + deaths in the U.S. & Canada since 2001 (see: There have been another 51 deaths in the U.S. this year.
The Taser is not the benign “tool” PAPD Chief Dennis Burns refers to (See: Palo Alto Daily News-- City to review Taser policy 12/11/2009),--but rather-- a deadly weapon and instrument of torture as the U.N. declared in 2007.
Each time Dennis Burns publicly uses terms suggesting that this deadly weapon is a benign “tool” minimizing its dangers and attempting to sanitize the evidence re its risks-- we must quickly and publicly correct and counter this misinformation with the truth.
We must stand united as a community to BAN TASERS NOW!!
Aram James

Posted by Justin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

"Despite the growing controversy, a study funded by the U.S. Justice Department asserted that majority of people tasered from July 2005 to June 2007 suffered no injury. A study led by William Bozeman, of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, of nearly 1,000 persons subjected to Taser use, concluded that 99.7% of the subjects had either minor injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or none at all, while three persons suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital admission, and two other subjects died. Their autopsy reports indicated neither death was related to the use of a Taser.[50][51][52]"

Web Link

Posted by Me
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Ahhh okay instead of using tasers to subdue violent individuals who are out to hurt the people that protect us, let's ban it and use metal batons and break the perpetrator's knee caps and ribs and crush their elbows.. Great logic there ahem james.. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by PAPD - Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm

What concerns me more is having a PAPD police officer under the influence and carrying a gun or tazer while off-duty. (Both permissible) This officers arrest and conviction was also mentioned in the Gennanco/Miller report.

A PAPD police dispatcher was also in the report as failing to dispatch an officer to a domestic disturbance call. Someone needs to give this person a breath-alyzer test as well.

Posted by Death Counting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm

The 459 taser deaths mentioned above, if attributed to 2002-2008 gives

information for years 2003-2008 from -
<Web Link
shows 67 US (excl Canada) police deaths per year
from assault, gunfire, stabbing and Vehicular assault.

A comparison with other deaths would be useful to know
how big a problem tasers are.

Posted by aram james
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Monday, October 15, 2007
Wake Forest Study Ignores the Elephant in the Room: 295 Dead and Counting

Contact: Aram James-415.370.5056/Richard Konda-408.287.9710/Raj Jayadev-408.757.5875

Taser Experts and Civil Rights Leaders Say Study is Disconnected from Reality

SAN JOSE, CA -- The recent study on Tasers led by Wake Forest University Medical School gives a false sense of safety to a proven dangerous, and at times lethal, weapon. Community leaders and civil rights advocates are condemning the study as insufficient, misleading, and not truly independent of law enforcement bias.

The study, presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians' Scientific Assembly in Seattle on October 8th,2007 has been touted by Taser advocates as evidence of safety, yet further examination of the study leaves more questions than answers.

Nationally recognized Taser expert Aram James of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability (CJA) says, “The study concludes -- without supporting data -- that Tasers reduce injuries to both police and the individuals Tasered. But the authors, offer no systematic data to support this conclusion.” James says that actually the study’s own data belies their own conclusion of safety. The abstract reported 23% of 597 subjects received some sort of injury. “Nearly 1 in 4, hardly support for the proposition that Tasers are safe -- and when coupled with 293 taser related deaths, a statistic conveniently ignored by the authors of this study, the conclusion that Tasers are safe is not only not true but in fact a lie of deadly proportions.”

Richard Konda, Executive Director of the Asian Law Alliance and CJA co-founder, says the study ignores the reality that some populations are at higher risk when Tased. “The study fails to mention the effect of Tasers on vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly, the mentally ill, and those under the influence of drugs, who are far more likely to suffer serious injuries and even death as a result of being Tasered.” Konda, whose organization is supporting a ban of Tasers, says the evidence of the deadly effects of Tasers is already being acknowledged by law enforcement communities. He says, “Medical remedies to prevent death are being developed because Tasers kill. In Miami emergency medical technicians are spraying a sedative in the noses of Tasers victims or injecting them with iced saline solutions. These protocols lead us to only one conclusion – that Tasers are deadly weapons and must be banned.”

