Medical implications of Conducted Energy Devices in law enforcement

Stevenson R, Drummond-Smith I. Medical implications of Conducted Energy Devices in law enforcement. J Forensic Leg Med. 2020 Jul;73:101948. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2020.101948. Epub 2020 Jun 10. PMID: 32658743.


This study examines the medical implications of Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs) in law enforcement, of which TASER® is the brand most recognised. In order to develop understanding of TASER® use, this study undertook both a literature review and original research using data provided by a number of UK police forces. The comprehensive review of literature identified a range of injures, including both primary and secondary complications. Research was conducted into TASER® use in the United Kingdom using a number of data sets, including a retrospective study of some 60,000 uses of force. This data shows TASER® was only discharged on 18% of occasions it was drawn from the holster. The injuries sustained by both subjects and Police Officers associated with TASER® use were compared and it was found that fewer injuries, as a proportion of use, were associated with TASER® than use of Police Dogs, baton, irritant spray or physical confrontation. The data examined 948 discharges of TASER® and recorded 159 attendances at the Emergency Department as a result. Only three hospital admissions were identified. The paper concludes that the use of CEDs as a police use-of-force may be associated with injury; the overwhelming majority of such are classified as minor. Death or the more severe injuries described in the medical literature are rare and any deaths occurring within temporal proximity to the use of a CED should be investigated thoroughly and the presentation of the individual carefully recorded. The collection of post-incident data provides evidence to the relative operational safety of the TASER® by the UK Police; it is accepted by the police that no use-of-force option is risk free, however data provided showed a greater incidence of injury to both the officers and subjects, as a proportion of use, when baton, irritant spray or physical confrontation was used.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of competing interest Dr Richard Stevenson is a reviewer for the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Mr Ian Drummond-Smith is a Police Officer. He has been employed as a Police Officer for twenty two years and is currently the TASER® lead for his force.

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