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What We Do Not Know About Police Use of Tasers

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: 2007 Pages: 447-465
Kenneth Adams; Victoria Jennison
Date Published
19 pages
This paper examines the available information on police use of Tasers from organizational and community perspectives, specifically issues involving the deployment, training, and use of Tasers, as well as issues of policy development and impact evaluation.
Observations suggest that Tasers are en route to becoming the weapon of choice for police officers, bumping out other use-of-force technologies. Taser-related use-of-force issues of accountability and training are more critical in scope and dimension than those of other proven weapon technologies. Limited research reflects a lack of consensus in the development and application of policies related to Taser training and use. Variations in policy and training and the substitution of Tasers for other technologies across the use-of-force continuum result in operational inconsistency. This inconsistency makes it difficult to compare police departments in terms of the impact of Tasers on improved officer and citizen safety and reductions in the use of lethal force. Key policy issues center on length and content of training, training staff qualifications, and substitutions on the use-of-force continuum. While Tasers appear to offer police officers a relatively fast and safe way to assert a high level of control over a situation, shortcomings in both policy and training suggest that a non-trivial number of incidents could be diffused before Taser level force is applied. Further study of Taser policy development, implementation, and evaluation is necessary to build a substantial and reliable body of knowledge to inform safe and effective police policy. This paper calls attention to the lack of research on Taser use in policing while discussing the challenge of implementing new weapon technologies into the police arsenal and the need for careful consideration of use-of-force substitution practices. Table, references