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Seattle PD Special Report On the M26 TASER (Pt. 2)

Seattle PD Special Report On The M26 TASER - Part 2

Click Here for Part 1

For a PDF version of the report, visit: http://www.cityofseattle.net/police/Publications/Special/M26Taser.PDF

The M26 Taser - Year 1 Field Experience

The following discussion reviews incidents in which 
tasers were deployed by SPD officers from January 1, 
2001 through January 31, 2002. A total of 106 
incidents are described and discussed (3).

When and Where Tasers were Used - Even though there 
was to be a limited deployment of the M26 taser, the 
overall strategy was to provide some coverage across 
the city on a 24x7 basis. Table A reflects actual 
taser uses distributed among three daily time periods. 
As can be seen in Table A, taser deployments were 
heaviest in the late afternoon to midnight time 

Table A - Taser Use by Time of Day SPD, Jan 2001 - 
Jan 2002, N = 106

Time Period        # of Deployments  % of Deployments
0800 - 1600 hours       21                20%
1600 - 2400 hours       55                52%
2400 - 0800 hours       30                28%

When taser incidents are charted by precinct, the 
South and West Precincts portray a more dominant use 
of the device than do the North and East Precincts.
Table B shows the distribution of taser incidents by 

Table B - Taser Use Incidents by Precinct SPD, Jan 
2001 - Jan 2002, N = 106

Precinct          # of Incidents     % of Incidents
West                   32                 30%
North                  19                 18%
South                  34                 32%
East                   20                 19%
Other/out of city       1                  1%

Closely related to the issue of geographic 
distribution and coverage is the availability of 
taser officers.  This is especially significant in 
light of the fact that the tasers are in limited 
deployment across the city. To examine this issue, 
taser incidents were classified according to how 
often the taser officer was part of the first 
response, part of a back-up unit, or specifically 
requested by officers at the scene.  Table C presents 
this information. As can be seen, taser officers were
frequently among the officers first responding to an 

Table C - Incidents by Taser Officer as First 
Response, Back-up or Request SPD, Jan 2001 - Jan 
2002, N = 106

Taser Officer Involved  # of Incidents  % of Incidents
Officer in first response    59              56%
Officer in back-up unit      38              36%
Officer specifically requested  9             8%

Types of Incidents Where Tasers Were Used - Table D 
presents the types of incidents in which officers 
used their tasers. In classifying these events, the
original type of call/incident to which officers 
responded has been used, even though the situation 
may have developed into something else. For example,
officers may have initiated a traffic stop for 
reckless driving. Since this was the initiating event, 
the incident would be classified as "traffic-related," 
even if the vehicle turned out to be stolen or drugs 
were seized and arrests made for these crimes.

If one trend is evident in Table D it is that there 
is no "typical" taser incident.  Rather officers have 
used the device in a variety of circumstances as 
shown by the even distribution in the table. 
Situations involving mentally ill/suicidal persons
and traffic-related events, however, edge out other 
types of incidents to comprise the most frequent 
categories of incidents where tasers were employed. 
This reflects a primary interest of the Department's 
Less Lethal Options Program, which is to provide 
alternative tools to officers who are regularly 
called upon to deal with persons in crisis, either 
because of a mental illness or because of drug or 
alcohol impairments, a frequent component of traffic 

Table D - Initial Classification of Incidents Where 
Tasers Were Used SPD, Jan 2001 - Jan 2002, N = 106

Type of Incident       # of Incidents  % of Incidents
Drug or Alcohol Related     17              16%
Fight/Disturbance Call      17              16%
Mental Illness/Suicide      21              19%
Traffic Related             20              19%
Violent Crime               14              13%
Other                       17              16%

A few examples of these types of taser incidents will 
illustrate the challenges they pose for officers.

