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Less-Lethal Weaponry, Post-Traumatic Stress, and their Impact on Officer Safety and Wellness: Emerging Issues and Recommendations

NCJ Number
James Copple; Christopher Smith
Date Published
October 2019
40 pages

This is a report on the November 2018 meeting of the Officer Safety and Wellness (OSW) Group, which focused on less-lethal weaponry and post-traumatic stress (PTS).


The OSW Group considered a review of a 2010 study that examined use-of-force outcomes that resulted from various less-lethal technologies and hand-to-hand engagement techniques. The researchers found that among participating agencies, there was a 70-percent reduction in officer and suspect injuries when less-lethal technologies were used to control a situation. The study concluded that when departments limit how and when tasers or OC spray are used, officers become more likely to rely on physical force to control suspects. This increases the likelihood of injury to the suspect by 50 percent; however, the likelihood that officers in that scenario will be injured increases by 300 percent. Complicating the analysis of how less-lethal weaponry increases the risk of officer or suspect injury is the need for a common lexicon that identifies types and severity of injuries. There was a consensus among members of the OSW Group that use of less-lethal technologies enabled an officer to control a suspect or situation from a safe distance with speed and low risk of injury. The discussion of improvements in tasers focused on their accuracy, consistency, and effectiveness. Other topics discussed were the challenges of collecting and analyzing data related to assessments of officer health and safety, Issues related to officer mental health, PTS, and suicide risk were also discussed. Issues related to officer safety and health not yet discussed by the OSW Group were also identified.