Nick Dial was a police officer who volunteered to be Tasered. Since then his health has suffered to such an extent that he can no longer work. And he's not alone; other police officers have suffered serious health problems, from vertebrae misalignments to heart arrhythmia and stroke. "In its video, Taser International claims that nobody has suffered a serious injury or death as a result of the Taser, but that just isn't true," says Dial.
In August of 2006 Dial attended a Taser Training class. "During the class we watched a video by Taser about how the device works, what to expect and who it can be used on," says Dial. "I don’t know if they changed their policy since but they said it was OK to Taser anyone--even a pregnant woman. I turned to my buddy and said, 'Are you serious? Why would you Taser a pregnant woman?' Answer: the video made claims that nobody has suffered a serious injury or Taser death as a result of the device. 'After being Tasered you may feel a little muscle soreness, like after playing sports or working out, but no serious problems will occur,' the Taser rep told us.
Had I known better, I would never have volunteered to take the hit. As well, in the police department, there is a jock mentality--you have to step up and prove you are a man otherwise you're gonna get hazed for the next few weeks. Most of us say screw that, I'm gonna take the hit.
This is how they did it. Two officers took an arm each and rather than have the fish hooks go through my clothing, they cut the barbs off the end of the wire and connected the positive and negative to the back of my bare back and taped the wires on. One wire was taped below my right shoulder blade and the other wire was on my left back area so there was a perfect line going across my spine. I was hit with the Taser for three seconds, one surge. It was painful and my back arced. When it was over I was in a ton of pain--my entire back was throbbing and it was difficult to breathe.
I mentioned it to my trainer (who is certified by Taser) and he said that is normal to be sore and I will be OK soon. That night I went home in a lot of pain, it hadn't let up. I couldn't sleep all night. After about 2 days I mentioned it to my sergeant and he told me to report to workers compensation; they sent me to urgent care and I had some x-rays on my spine. I didn't have any fractures but had a severe strain. After that I tried to continue work but it never felt right. Eventually they sent me to a spine surgeon who did an MRI. According to him my back was OK, but I was sent to physical therapy--it helped a bit but I was still having problems.
Besides the back issue, about a month after I was Tasered I got severe headaches and dizzy spells. My sergeant said I didn’t seem myself, I was out of it. I am usually an outspoken guy, cracking jokes, but he noticed I was very reserved…
One night I was on a domestic violence call and I was outside as back-up. All of a sudden I had severe vertigo and my head started spinning. I was having a hard time breathing and felt really weak. It scared the hell outa me. (I've never had anxiety in my entire life or any major health problems. As a matter of fact I graduated from the police academy almost at the top in physical fitness. I also have a strong resume from working in stressful situations, from armed transport to security supervisor.)
I went home and my wife took me to ER--she was scared too. I was having tremors but the hospital couldn't find anything wrong. My symptoms became more severe—like I had brain fog: I couldn't concentrate and I was completely disoriented. One day I couldn't even check the mail, I had to almost crawl back to the house!
The symptoms persisted and I was told by my supervisor that I should apply for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) . I was granted leave and in the meantime I have been to ER so many times. I wake up white as a ghost, I can't breathe and my wife rushes me to hospital. They thought I was having anxiety attacks but that didn't make sense—why didn't it show up before? How can an adult be OK one day and come down with anxiety the next? Finally I noticed when I ate certain foods I didn't look right. Then I was tested for blood sugar and when I ate certain things it went through the roof. I also lost 30 lbs, from 170 to 140 – I am 5' 9". My uniform doesn’t fit anymore.
I went to an endocrinologist who thought I was diabetic. He tested me and said I wasn't but my pancreas was off--my body wasn't using insulin properly. A second endocrinologist found my testosterone extremely low (it was 199 and should have been at least 500—I was 25 years old at the time). And my cortisol level was rock bottom. So they thought my adrenal glands were kicking the bucket. Tests showed they were functioning but not well because the problem with low cortisol is that adrenal glands produce all kinds of hormones and it is the buffer zone to handle stress; it regulates inflammation and the heart and more. Adrenal glands act as risk management and take care of your body in a crisis. My hormones were whacky so I had an answer—kind of.
But every doctor is perplexed and has no idea why these hormone levels have gone haywire. They don't know how to correct it. I mentioned the Taser and they said the body runs on electricity and it is very possible that the Taser caused my adrenal glands to short circuit or damage my nervous system. Now it is also possible I have anxiety but it is a by-product of the original problem. This all started right after I got Tasered--it is too coincidental. Just connect the dots.
Since August of 2006 I have been on a roller coaster ride. Every day is a challenge. I can’t work, I am unreliable, I am tired all the time and sometimes I can't even make it to the grocery store. I can't even hold my daughter for long before my back starts throbbing."
Police File Lawsuits against Taser International
Nick Dial's health problems led him to do a lot of research and he phoned some officers around the country who suffered after being Tasered. Dial says a police department in Chicago filed a suit against the weapons company but the city was forced to drop it because "it cost them too much money--Taser came at them with such force." In another incident Dial says a Chief of Police in southern Arizona was hooked up to an EKG and was Tasered during a demo to prove to his men that it was safe. "After he took the hit he had a stroke. He filed a lawsuit against Taser but lost the case."
"One young guy in Illinois was Tasered and he fractured 3 vertebrae in his neck," says Dial. "He had multiple surgeries and attempted to go back to work but the first time he had an encounter with physical force it opened his wound and ended his career as a cop. He can't do a whole lot. Like me, you kind of go through an identity crisis. You become a cop because you do it for the better good and you love your job. But now we don’t know what to do—we feel like our jobs have been stripped from us and it causes a state of depression--I want nothing more than to go back to work.
I feel that a lawsuit against Taser International is about ethics and morality worldwide. A lot of cops will blindly defend this action because this device is a useful tool and does have a place but the way it is utilized is not appropriate. The problem is that the company has presented their product as a non-lethal device and said 'no worries'. So officers have it driven into their heads that they can use it in many unjustified situations.
An officer wouldn’t use a baton unless they were being assaulted--that is extreme physical force. But the Taser is being used in passive resistance: when an officer confronts a suspect, gives an order and the suspect isn’t compliant. In that situation many officers have used it as a non-compliant rule, like getting mouthy. If a cop used a baton that would be police brutality but for some reason the public thinks that the Taser is different, not a dangerous device. And there is the visual aspect: when you see someone beaten with a baton that is extreme but when you see someone Tasered and he doesn't fall, it doesn't look bad. Even so, it is a violent act; it just doesn’t look that way.
It isn't so much the police force's fault but some officers should use more common sense; a woman in a wheelchair was Tasered! The criteria for training comes directly from Taser International and so far I haven’t seen one study that was not funded by them. And up until recently, there wasn't one lawsuit they lost. But I think that is going to change…"