Actors: Rick Smith, Tom Smith
Director: Nick Berardini
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Region: Region 1
Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
DVD Release Date: March 29, 2016
Run Time: 95 minutes
I can’t say that I ever put much thought into TASERs beyond an instinctual feeling to avoid them. I haven’t been in a situation which put me in the line of fire and have no intentions of ever discovering what it feels like, but the documentary Killing Them Safely gave me facts to back up my instincts. Even if a majority of those hit with the latest police-issued weapon are left without permanent damage, I still see no reason to take the risk of becoming one of the few that don’t survive. And even more importantly, this is just another piece of evidence in recent scrutiny of police behavior, and it is the poor discretion of the users which is far more frightening than the weapon itself.
Even though the misuse of the weapons by police officers may have been the easier path for this film to take, especially given the recent controversy and bad press law enforcement has had, Killing Them Safely instead sets its targets on the company producing the devices. But before the documentary can condemn the questionable business practices, they first must give a brief history of TASER International and its co-founder brother team, Rick and Tom Smith. This all seems rather conventional, despite the rhetoric provided by many TASER representatives in the early interviews of the documentary. Even when the company is being directly attacked by the filmmakers, much to the concern of some off-screen legal advisors, the interviewees refuse to budge on their insistence that TASERS save lives rather than take them.
This is a difficult point to argue, because we can’t prove that not using the TASER wouldn’t have resulted in a deadly encounter, but even more frustrating is the company’s unwillingness to admit the weapon’s contribution in the death of those who did not survive its use. First of all, just because TASERs have helped subdue violent encounters does not automatically mean that these altercations would have resulted in death had the officers been forced to use other methods, and the use of this argument is illogically presumptive, though it has not stopped TASER International from claiming responsibility for millions of saved lives on their website.
The impossible to prove claims are not the focus of this documentary, however, and instead the scrutiny remains on those who were injured and/or killed by the use of the supposedly safe weapon. By claiming that the weapon cannot possibly affect the human heart and boasting falsified safety information, TASER International is much more villainous in its refusal to accept scientific facts when they contradict their business model. It quickly becomes clear in listening to the constant double-talk oozing out of the mouths of Tom and Rick Smith that they are well aware of the fallacy in their company’s statements, and even more aware of how to careful word their statements in ways that keeps them legally covered. This despicably greedy business behavior would be bad enough without being paired with their insistence that TASER saves lives. Many cigarette companies once claimed their products to have health benefits also. I’m not even saying the risk isn’t worth the benefit, but once the Smith brothers start lying through their teeth, it doesn’t much matter.
The DVD includes a trailer.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4/10