Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal WeaponsMay 2011
Police Use of Force, Tasers and Other Less-Lethal Weapons looks at injuries that occur to law enforcement officers and citizens during use-of-force events. Most applications of force are minimal, with officers using their hands, arms or bodies to push or pull against a suspect to gain control. Officers are also trained to use various other force techniques and weapons to overcome resistance. These include less-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, batons or conducted energy devices (CEDs) such as Tasers. They can also use firearms to defend themselves or others against threats of death or serious bodily injuries. This study found that when officers used force, injury rates to citizens ranged from 17 to 64 percent, depending on the agency, while officer injury rates ranged from 10 to 20 percent. Most injuries involve minor bruises, strains and abrasions. The study's most significant finding is that, while results were not uniform across all agencies, the use of pepper spray and CEDs can significantly reduce injuries to suspects, and the use of CEDs can decrease injuries to officers. The researchers assert that all injuries must be taken seriously. When police in a democracy use force and injury results, concern about police abuse arises, lawsuits often follow and the reputation of the police is threatened. Injuries also cost money in medical bills for indigent suspects, workers' compensation claims for injured officers or damages paid out in legal settlements or judgments.