Mental/Suicide Incident #1 - officers were called to 
the scene of a man jumping in front of cars in an 
apparent effort to be hit.  As officers approached, 
the man kept walking away and reaching into his 
waistband as if going for a weapon. He also crouched
behind planters on the street as if retrieving 
something. Officers drew their service weapons and 
ordered him to stop and put his hands where they 
could be seen.  One officer called for a taser unit. 
When it arrived, officers again ordered the man to 
raise his hands. Instead he put them in his waistband 
and withdrew his hand pointing it at officers
like a pistol.  At this point the taser was applied, 
striking the man and immobilizing him.  He was taken 
to Harborview Medical Center (HMC) for mental 
evaluation.  It was learned later that the man had 
been released earlier in the day from the jail mental 
ward and had tried (unsuccessfully) to reenter it.

Mental/Suicide Incident #2 - officers were called to 
an apartment by a mental health case worker who was 
concerned about a client who had threatened suicide 
by slitting her wrists or jumping from the balcony of 
her 4 th floor apartment.  A Crisis Intervention Team 
(CIT) trained officer was the first to respond, 
followed by back-up units including a taser officer. 
Officers obtained a key from the apartment manager 
and the CIT officer attempted to contact the woman, 
who by now had barricaded herself in the apartment. 
As the door was opened and forced against the 
furniture holding it, officers saw the subject bolt 
for the balcony.  Forcing themselves inside, the CIT 
officer ran and tackled the woman as she reached the 
balcony while the taser officer used the stun
mode of the taser to pacify her enough to be removed 
from the danger zone of the balcony.  She continued 
to fight and struggle even when in restraints for 
transport to Harborview Medical Center for mental 
health evaluation.

Mental/Suicide Incident #3 - officers responded to a 
call about a male mentally ill person screaming and 
yelling at fellow apartment tenants.  The apartment 
manager indicated the subject was on the 9th floor. 
Officers took the elevator to the 8th floor and used 
the stairway to the 9th floor.  On entering the 
hallway, they observed the subject staring at the 
elevator, waiting for it to open, with a fixed blade 
knife in hand. The subject turned toward the officers 
who told him to drop the weapon.  Instead he advanced 
toward them from about 15 feet away.  While his 
partner provided lethal cover, the other officer used 
his taser, hitting the subject in the shoulder and 
hip.  This disabled the subject so he could be placed 
in custody. While awaiting SFD transport, the subject
again became agitated and belligerent so a second 
taser cycle was applied.  The subject was transported 
to Harborview Medical Center for mental evaluation.

Traffic-related Incident #1 - In the first taser use 
in 2001, officers responded to a two-car, hit-and-run, 
injury accident.  The officer who spotted the vehicle 
leaving the scene was able to stop it, but the 
intoxicated driver was extremely belligerent and non-
compliant.  A taser officer arrived as a back-up unit 
and applied the taser as it became clear that the 
subject was becoming more and more uncontrolled with 
each attempt to gain his compliance. The taser struck 
the subject in his arm, but it took three cycles of
the device to place the driver under arrest.

Traffic-related Incident #2 - officers attempted to 
stop a car for reckless driving, when it sped away. 
While following, officers learned that the car was 
stolen.  The driver stopped abruptly and fled on foot, 
with officers also in foot pursuit.  Once the subject 
was contained in a fenced area, officers attempted to 
get him to surrender, without success.  Instead the 
subject turned and ran toward officers refusing to 
show his hands. One of the officers, who was equipped 
with a taser, applied it. The subject continued to be
uncooperative as officers attempted to handcuff him, 
so a second cycle of the taser was used.  After that, 
the subject was arrested without further incident.

The next three categories of taser incidents - 
drug/alcohol, fight/disturbance, and violent crime 
incidents - were roughly equal in number.  These 
tended to follow a predictable pattern in which 
officer attempts to stop a suspect involved in a drug
sale, or to intervene in a disturbance, or arrest on 
a warrant, resulted in either flight by the suspect, 
aggression toward the officers, or both.  Once 
confronted by officers, typically after a pursuit, 
the suspect resisted officer commands, often 
violently.  This was followed by repeated attempts to 
gain suspect compliance and finally to bring him/her 
under control.  The taser often proved to be the most
effective of the control measures employed.  A few 
examples follow.