Indeed, Noreen Salinas, eldest daughter of Steve Salinas, who died after being repeatedly Tased by San Jose Police, is appalled by the study’s disconnect from the real life impacts of Tasers on families. “How can anyone try to make a claim that Tasers are safe, when it has taken a father from his daughters, a son from his mother?” The Santa Clara County Coroner’s office have cited Taser discharge as a potential contributing factor to the death of Steve Salinas.

James says the reason why the study does not appear to be independent is because it was, essentially, a law enforcement report, and points to several red flags. “First, it was conducted at six law enforcement agencies across the country, interestingly enough not disclosed. Why the secrecy? Secondly, the underlying police reports and any accompanying medical records were reviewed by ‘tactical physicians’ who are closely connected to a law enforcement agenda. Finally, not mentioned anywhere in the press release related to this study is the companion piece put out by the Wake Forest Physicians Group. In a study dated September 4, 2007 -- the same doctors credited with the above study -- reported on a police officer who after volunteering to receive a 5 second Taser exposure, under very controlled circumstance, was Tased for 5 seconds and suffered a very serious and apparently permanently debilitating thoracic compression fracture. Why was this piece buried by the good doctors? So much for Tasers being a low risk of injury weapon. If they are unsafe for the cops they are unsafe for us!”

James, CJA, along with other civil rights advocates, is demanding a truly independent study, and is calling for law enforcement agencies to shelve Tasers until an authentic and comprehensive investigation of its use is conducted.

Posted by PAPD - Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Response to Posted by Me, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood

I agree with you. Aram I believe is the person your referring to and not ahem. Police should be protected from injury and the public as well.

However, personally I believe, police are to quick to use there tazers rather then trying to deescalate.

Lets face it. It's a very provocative non-verbal compliance weapon that has a fatal tract record of killing people generally unarmed.

Lastly, the taser was only to be used in the same context as there sidearm / glock.

Officer injury of course should be minimized but there main priority is to protect the suspect from injury as well.

Someone who is drunk does not have the capacity to reason therefore I would have called a "dog catcher" and placed a slip lose round the upper part of his body torso and immobilize that way.

Animal control offers use this technique all the time which is very humane as apposed to a device (tazer) which the United Nation describes torture.

And besides. It would have made a far more interesting store-line entry in the police blog of the weekly

Posted by Justin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

"Nationally recognized Taser expert Aram James of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability (CJA) says, “The study concludes -- without supporting data -- that Tasers reduce injuries to both police and the individuals Tasered"

Aram James, nationally recognized by Aram James? A former defense attorney? A self-appointed expert on social justice? Gimme a break!

Posted by Marty
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm

It is easy for some people who don't have to deal with potentially violent situations as our Police Officers do, to criticize the officers who deal with menacing people so we don't have to. For those of you who think that dealing with potentially violent people doesn't put you at risk, I suggest that instead of calling the police that you try to deal with the situation by yourself. Tasers are a less lethal means of subduing a person who poses a threat to an Police officer. I fully support the police carrying and using tasers when deemed appropriate.

Posted by PAPD - Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Don't-Tase-Me-Bro
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Regrettably, Tasers are too often used as cattle prods by police officers. It's not hard to go through the Youtube inventory and find videos (taken by on-board police cameras) demonstrating the unnecessary use of these devices:

Web Link

Unfortunately, these sorts of videos are not posted with police incident numbers, so that folks can see how these cases turned out.

Originally, the devices were presented to the public as necessary to deal with people who had "raised the threat level on the spectrum of force" needed by police officers to deal with a situation. As you can see (assuming no editing) on this video .. that the "detainee" was not even remotely threatening the officers on the scene.

Unfortunately .. there is little data at hand as to how many of these sorts of Taser incidents occur. There are a growing number of articles about the abuse of Tasers by police officers, however, that can be found by searching Google.

A review of the Taser use policy is warranted.

Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2009 at 5:13 pm

So what happened to the guy who got tasered on Saturday morning? Any injuries? From the report, it seems he checked out okay.

Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 7:11 pm

PAPD - Critic. "Officer injury of course should be minimized but the main priority is to protect the suspect from injury as well."

The main priority should be protect the officer from injury, not the suspect who is causing trouble. Why does the suspect deserve more consideration than the officer? Ridiculous.

I haven't seen Mr. James report the number of deaths and maiming from guns. Guns are more dangerous and every effort should be made to avoid their use. A Taser is far less likely to kill or permanently disable a peron than a gun.

Mr. James. Why aren't you advocating the abolition of guns?

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Koa: Don't want to get tased? Don't fight an on-duty cop!

Yeah ... that does seem simple doesn't it?

Also, I think a Taser is going to be less likely to cause damage than a smack with a billy club as well. The price we pay is that nothing is perfect or foolproof and some people may have adverse reactions to Tasers.

It is untenable and illogical to expect a Police to roll dice with there life for the sake of some abstract concept some have because they do not like the police, or do like criminals.

The police have the authority to tell people what to do, and people need to listen. Whatever state they are, whatever they think, they need to calm down and do what a cop tells them to do, or they run the risk of violence happening to them. Even so that Taser has a pretty good record of not hurting people.

And why should police NEED to use a cattle-prod to get people to obey their lawful orders.

Yes, there are bad cops, and I am all for ... 1000% police having to carry little video/audio cameras with them that record their whole days to make sure what is going on, and to make sure they are not involved in any corruption, but we have no right to have an expectation that a cop should risk their life uncessarily or at all on the job. it is a dangerous job, and they deserve tools that make it easier. I think the Taser does that.

Posted by Rick
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2009 at 8:56 pm

For every one of the reports that state Taser are harmful, there are three that say they are not. I trust lawyers less than police officers.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2009 at 11:36 pm

I think the general public, and especially the media, needs to stop trying to tell LE professionals how to do their jobs. Unfortunately, we live in a state where the common state of mind is to try and neuter LE, taking away their ability to effectively and efficiently curb and respond to crime. These men and women put themselves in harm's way to protect us and what do we do in return? The first thing some people do is badger them about whether or not every protocol was followed to the T. I think you should be ashamed of yourselves. I've seen some bad taser deployments and this one, if it happened the way it was written, does not seem to be one of them. The subject was probably intoxicated, yelled profanities and challenges to fight at a responding officer, and was 6'1", 240lbs. Some of you guys should try responding to a call like that...I bet you'd want a taser in your hand.

Posted by Local Karate Instructor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 17, 2009 at 10:33 am

Have any of the critics of Taser use had the opportunity to deal with trying to subdue one of these unruly crazies resisting arrest? It is not as simple as trying to use one of the moves you may have seen on WWE. ;-) I have helped police & security personnel apprehend such people and teach some of these tactics (unarmed only; I have never actually used a Taser). Use of no weapons is ideal. But some of these people, whether high on drugs/alcohol or just plain nuts, do not listen to reason and continue to appear excessively violent. Tasers are meant as an alternative to the more dangerous use of firearms and clubs. In the situation reported in this news article, it seems to me that the Taser was used just as intended and did its job very well. Let's try not to tell the police what they should or shouldn't do unless we can objectively say we have stood in their shoes and know better than them what is the best course of action.

Posted by Don't-Tase-Me-Bro
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2009 at 11:18 am

> Tasers are meant as an alternative to the more dangerous use of
> firearms and clubs.

Clubs have not killed as many people as Tasers have. What is rather astounding here, is that the "police" around the country have shown little interest in trying to get at the medical basis of these deaths.

What's needed, it might seem, is to have another "tool" developed that has disabling capability, rather than this one. The Military has developed a tool using microwaves that can disable a crowd. Would it be possible to develop a similar weapon/tool that might disorient, or otherwise disable, using some other aspect of human physiology?

