DOJ Releases Reports on TASER Technology

The National Institute of Justice — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice — has released two reports from multi-year studies of Electronic Control Devices. The studies suggests that the use of the devices has a risk as low as or lower than most alternatives.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) — has released two key new reports from multi-year studies of Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) also known as Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs): “Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons,” and “Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption.”

According to the NIJ, the findings from the two studies will help law enforcement make decisions about using ECDs.  In one study, researchers surveyed agencies across the country about a range of use of force issues. They found that these devices can reduce injuries.  The other study was conducted by a panel of medical experts who examined why individuals died after exposure to an ECD during encounters with law enforcement.  It found that that ECDs do not pose a significant risk for induced cardiac dysrhythmia in humans when deployed reasonably and that these devices are as safe, or safer, than other means of subdual.

Select findings from the “Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption” include the following:

  • The literature suggests a substantial safety margin with respect to the use of CEDs when they are used according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • CED use is associated with a significantly lower risk of injury than physical force, so it should be considered as an alternative in situations that would otherwise result in the application of physical force.
  • There is currently no medical evidence that CEDs pose a significant risk for induced cardiac dysrhythmia in humans when deployed reasonably.
  • Additionally, current research does not support a substantially increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia in field situations, even if the CED darts strike the front of the chest.
  • The panel does recognize that CED use involving the area of the chest in front of the heart area is not totally risk-free; current research does not support a substantially increased risk of cardiac dysrhythmia in field situations from anterior chest CED dart penetrations.
  • All evidence suggests that the use of CEDs carries with it a risk as low as or lower than most alternatives.

The following are summaries of the “In Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons:

  • Researchers analyzed 25,000 use of force incidents from 12 large local law enforcement agencies.  The study found that when officers used force of any kind, injury rates to citizens ranged from 17 to 64 percent, while officer injury rates ranged from 10 to 20 percent.  The use of physical force (hands, feet, fists) by officers increased the odds of injury to officers and suspects alike.  However, the use of pepper spray and CEDs decreased the likelihood of suspect injury by 65 and 70 percent respectively. 
  • Researchers further analyzed the experiences of several specific law enforcement agencies to learn how introducing CEDs affected injury rates, reviewing use of force information from police departments in Austin, Texas and Orlando, Florida.  This approach tracked injuries before and after CED introduction and included more than 10,000 use of force incidents from the two agencies.  A large drop in injury rates for suspects and officers alike occurred in both cities following CED introduction.
  • The researchers noted that good policies and training would require that officers evaluate the age, size, sex, apparent physical capabilities and health concerns of a suspect before using a CED.  In addition, policies and training should prohibit CED use in the presence of flammable liquids or in circumstances where falling would pose unreasonable risks to the suspect such as in elevated areas or adjacent to traffic.  Policies and training should also address the use of CEDs on suspects who are handcuffed or otherwise restrained, and should either prohibit their use outright or limit them to clearly defined, aggravated circumstances.

“The findings from these two multi-year NIJ studies contribute greatly to the significant body of independent research and analysis concerning the safety of TASER® electronic control devices,” commented Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications for TASER International.  “We applaud the extensive work conducted by the independent panellists, authors and the Department of Justice.”

Read “Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons.”

Read “Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption.”

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