Fri, Feb. 28

Taser one of most effective police tools in history of law enforcement
Cop Talk

We have all read the coverage related to police use of the taser device especially when a suspect dies related to that use. The same type of scrutiny occurred related to Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) or Pepper spray when it was used by the police to subdue suspects. In fact, and I am dating myself, but there was significant coverage and outrage in some quarters when suspects died during the use of a carotid restraint.

It is certainly a tragedy anytime someone dies, especially while dealing with the police. After all, our main objective is to protect people even if they are a crime suspect. I also do not want to give you the impression I am making a pitch for the makers of the taser devices. What I do want to share with you is that in my 28 years in law enforcement the taser appears to be one of the most effective tools I have seen both from the perspective of subduing a combative suspect and preventing injury to the suspect and the officer.

The taser allows the officer to maintain a safe distance from the suspect. The device is also very effective in disabling someone who is intent on injuring the officer. Most suspects who experience the effects of the taser decide that once is enough and the next time they start to cause problems just the mention of taser gains compliance. I have not experienced another tool in my history that has proven so effective.

Unfortunately, regardless of the defensive or control tool used by the police someone may get hurt or even die. However, in each of the deaths that have occurred where OC spray, carotid restraint or a taser were used the suspect was almost always under the influence of a drug and extremely agitated. Some were mentally ill or experiencing a temporary mental illness due to drugs or an emotional crisis.

I am not a medical doctor or a pathologist but there has been much literature written about a phenomenon labeled "Excited Delirium." Excited Delirium is generally caused by a person experiencing extreme agitation compounded by drugs leading to a shut down of the primary body functions such as the respiratory or the circulatory system. The experts indicate that the police presence and the use of the restraints may add to the agitation but are not the primary reason for the on-set of Excited Delirium.

Every police department trains on the use of the defensive and restraint equipment they use. They are also aware of the effects of these tools on suspects especially those that are experiencing a mental or drug induced crisis. The officers are trained that their most effective tool is calmly trying to talk the person down. However, sometimes they do not get the opportunity as the suspect dictates what the officer needs to do to control the situation. In those cases, the officer will take the necessary action to control and protect the suspect and the most effective tool they have today is the taser.

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