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by Peter Moskos

April 2, 2016

Problems with Tasers

I had no idea TASER was an acronym standing for anything, much less "Thomas A. Swift's electric rifle"!

The LA Times reports:
LAPD officers fired Tasers just over 1,100 times last year.... The devices had the desired outcome — causing someone to submit to arrest — only 53% of the time.
Is half the time better than nothing or not nearly good enough? Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of bad police shootings are preceded by Tasers not doing what they're supposed to do. You press the magic button... and nothing happens. And you're not used to having to go hands-on, fighting, and physically dominating a suspect. So you're scared and reach for your gun.

And that's not the only problem with Tasers.

1 comment:

Andy D said...

My anecdotal experience with TASERs is that they are just about 50% effective. Effectiveness isn't the fault of the device itself but either deployment-related or environmentally-related. In other words:

Deployment: To effectively cause "Neuromuscular incapacitation" (that "locking up" of all the person's muscles that makes the Taser so effective) you need a spread on the two probes of at least a few feet. The probes are fired with one angles slightly to cause that spread. While the wires on the probes vary depending on cartridge from 15 feet to...31 feet I think is the longest, our experience has shown that 6 to 8 feet is ideal. Closer than that and you don't get enough spread and it just hurts. Further away and one probe misses and it does nothing. These are the majority of failures.

Environmental: This includes the guy wearing clothes too thick so you don't get flesh contact, the guy spinning or rolling (as they teach each other to do in prison) to break the wires, or other similar things.

Training in actually shooting the Taser is very very limited. it is mostly classroom theory. The cartridges are pretty expensive and so rarely do you get to shoot more than one each time you train (for us we do Taser recert 1x a year and usually fire one shot at a stationary target. And there is no scoring so if you miss, oh well, do it better next time.)

Tasers are a great tool if they are used under appropriate circumstances and if they are deployed properly. But, while they are the best device of their kind, they are a very big gamble. I think a 50-60% success rate is all you can expect.

Of course a lot of times reports about Tasers do what the 4th Circuit recently did and do not differentiate between a Taser in Probe Mode (designed to cause "Neuromuscular Incapacitation") and a Taser in its stupid and useless "Drive Stun" mode where you take the cartridge off and use the two contacts on the end as a pain-compliance tool, which doesn't cause NMI, it just hurts. Drive-stuns are used a lot for some reason, and they don't do much of anything except piss people off and look bad.