PHOTO DANIEL DIPINTO
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A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine reported that a three-year review of all Taser uses against criminal suspects found only three significant injuries out of 1,201 incidents.
The study, “Safety and Injury Profile of Conducted Electrical Weapons Used by Law Enforcement Officers Against Criminal Suspects,” reports that 99.75% of criminal suspects subdued by conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) received no injuries or mild injuries, such as scrapes and bruises. Of the 1,201 criminal suspects, 492 suffered mild injuries (83%), mostly superficial puncture wounds.
“These weapons appear to be very safe, especially when compared to other options police have for subduing violent or combative suspects,” said study author William P. Bozeman, MD, of Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C.
Bozeman’s findings herald the first large, independent and multi-center study of Taser injuries. More than two-thirds of U.S. law enforcement agencies currently use CEWs.
Of the three subjects who sustained significant injuries, two suffered from head injuries related to falls; the third suffered rhabdomyolysis, a rapid breakdown of muscle tissue. Ninety-four percent of the suspects were male, and alcohol or intoxication was documented in almost half of the cases (49.5%).
“While injuries from Taser are uncommon, they are not unheard of,” said Bozeman. “Subjects exposed to a CEW discharge should be assessed for injuries, and appropriate medical evaluation should be provided when non-trivial injuries are apparent or suspected.”
The Bottom Line
Although the study finds serious injury from CEW discharge is rare, agencies should have an up-to-date policy regarding Taser use, and deployments should be consistent with that policy.
1. Bozeman WP; Hauda WE; Heck JJ; et al: “Safety and injury profile of conducted electrical weapons used by law enforcement officers against criminal suspects,” Annals of Emergency Medicine. Articles in press (10.1016/jannemergmed.2008.11.021), Jan. 22, 2009.