Violent Crime Incident - officers attempted to arrest 
a subject on a felony rape warrant.  During a foot 
chase, the subject drew a spring-loaded knife from 
his clothing so violently that it was projected from 
his hand.  During the pursuit, the taser was applied, 
hitting the subject as he was running. It brought him 
to the ground, but he still resisted as he was being 
arrested.  After he was subdued, a second knife was 

Fight/Disturbance Incident - officers responded to a 
call about a fight.  On arrival, two large subjects 
were observed to be brawling, surrounded by a large 
group of on-lookers.  As the two officers attempted 
to intervene, one subject pushed away from officers, 
took a fighting stance with balled fists, shouted 
obscenities, and stepped toward officers.  The crowd 
also started to react toward the officers.  One of 
the officers had a taser and deployed it on the 
subject at the very moment that the other combatant 
reached around to restrain him from assaulting the 
officers.  Each of the taser prongs hit one of the
subjects, one in a finger and one in the back. 
Because their arms were wrapped together, both 
subjects were affected.  After they were taken into 
custody, it was evident that both were very 
intoxicated.  As things calmed down, the more 
aggressive subject agreed that officers had done the 
right thing; the other was released to a family 

"Other" Category Incident - The "other" category of 
taser events was generally comprised of property 
crimes, on-view loitering or harassment incidents, 
probation or warrant violation cases.  An example of 
this type of incident involved a "send police" call
to 911, made by a woman caller who indicated that 
someone was trying to break into her home.  Upon 
arrival, the officers observed the suspect attempting 
to restrain a woman on a couch. She was screaming for 
help.  The officers entered and told the subject to
get on the floor.  He complied but kept trying to 
reach under the couch for something. Thinking the 
subject was trying to reach for a weapon, the taser 
was applied.  He became compliant and was taken into 
custody.  He was booked for a domestic violence-
related burglary.  The woman was his estranged wife.

Characteristics of Taser Subjects - Taser incidents 
were reviewed to determine the gender, age, and race 
of subjects on whom tasers were used.  Males
significantly outnumber females as taser subjects, 
with males comprising 94% of subjects.  The age 
distribution of taser subjects is close to a bell 
curve, with just over two-thirds of the subjects 
between the ages of 21 and 40, and the balance split 
almost evenly between the 20 and under age group and 
the over 40 age group.  Table E presents the age 
distribution of taser subjects.

Table E - Age Distribution of Taser Subjects
SPD, Jan 2001 - Jan 2002, N = 106

Age Category         # of Subjects     % of Subjects
20 years old and younger  16                15%
21-25 years old           20                19%
26-30 years old           17                16%
31-35 years old           15                14%
36-40 years old           19                18%
Over 40 years of age      19                18%

Taser incidents were also classified by the race of 
the subject on whom the taser was used.  These data 
are presented in Table F.  About half of the taser 
subjects were Caucasians, with African Americans 
comprising the next largest group.  Taser incidents 
were also reviewed and classified according to the 
degree and type of impairment that subjects exhibited 
to officers.  Table G presents information on the 
number of incidents and types of impairments shown by 
taser subjects.

Table F - Distribution of Taser Subjects by Race
SPD. Jan 2001 - Jan 2002, N =106

Race of Taser Subject  # of Subjects   % of Subjects
Caucasian                   52              49%
African American            44              42%
Asian/Pacific Islander       6               6%
Other                        4               4%

Table G - Numbers and Types of Impairment of Taser 
Subjects SPD, Jan 2001 - Jan 2002, N = 106

Taser Subject Impaired  # of Subjects  % of Subjects
Alcohol impaired             24             22%
Chemical/drug impaired       11             10%
Drug & alcohol impaired       4              4%
Mental illness/delusional    24             22%
No apparent impairment       43             41%

Nearly sixty percent of the incidents involved 
subjects that were impaired to one degree or another, 
often seriously.  As indicated, persons suffering 
from delusions or mental illness and those who were 
alcohol-impaired comprised the largest groups of 
impaired persons confronted by officers.  Impairment 
resulting from other types of substance abuse 
appeared in another 14% of the incidents.

