An expert panel of medical professionals found no conclusive evidence of a high risk of death or serious injury from the direct effects of Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), such as Tasers.
The panel is studying deaths related to the use of CEDs. In an interim report, the panel said that law enforcement agencies need not stop using CEDs, but cautioned that they should be used reasonably and only after proper training.
Law enforcement agencies that use CEDs report reduced injuries to officers and suspects alike. However, deaths and serious injuries of suspects also occur.
Learn more about how the study is being conducted
Read the full text of the panel's interim report Deaths Following Electro-Muscular Disruption (pdf, 21 pages)
Repeated Use is Risky
Certain Populations are More Vulnerable
The panel also noted a risk of sudden death when suspects are in an agitated and combative state that is sometimes called "excited delirium." Police officers should treat this as a medical emergency. People in this state often exhibit combativeness and have elevated body temperatures. In these cases, a danger of sudden death exists whether police officers use a CED or not. The panel recommended that emergency medical personnel should provide cooling, sedation and hydration as soon as possible.
The Justice Department is aware of more than 300 cases of Americans dying after exposure to CEDs. Some were normal, healthy adults. Others had medical conditions such as heart disease, mental illness or chemical dependencies. Several manufacturers sell CEDs to American law
enforcement agencies. However, TASER International of Scottsdale, Ariz., is, by far, the leading supplier. About 12,000 (out of some 18,000) American law enforcement agencies use CEDs. More than 260,000 CEDs are in use by American law enforcement and corrections agencies.
Police officers should arrange for suitable medical care for people who suffer injuries. This is especially important when darts penetrate vulnerable areas of the head, face, neck, genitals or female breast areas, or in case of injury from falls or burns.
The panel expects to release a final report in 2009.
Information for law enforcement agencies about a variety of less-lethal alternatives to firearms is available at www.less-lethal.org