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Benefits, Risks, and Myths of TASER® Handheld Electrical Weapons


Handheld conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) have been used 3.9 million times in the field in 107 countries. Prospective studies (including over 40 k uses of force) find a 65% reduction in subject injuries versus batons, manual control, and “pepper” spray. There is a 2/3 reduction in fatal shootings when CEW usage is not overly restricted. USA-derived data suggest that the temporal subject fatality rate with resistant arrest is ≈ 1:1000 without a CEW and ≈ 1:3000 with the CEW. UK data suggest 85% compliance with simply the threat of a CEW. There have been 18 deaths from falls (16 brain injuries and 2 cervical fractures) and 8 deaths from fume ignition. These 26 deaths provide a fatality risk of 6.7 per million [95% CI 4.5–9.8]. There are 20 cases of unilateral blindness from a probe eye penetration. There were also 4 cases of non-fatal major burns and 1 of permanent brain damage from a fall. These 25 injuries provide a risk of 6.4 per million [(95% CI 4.3–9.5]. The risk of electrocution is very low since present CEWs satisfy the IEC 60335 electric fence limit of 2.5 W and the ANSI-CPLSO-17 limits of 125 μC per pulse with a normalized aggregate current of 2.2 mA. Arrest-related death anecdotes alleging an electrocution all fail several diagnostic tests for an electrocution. While reducing subject injury and death by about 2/3, CEW usage has an overall major complication rate of 13.1 per million field uses [95% CI 9.9–17.2], primarily from falls, fires, and eye injuries.

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Axon Enterprises, Inc. (Axon) provided partial funding for this work. MWK is member of Axon’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB) and corporate board. MAB is an Axon employee, including legal advisor to the SMAB. HMOP is Secretary of CPLSO. RML is a SMAB member and consultant to Axon. SNK is a SMAB member. KKW declares no disclosures. MWK, MAB, and RML have served as litigation or inquest experts in multiple countries.

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Kroll, M.W., Brave, M.A., Pratt, H.M.O. et al. Benefits, Risks, and Myths of TASER® Handheld Electrical Weapons. Hum Factors Mech Eng Def Saf 3, 7 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41314-019-0021-9

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  • ARD
  • Arrests
  • CEW
  • Electrical weapon
  • Force
  • TASER®