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TASER training: What the latest research tells us

New studies that have recently been released offer new insights into medical impacts

I thought it would be useful to make you aware of several recently-published medical studies pertaining to TASERs. And I’ll add a personal note about recurring TASER tactics challenges.

First off, there is the finding that adolescents appear to be at no higher risk than adults.

A study conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center examined 2,026 TASER uses, and found that 100 of them involved use on adolescents age 13-17.

The abstract of the report of the study documented these conclusions: None of the minor suspects studied sustained significant injury, and only 20 percent reported minor injuries, mostly from the expected probe puncture sites. These data suggest that adolescents are not at a substantially higher risk than adults for serious injuries after CEW use.

You may view the abstract here.

TASERs and the Heart — Part I
Three years ago, TASER Training Bulletin No. 15 recommended avoiding applications to the chest if possible.

This launched an enduring controversy about the practicality of doing so at the field level. Officers were encouraged to lower the point of aim and split the pelvic triangle (i.e., try to put one probe into the lower torso and the other into the thigh); and of course, use the person’s back as a preferred target area when you can (which to my knowledge has been a standard recommendation for more than three decades of TASER history).

A recent medical study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine documented the following conclusions: The incidence of probable transcardiac CEW probe configuration in field deployments is approximately 15 percent of all cases of CEW use and 22 percent of cases when used in probe mode. There were no adverse outcomes suggestive of fatal cardiac dysrhythmia in either the transcardiac cases or the extra-cardiac cases.

These findings based on actual field data confirm that fatal cardiac dysrhythmias are unlikely to occur when CEWs are deployed on human subjects in real-life situations, even with transcardiac placement of CEW probes.

You can access the article here.

TASERs and the heart — Part II
Dr. Douglas Zipes, a cardiologist, has asserted that TASERs can induce ventricular fibrillation. He will be a featured speaker at the Institute for Prevention of In-Custody Death’s annual conference in Las Vegas next month.

His presentation is bound to be exciting, as the seminar room will be filled with police officers, paramedics, emergency room doctors, medical examiners and medical researchers whose studies find the opposite of Dr. Zipe’s findings.

This will be a true “battle of the experts,” and you don’t want to miss it! There is always much to learn at the annual IPICD conference, and this one will be most memorable! For conference information, go to

A Note About TASER Tactics
I’ve mentioned a couple of recurring problematic tactical issues about TASERs over the years, but I’m still seeing court case after court case in my consulting work that proves that some of us still just don’t get it! Remember:

1) Drive-stuns typically do not incapacitate your subject! They are good for pain-compliance, but not incapacitation. Drive-stuns typically just cause pain for subjects who feel pain. Feeling that pain causes some subjects to act out more violently as they try to get away from it.

Unless you have a need to break-contact with a subject — or you are using a three-point contact (because you missed with a probe, or the probes are too close together to be effective, or you’re doing a drive-stun with the cartridge on so you can achieve a three-point contact) — or you’re employing a brief (1-2 second) application to attempt to achieve pain-compliance (after a verbal warning and demonstration of an arc display, if practical), forget the drive-stun!

If you are hands-on with the subject, you will get your subject subdued quicker using other physical control tactics! If TASER use is a reasonable option in the situation, use the probes!

2) When shooting the probes, get some distance! In a quick-breaking incident, many officers think they are 10-12 feet back, but in fact they are much closer! This typically results in a probe spread too close to be effective.

When engaging your subject, Simon says, “Take some giant steps backwards!”

Until next time, stay safe!

Greg Meyer, a retired Captain from the Los Angeles Police Academy, served for 30 years, including eight years as a commanding officer. Greg is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center, a member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).