A notable characteristic of taser subjects was the 
degree to which they were armed.  A quarter of taser 
subjects (26 subjects) were armed, most often with
knives (in 11 cases).  Sixteen (62%) of the armed 
subjects were impaired, with ten of the sixteen cases 
involving the mentally ill or delusional persons. 
What is surprising about the number of taser 
incidents involving armed subjects is the fact that 
officers so often chose to use a less lethal option 
when confronting subjects who not only were armed, 
but who also appeared determined, in a number of 
cases, to assault or harm officers.

How Tasers Were Used and the Results Obtained - In 
about 60% of the taser incidents, the dart projectile 
mode of the M26 Taser was used.  The stun mode of the 
device was used 27% of the time; and both systems 
were used in just under 12% of cases. Use of the dual 
system modes occurred when subjects became newly 
resistant after having been subdued, or when the dart 
projectiles failed to reach the subject or became 
dislodged during a struggle.

Taser Performance - Because of the varied 
circumstances and conditions in which tasers were 
used, the Department captured performance data in 
three ways.  First, each taser incident was reviewed 
to see if there had been a verified contact of the 
subject with the taser.  Often, a taser might be 
described by observing officers as "not working", but 
the taser officer indicated that the prongs had not 
reached the subject, or only one had hit the mark, or 
extra layers of clothing had prevented the darts from 
making contact.  Of the 106 cases studied, verified 
taser contact in either stun or dart mode was 
confirmed in 91 cases or 86% of the time.

Next, the Department looked at the effect of the 
taser when contact was made.  Among the 91 cases 
where there had been verified contact, 95% reported 
either a disabling, or partially disabling, effect on 
the subject.  Finally, the Department reviewed taser 
deployments to see whether the device either brought 
the subject under control or led to the resolution of 
the incident.  In 85% of all taser incidents (91 of 
106 cases), the device was credited with helping to 
resolve the situation.  In incidents where there was 
verified contact with the taser, the rate of success
was 92% (in 84 of 91 cases) in controlling the 
subject or bringing the situation to resolution.

Subject and Officer Injury - Taser incidents were 
also reviewed to determine the extent of subject and 
officer injuries that occurred when tasers were used.
National studies have consistently found that uses of 
force are more likely during officer interactions 
with persons who are mentally ill or under the 
influence of drugs or alcohol.  They have also found 
that uses of force often result in injuries to both 
officers and subjects.  These studies have placed the 
rate of officer injuries at 10% in general use of 
force situations and as high as 30-40% in incidents 
involving mentally ill and impaired subjects. 
Injuries to subjects occur nationally at a rate of 
38% in general use of force incidents, with bruises 
or abrasions being the most common injuries sustained. 
More serious injuries, such as broken bones, were 
reported in about 1.5% of use of force incidents
studied. (4)

In light of these statistics, the reported injury 
rate for both officers and subjects in the taser 
incidents during the first year of implementation 
was low.  In more than two-thirds of the incidents 
(68%), subjects sustained either no injury or only
puncture abrasions from the taser darts.  Injuries 
subsequent to the taser deployment were reported in 
13% of incidents.  Generally, these injuries occurred 
as subjects fell to the ground after having been "hit" 
with taser darts.  In 19% of the incidents, subject 
injuries occurred prior to police arrival, prior to 
taser deployment, or were self-inflicted.  No subject 
injuries were major, and there were no injuries 
attributed directly to the taser itself.

