Answers to questions about the safety of electronic weapons
By PoliceOne Columnist Greg Meyer
The critics will never be satisfied.
Amnesty International and other police critics call for "independent studies" of TASERs. The federal government, via the Department of Justice, awards research grants for exactly that: independent studies. The latest study hits the street, and the critics are quoted across the land: "Well, we're not sure how independent the study was."
Never mind the study results, in this case that the TASER caused no serious injury in 99.7% of nearly 1,000 uses in multiple jurisdictions, where local doctors studied every incident.
The critics live in a delusional world where force is never used, and there is no need for police officers. The media lives in a dollars-and-cents world, where the critics make headlines on the back of your professional efforts to keep society safe. Conflict sells newspapers and airtime.
"And that's the way it is," as Walter Cronkite used to say at the end of each broadcast.
Maybe so, but after nearly 32 years in law enforcement, I’m still not used to it. Silly me!
You, on the other hand, live in a world that presents its difficulties to you day in, day out, and on a moment’s notice, or no notice at all. And your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to keep that world as safe as you can, despite the cries of those who wouldn’t know a legitimate use of force if it hit them in the face.
Enough of my rant!
The best thing I can do for you this month is arm you with a list of recently completed studies that help answer questions about the safety of electronic weapons. You can be sure that the critics will say that there aren’t enough of these studies, or they aren’t independent, or whatever else they can dream up.
The TASER safety study referred to above was conducted at Wake Forest University by Dr. William Bozeman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institute of Justice. In 962 incidents, just three resulted in serious injury, two of those from falling. One was a case of rhabdomyolysis, or muscle tissue breakdown, which is sometimes seen in people experiencing excited delirium. This study was widely publicized in early October.
Another study compared TASER effects to other types of use of force. Entitled, “The impact of conducted energy devices and other types of force and resistance on officer and suspect injuries,” published in October by Emerald Group Publishing Limited’s “Policing: an International Journal of Police Strategies & Management,” this study was authored by Michael R. Smith, Robert J. Kaminski, Jeffrey Rojek, Geoffrey P. Alpert and Jason Mathis, of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of South Carolina.
Its stated purpose was “. . . to examine the effect of police use of conducted energy devices (CEDs) on officer and suspect injuries while controlling for other types of force and resistance and other factors." The study’s practical implications were that, “. . . relative to other forms of force, the use of CEDs and pepper spray can reduce the risk of injury to both suspects and law enforcement officers. This information should prove useful to law enforcement agencies considering adopting CEDs and suggests that agencies should consider the use of these less lethal alternatives in place of hands-on tactics against actively resistant suspects."
Quite a few new medical studies have been released in the past few weeks. All of these studies affirmed the general safety of the TASER® electronic control device. Six (6) of these studies were presented at the Fourth Mediterranean Emergency Medicine Congress (MEMC IV), in Sorrento, Italy during September 15-18, 2007.
Several of these studies used human volunteers that underwent cardiovascular and physiologic evaluations on the effects of TASER activation in a human body and reached the following conclusions
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/17/07) Ultrasound Measurement of Cardiac Activity During Conducted Electrical Weapon Application in Exercising Adults. J. Ho; R. Reardon; D. M. Dawes; M. Johnson; J. Miner.
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/18/07) Absence of Electrocardiographic Change Following Prolonged Application of a Conducted Electrical Weapon in Physically Exhausted Adults. J. Ho; D. Dawes; H. Calkins; M. Johnson.
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/19/07) 15-Second Conducted Electrical Weapon Exposure Does Not Cause Core Temperature Elevation In Non-Environmentally Stressed Resting Adults. D. M. Dawes; J. Ho; M. Johnson; J. Miner.
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/19/07) The Neuroendocrine Effects of the TASER X26 Conducted Electrical Weapon as Compared to Oleoresin Capsicum. D. M. Dawes; J. Ho; M. Johnson; J. Miner.
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/19/07) 15-Second Conducted Electrical Weapon Application Does Not Impair Basic Respiratory Parameters, Venous Blood Gases, or Blood Chemistries. D. M. Dawes; J. Ho; M. Johnson; J. Miner.
(Abstract) (Poster) (09/19/07) Breathing Parameters, Venous Gases, and Chemistries with Exposure to a New Wireless Projectile Conducted Electrical Weapon. D. M. Dawes; J. Ho; M. Johnson; J. Miner; E. Lundin.
(08/29/07) Physiological Effects of a Conducted Electrical Weapon on Human Subjects, Gary M. Vilke, MD, Christian M. Sloane, MD, Katie D. Bouton, BS, Fred W. Kolkhorst, PhD, Saul D. Levine, MD, Tom S. Neuman, MD, Edward M. Castillo, PhD, MPH, Theodore C. Chan, MD. Article in Press, Ann Emerg Med. 2007;xx:xxx.
The above studies can be reviewed here (create login, and open "search" tab and search by author’s last name or abstract title or number).
The abstracts below can be viewed here.
(09/19/07) Cardiac Current Density Distribution by Electrical Pulses from TASER Devices, Panescu D, Kroll MW, McDaniel W, Stratbucker RA., Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1(1):6305-6307.
(09/19/07) Finite Element Modeling of Electric Field Effects of TASER Devices on Nerve and Muscle. Panescu D, Efimov IR, Kroll MW, Sweeney JD. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1(1):1277-1279.
(08/28/07) Can the Direct Cardiac Effects of the Electric Pulses Generated by the TASER X26 Cause Immediate or Delayed Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Normal Adults? Raymond E. Ideker, MD, PhD, and Derek J. Dosdall, PhD. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1 Sep 2007 28(3): p. 195.
More medical studies and TASER use studies are in the works.
That’s it for now! Stay safe.
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