October 18, 2006

Radio-Canada reports on Bagnell Taser case...

On the October 17, 2006 edition of "The National", CBC aired a very good report on the Robert Bagnell taser case. Produced by Radio-Canada, it was well-rounded and touched on many of the social, legal and ethical aspects.

It began with a brief portrait of Bob and the effect of his loss on his family, delivered by his sister, Patti Gillman. Patti told how she and her Mother had learned about Bob's death, and how the fact that a taser was involved as not released by the Vancouver Police Department until 30 days later. The VPD's position was that the Taser gun did not play a role Bob's death, and this remains their position today.

Taser Int'l has conducted many scientific reports into the safety of their products, branding them as "non-lethal weapons", classified as such by the U.S. Department of Defense. The non-lethal aspect of the Taser is strongly promoted by the company, who consider its use to be reducing deaths and saving lives. Apparently, many of the studies commissioned by Taser were done by companies paid by Taser, or using data provided by Taser.

John Webster, of the University of Wisconsin, told the reporter that he believed that Tasers could deliver lethal results, if the victim has low body fat and is shocked close to the heart. An independent research team at the University of Toronto showed that the consumption of cocaine or a very high level of fear, combined with an electric discharge, could also cause cardiac arrhythmias.

The Radio-Canada report followed with a tour of the taser facility, focusing on Mr. Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Taser International. Taser's high-tech facility was emphasized as we saw the V.P. pull a taser gun out of his holster and shoot a test target numerous times. You could easily regard this sequence at Taser International as a genuine, straight-forward and factual description of the products and business of this Arizona-based company. But using "Mission Impossible" music in the background and referring to the company's headquarters as looking like "something out of a James Bond movie" might hint at a dark sense of humour on the part of Radio Canada reporter, as if someone were trying to point out that the glorification of technology should be viewed with a little suspicion.

Understandably, Taser wants to cultivate an image of corporate success and of product reliability. Being named in lawsuits and dealing with past reports about the potential lethality of Taser products has certainly had a negative effect on the company's image and stock price.

Even with his rocket-powered backpack and gadget-laden cars, James Bond sometimes still had to get his hands dirty in his job (read an early James Bond novel like Casino Royale for example). But realistic or not, that angle wouldn't sell very many Walter PPKs now would it?

Link to the Radio-Canada companion article (en Français)

In English, translated mechanically by Babelfish.altavista.com

Bagnell Family Sues Vancouver Police and Taser Int'l over Death

Taser Controversy Refuses to Die (BBC)


Anonymous said...

CBC/Rad-can have had it in for Tasers for a long time.

It was a hit piece and it was identical to one they ran last year... and the year before.

Who was the expert witness? A Radio-Canada reporter who thought the Taser hit was too strong. Great work!

An what was with the description of the big bad Taser company with the "James Bond" like security. Anyone ever seen the CBC broadcast centre in Toronto and tried to get past its security?

It was shoddy journalism! Again.

ejohn said...

Thanks for your comment. I must disagree with your claim of "shoddy journalism" in the Radio-Canada report. I thought it was certainly a little biased in favour of the victim and the family - definitely. And I think that this is appropriate - it was part of the structure of the report itself: a "David vs. Goliath" theme - Ms. Gillman and her mother playing the role of David, and Taser Int'l and the VPD (although they were barely represented in the report) as Goliath.

There's only so much one can do with music and creative editing. What's left over is what was captured from reality by the camera.