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Electronic Control Weapon Guidelines, 2011

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2011
60 pages

Based on a national survey that examined the use of electronic control weapons (ECWs), which were previously called Conducted Energy Devices, as well as a subsequent discussion of survey findings by a select group of police, doctors, attorneys, researchers, and other experts, this report presents guidelines for ECW policies, practices, and training.


The decision to change the name of the weapons from Conducted Energy Devices to ECWs reflects the view of experts that these tools are less-lethal weapons that are meant to help control persons who are actively resisting authority or are acting aggressively. Generally, the new guidelines for ECWs emphasize their usefulness, but, like any weapon, they are not harmless; and the potential for injury can be exacerbated by inappropriate use and deployment. The 2011 guidelines retain many of the original protocols from 2005, although there are some noteworthy differences. The 2011 ECW guidelines are organized into six categories: agency policy, training, using the ECW, medical considerations, reporting and accountability, and public information and community relations. The guidelines are not standards or mandatory rules, so law enforcement agencies should develop policies and training specific to their organizational needs. Agencies are encouraged to obtain as much information as possible before purchasing ECWs, including manufacturers' product warnings. Before using ECWs in the field, officers should be trained in how and when to use ECWs. Because ECWs are a relatively new weapon for most law enforcement officers, it is important for law enforcement agencies to engage in ongoing monitoring of how ECWs are used. This information should be used to determine whether some officers are using ECWs more frequently or in a different manner than other officers. Whenever possible, agencies should work collaboratively in collecting and analyzing information on ECW use, so as to make comparisons across agencies.