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    October 2013

    Use of Taser Devices by Campus Police

    image: close up of taser on police belt

    Campus security officers are increasingly using Taser devices to immobilize a suspect. Use of the device, which emits an electronic shock, is changing the way officers and civilians interact. In the past, subduing an uncontrollable suspect required physical or deadly force. Taser gives campus officers a less lethal option when firearms or hand-to-hand combat are too dangerous or inappropriate.

    Taser is the most common type of conducted energy device (CED) or stun gun. The manufacturer, Taser International, has a near monopoly on the CED market. The sudden rise of Taser use has attracted much attention-some good, some bad. In fact, multiple government studies have found that these devices reduce injuries to police and suspects when used correctly. When used incorrectly, however, Taser can cause seizures, drowning, or falls related to temporary loss of muscle control.

    A Safer Tool

    The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice (DOJ), found that Taser use decreases officer injuries by 70 percent and suspect injuries by 40 percent. DOJ reports that Taser discharge results in mild or no injury 99 percent of the time. There are several reasons for the reduction in injuries:

    • Taser use reduces combative situations between officers and noncompliant suspects.
    • Today's Taser models have a range of 15 to 35 feet, which enables officers to control suspects from a safe distance.
    • The public is familiar with Taser usage, and suspects might comply with officers to avoid being stunned.

    How to Avoid Misuse

    Injuries do occur when Taser is used incorrectly. To avoid problems such as seizures, drowning, or falls, officers should complete thorough training on Taser use and the manufacturer's guidelines. DOJ developed guidelines for the use of Taser and other CEDs. The standards include:

    • Never aim Taser at the heart
    • Taser should not be used on children, the elderly, or pregnant mothers
    • Do not use when a suspect is high above the ground or in water
    • Do not use Taser against a suspect for more than one cycle (usually five to 15 seconds)

    Officers should only use Taser in conjunction with the institution's use of force policies or protocols, which should be drafted in consultation with a local law enforcement agency and legal counsel. Taser should be one option on your institution's use-of-force continuum. In some instances, officers should call on other less lethal technologies such as pepper spray, mace, beanbag rounds, or physical force.


    60 Minutes: Taser: An Officer's Weapon of Choice
    National Institute of Justice: Final Findings From the Expert Panel on the Safety of CEDs


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