Electric Control Devices (ECDs) are designed to deliver an electrical charge to the body affecting the muscular and neural areas of the body. The body will respond in four basic ways when in contact with electricity. The first is muscular discomfort – this is a slight pain or feeling of unrest inside the muscle. Second is muscular confusion – this is a temporary loss of coordination, affecting movement and flexibility. Third is muscular spasm – a slightly longer (but still temporary) loss of coordination. Fourth is muscular contraction – these contractions start almost immediately after being hit by an electric device and stop voluntary movement inside the muscle, neural, and tissues areas, creating a temporary loss of muscle coordination. Muscular contraction also locks muscles in place, temporarily leaving the person incapacitated for a short period of time.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re researching the purchase of ECDs.
1. Delivery System: These devices are designed to deliver an electrical charge to the body affecting its muscular and neural areas, and the delivery systems vary. Each system is unique and each has its own benefits. The point here is that you need to consider the differences and match those against your department’s procedures and the needs of all your officers. Remember, you may be best served with a mix of delivery systems. Below is a list of what types of delivery systems you’ll most likely have in consideration.
a. Stun Guns: These are fired by depressing a trigger or button when the two conductors make contact with the skin. The officer must be in touching distance to employ this device, making it only useful in hand-to-hand combat. As long as the probes make contact with the target area while the device is activated, the subject should be temporarily disabled.
b. Projected Dart: These devices can offer more range and distance from the threat, with distances varying from 10-30 feet based on the cartridge being used. Some have battery indicators on the device to help with confirmation of operational capabilities, some discharge two or four darts into the targeted subject and some even have ICAM capabilities.
c. Wireless Projectile: These can be fired from a shotgun, some offering an extended range up to 50 feet. At times these can be mistaken for the many other rounds that can be fired from a shotgun.
d. Shock Shields: These work when the conductor strips on the front of the shield are activated by a trigger or button at the back of the shield. When the conductor strips make contact with skin, the shield sends a charge into the targeted area. Like the stun guns, they are only effective within touching distance and when the trigger or button is released the device stops sending its charge.
2. Questions to Ask:
• What are the specs for the batteries? How long do they typically last? Any charging capabilities?
• Medical testing — what can the manufacturer provide you with in case of liability issues?
• What does the device deliver in terms of volts?
• How long can it be in contact with subject?
• What are the device’s safety features?
• Is there a warranty?
• What are the refund and return policies?
• Do they operate in amps or joules?
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and ECDs? Please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
PoliceOne Columnist Dave Young, who also serves as Director of Specialized Programs for Northcentral Technical College, RedMan Training Division, contributed to this report.