> Let's try not to tell the police what they should
> or shouldn't do

The purpose of the police is to "protect and serve" .. not "bully and kill". The public, which provides the political basis for this form of government, has every right to tell these people (meaning the police) how to do their job. That is the nature of a democracy.

If the public can not oversee, critique and direct their police, then that society will soon become a "police state".

Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm


(Public Records Request) Re: Convicted PAPD Officer DUI & Accident (The Public’s right to know)

Hi Mark & Don: (Mark Petersen-Perez & Assistant City Attorney Don Larkin)

Thank you both for opening up this important discussion re a potentially very critical public safety issue. Here are a few of my questions and concerns:

Don, as you know court records re convictions for DUI's are in fact open to the public review and scrutiny despite the prohibitions you cite pursuant to Penal Code section 832.5 et seq.

My concern is that if you (the city) attempts to hide the ball re this information great harm to our citizenry could result.

I am asking you-- given that the information is subject to public review-- if we can in fact locate the court file –that you simply provide the following: the officer’s name, date of conviction and county where the conviction took place. We can do the rest.

Your failure to disclose the name of the Palo Alto officer who was recently convicted for DUI involving an accident is not a bar from searching out this information. Would you agree?

1. I am very concerned and want to know if this officer is currently on probation?

a. When is the officer’s probation scheduled to terminate –assuming he/she successfully compiles with the terms of probation?

b. Is the officer on formal or summary probation?

2. Is he/she taking the mandatory DUI driving and alcohol classes to ensure their license will not remain suspended indefinitely?

a. Is the city or some member of the PAPD monitoring this situation?

3. Potential liability issues re the city seem to abound. Would you agree?

4. Is this officer currently assigned to a job requiring him/her to drive a PAPD patrol vehicle?

5. Is this officer assigned to DUI enforcement?

a. Will this officer be prevented from any assignment involving the driving of a patrol car until he/she has at a minimum successfully completed probation?

6. Does the officer have prior convictions for DUI?

7. Has this officer been promoted or demoted subsequent to his/her conviction?

a. I understand that a person can obtain a restricted driver’s license-- to drive to and form work, etc., -- but the issue here is different. Will the PAPD allow this officer to drive a PAPD vehicle while still on probation for the DUI?

8. Please provide the list/roster re all current members of the PAPD.

12. Please provide a list of the e-mail addresses for all members of the PAPD.

Don, I don’t think it serves the public good to require the citizens of Palo Alto to have to hire an investigator to track down what is in effect already a publicly accessible court record. As such I am simply asking that you provide the name of the convicted officer and the date and location of his/her conviction and we can do the rest.


Aram James

P.S. I encourage other members of the public as well as members of the PAPD to join in on this discussion.

P.S.S. If anyone wishes to step forward voluntarily with the name of this officer that would be great.


We are unable to provide most of the requested documents. Requests number 1 and 3 are for personnel records. Police Officer personnel records are confidential pursuant to Penal Code section 832.5 et seq. The City does not maintain DMV records related to off-duty incidents not involving City vehicles, so we have no documents responsive to number 2. The City does not provide a defense for off-duty traffic accidents or for criminal actions brought against City employees outside the course and scope of their duties. As such, no City funds were involved in the defense of the DUI incident described in the auditor’s report.

In response to number 4, a copy of the Police Officer job description can be found at: Web Link

Donald Larkin

Assistant City Attorney

City of Palo Alto

(650) 329-2171

Posted by Don't-Tase-Me-Bro
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm

> The City does not maintain DMV records related to off-duty incidents
> not involving City vehicles, so we have no documents responsive
> to number 2.

If the City does not keep records about off-duty Police personnel off-duty incidents, how is it that we are talking about this? At some point, didn't the Officer have to tell someone in this chain-of-command that he had a DUI? No records (even email) can be found to document this Officer's DUI?

Certainly the police department demands that Officers reveal any criminal activity that they have become involved in, that might effect their availability for service if convicted?

Larkin's claim seems hollow. But he is under no obligation to tell the public the truth.

Posted by yay
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Haha!!! Don larkin told Mark and Aram to go take a hike!

Posted by mike
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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