There were no officer injuries in eighty-seven (82%) 
of the incidents studied.  In 13% of the incidents, 
officers sustained injuries prior to the taser being 
applied.  In only 5% of the incidents were there 
officer injuries after taser deployment or directly 
related to its use.  In all cases, the injuries to 
officers were minor.  Because of the high proportion 
of taser subjects who were impaired, these relatively 
low rates of reported officer injuries are very 
encouraging. This helps to meet another key objective 
of the Department's Less Lethal Options Program,
which is to provide options that officers can deploy 

The low injury rate associated with the taser is one 
of its biggest selling points for officers.  Taser 
officers have frequently reported to trainers how 
much they appreciate having a tool at their disposal 
that can resolve incidents "without anyone getting 

Lessons from Year One of Taser Implementation

With the benefit of just over a year of operational 
experience with the M-26 Taser, it is useful to 
reflect on the lessons the Department has learned. 
Four particular insights are important to note.

1. Choice of the Taser - While the M-26 had a lot to 
recommend it when less lethal options were first 
evaluated, the Department could predict neither the
level of officer acceptance it would receive, nor its 
applicability to the situations routinely faced by 
officers.  Also unknown was the degree to which the 
taser would prove useful in the types of incidents 
the Less Lethal Options Program was designed to 
address.  By all accounts, the taser appears to have 
been the right choice.  Officer acceptance has been 
high and taser officers have clearly incorporated the 
device into their daily response routines.  In 
addition, the number of reported taser incidents 
involving mentally ill and otherwise impaired persons 
suggests that the device is providing an alternative 
in the types of situations envisioned by the Less 
Lethal Options Program.  Finally, in light of the low 
rate of injury reported in taser incidents, the 
device has proven to be a less lethal option that 
officers can safely use to defuse situations, while 
offering minimal risk to subjects or themselves.

2. Phased deployment - Although it would have been 
tempting to deploy all of the tasers as soon as 
possible, the Department was deliberate and measured
in its deployment, heeding the admonition of other 
agencies not to deploy beyond true training capacity. 
It was imperative to monitor taser uses carefully and 
to ensure that field experience was used to inform 
and refresh training efforts.  The phased approach 
also helped the Department ensure that its 24x7 and 
citywide coverage objectives were being achieved.

3.  Expectations of the taser must be adjusted to fit 
with reality - Because the taser has shown itself 
beneficial in a variety of incidents, there is a 
tendency (both internally and externally) to view it 
as a panacea.  This is far from the truth.  To begin 
with, the device has some very real operational
limitations that must be understood and appreciated. 
To work best, the taser batteries must be at full 
strength, both darts should make contact, and the 
wires should remain intact.  Absent all these 
conditions, the desired effect may not be obtained. 
Moreover, deploying the taser on highly impaired
subjects may not offer the best opportunity to 
achieve optimal operational conditions. In addition, 
while the M-26 provides greater standoff distance for
officers than did earlier tasers, the 6-21 foot range 
of the device is still perilously close, especially 
when confronting persons who are armed.  In this
regard, the number of armed subjects on whom officers 
used the taser this first year should be viewed, 
perhaps, as a cautionary note and one to be carefully 

For the public's part, the reality is that the taser 
does not signal the end of police shootings.  Instead, 
officers will still need to employ lethal force when
situations so warrant.  For officers' part, the 
reality is that while the taser does some things 
really well, it is not the answer in all cases. There 
are some uses for which the taser is simply 
inappropriate; and it cannot overcome its inherent 
limitations in field applications. Ongoing monitoring 
and tracking of field uses will continue to be the 
best way to ensure that taser officers and their 
peers are kept apprised of what works and what 

4. The holes in the "safety net" grow wider - A 
review of the first year's taser incidents suggests 
that the explicit goal to provide first responding 
officers with alternatives to deadly force when 
dealing with persons in crisis has been met.  That 
same review, however, serves to illustrate just how 
difficult and problematic these circumstances are. 
Among the sample of taser incidents studied were 
those where officers were called to deal with people 
completely out of control and without any means of 
either physical or emotional support.  Other cases 
involved providing assistance to mental health 
professionals and other caregivers being abused or 
assaulted by those they were trying to assist.  In 
still others, officers were asked to confront 
desperate or despondent persons for whom all other 
help had fallen short.

