Don't Taze Me Bro!

The benefits of non-lethal devices outweigh its risks.

Posted Mar 23, 2014

A sensational draw and spirited debate continues over the use of energy conducted devices (ECDs) or those most commonly referred to as TASERS. A registered product by TASER International, the TASER is an acronym for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle." Covered intensely by the media or Internet, the coverage is selective and perceived to be a negative or controversial event when, in fact, the device is a progressive and safe use of force law enforcement tool that has:

* decreased officer and suspect injuries;
* decreased shootings with firearms;
* decreased lawsuits;
* decreased worker compensation claims;
* saved lives!

All of these factors are attributed to the lawful use of the tool as a reasonable use of force option, however, the general public doesn't read or see these events from a large-scale, scientific investigation that provides a more balanced look into its effectiveness.

The Internet has been flooded with YouTube downloads of incidents, partial incidents, and media coverage that has both supported and lambasted the use of the TASER. There are many watchdog and special interest groups (which are great for checks and balances), however, many consistently report findings without significant and accurate data.

University of Florida student from John Kerry political forum

Celebrities from Armed and Famous reality show

Yes, energy conducted devices are not risk free, but they have the lowest risk of injury of any current non-lethal force option used in the field by law enforcement officers. The lawful use of force is measured by manner and not by mechanism. Consider, too, that the law requires force that is reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances and not through 20/20 hindsight.

TASERS are used by roughly 14,000 police agencies, with training volunteers of over 40,000 in addition to 30,000 actual deployments in the field. The effects of the TASER are well-documented and varied and so I continue to challenge the scientific, medical, law enforcement, and general community to do some research on both sides of the debate and make a clearly informed decision before pronouncing guilt on the device and the user.

Copyright © by Brian A. Kinnaird

Brian A. Kinnaird, Ph.D. is a former law enforcement officer and current criminal justice professor. He is active as an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant and can be contacted at

References and Suggested Reading

Bozeman WP, Hauda WE, 2nd, Heck JJ, Graham DD, Jr., Martin BP, Winslow JE, Safety and Injury  Profile of Conducted Electrical Weapons Used by Law Enforcement Officers Against Criminal Suspects, Ann Emerg Med. Jan 21 2009.

Bozeman, WP, Annals of Emerg Med, Nov 2009.

W P Bozeman, D G Barnes, Jr, J E Winslow, III, J C Johnson, III, C H Phillips, and R Alson, Immediate cardiovascular effects of the TASER X26 conducted electrical weapon, Emerg. Med. J. 2009; 26(8): p. 567-570;

MacDonald, J.M., R J Kaminski, and M R Smith, The Effect of Less-Lethal Weapons on Injuries in Police Use-of-Force Events, American Journal of Public Health, Dec 2009 Vol 99, No 12 p. 2268-2274.