NEWS

National Institute of Justice Finds Tasers Safe

By Matthew Harwood

Law enforcement nationwide do not need to refrain from using Tasers on aggressive individuals they're trying to take into custody, according to a report from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) released last week (.pdf).

The NIJ report—which was directed by a steering group of representatives from the College of American Pathologists, the Centers for Disease Congrol and Prevention, and the National Association of Medical Examiners—found that police use of conducted energy devices (CED), commonly known as "tasers" after the popular brand, could continue despite controversy that CEDs have led to in-custody deaths of arrested individuals and are used excessively by police officers.

"There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons," the report concludes. "Field experience with CED use indicates that short-term exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases."

The report adds that the safety of CEDs holds true even when Taser darts strike an individual in the chest.

The report's conclusion was reached after an appointed medical panel of doctors and other specialists reviewed 300 incidents where police used CED on an individual, who then later died. The NIJ says it chose the panel explicitly to avoid possible conflicts of interest, ensuring the reader that no panelist has worked as a litigation consultant either for or against the devices.

The report does note that CED-use is not risk-free. Some individuals who died after being tased where "normal, healthy adults," the NIJ report notes, adding, however, that "many were chemically intoxicated or had heart disease or mental illness." The report calculates that the risk of death in a CED-related incident is 0.25 percent, adding "it is reasonable to conclude that CEDs do not cause or contribute to death in the large majority of those cases."

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