Clearly, the "safety net" for the mentally ill, and 
for those ravaged by substance abuse, is badly frayed. 
Even those who are receiving services appear to need 
more or different assistance than the system can 
provide; and with the current pressures on public 
sector budgets at all levels, it is likely that the 
situation will continue to deteriorate.  This will 
place more and more officers into confrontations with 
persons whose judgments and actions are wildly 
unpredictable and who, more often than not, appear to 
represent armed threats.  Though such persons may be 
more irrational than intentional, their erratic 
behaviors pose dangers to officers and to the public 
that are nearly impossible to assess accurately and 
counter successfully.  That officers have been able 
to do so under many circumstances in the past, does 
not mean that they will continue to prevail, no 
matter what options they have at their disposal.

[Note: The use of force continuum used as a training 
tool by the Seattle Police Department, followed here
in the form of a sophisticated chart.  

Formating and editing changes were made to display it 
in plain text as a progression of acts with responses.  
The progression starts with non verbal behavior and 
ends with agravated agressive action and response.
The changes were also made to help in understanding
the concept of: a use of force continuum.  It should
not be construed to be or used as a representation 
of the Seattle Police Department's training tool.

The PDF file noted at the start of this presentation,
contains the unaltered document.  Its URL is:




- - - - - - - - - -


Officer is readily identified by clothing, markings, 
equipment, or verbal announcment.


Suspect exhibits non-verbal body language such as 
glaring or conspicuous ignoring or assumes a body 
position conducive to attack or flight indicating

- - - - - - - - - -

Dialogue, persuasion, advice, or a lawful order is
given to suspect(s).


Suspect makes threats or statements that indicate 
non compliance with an officer's lawful request.

- - - - - - - - - -


Suspet "goes limp" and obstructs the officer's
efforts at control, through body weight, size, or 


Control is guiding, escorting, or out-muscling a 
suspect that exhibits passive resistance.

- - - - - - - - - -


Suspect physically tenses his or her muscles 
and/or locks their arms and legs using resistive 
tension to avoid being controlled by the officer.

Suspect attempts to escape an officer's efforts at 
control by pulling away from the officer's attempts 
at control or by running from the officer.


Officer attempts to gain control with pain compliance 
applied by use of distractions, counter-joint holds, 
hair control holds, oleoresin capsicum, or the M26 
Taser (Touch).

- - - - - - - - - -


The suspect attacks/attempts to injure the officer in 
the process of resisting or escaping.


Officer uses strikes with knees, kicks, punches, and 
elbows; the use of impact weapons (baton, flashlight, 
radio etc.) against primary and secondary targets; 
chemical agents in projectile forms and M26 Taser 
(Darts) in response to suspect's actions.

- - - - - - - - - -


Suspect has pre-planned an attack or is implementing 
weapons and/or tactics that pose a threat of serious 
physical harm or death to the officer or others.

Officer uses deadly force in the form of neck holds, 
tertiary targets with impact weapons, firearms, etc.

- - - - - - - - - -


(1) = Including the taser in the use of force 
reporting system results in supervisory review of 
each taser application, up through the chain of 

(2) = The guidelines call for use of the taser's 
dataport feature to review application history when a 
complaint is received or there is information 
alleging improper use.  Dataport downloads also occur 
during the annual re-qualification and 
re-certification required of each taser officer. 
During the study period, no taser-related complaints 
were received.

(3) = Not included in this discussion are two 
incidents where tasers were used at some point, but 
which resulted in fatal shootings of subjects by 
police officers.  This is because these incidents are 
still under Department review and investigation.

(4) = See Kenneth Adams, "What We Know About Police 
Use of Force," and Mark A. Henriquez, "IACP National 
Database Project on Police Use of Force," in Use of 
Force by Police, Overview of National and Local Data, 
Washington, DC: NIJ, October 1999.

End of presentation....
Click here for the First part of the SPD report

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