Less-Lethal Weapons - Tactics and Weapons - LawOfficer.com

Less-Lethal Weapons

The future is here

 


 

Chris Boyd | From the August 2008 Issue Friday, August 1, 2008

For decades, police officers have sought tactics and equipment to facilitate the safe arrest of violent, combative subjects whose actions don’t justify the use of deadly force. Traditional impact weapons (saps and nightsticks, or “billy clubs” as they were once referred to) evolved to include side handle batons, such as the PR-24 and, more recently, expandable batons, such as those manufactured by ASP. Chemical agents evolved from CS and CN tear gas (“Mace”) to the more modern oleoresin capsicum, commonly known as OC. The late 1980s saw the emergence of the term “less-lethal” and the development of electronic “stun devices,” as well as the first attempts at direct-strike soft kinetic energy projectiles, as opposed to the former “skip-fired” wooden baton rounds. The “beanbag shotgun” became popular at progressive agencies looking for alternatives to deadly force and more traditional less-lethal force options.

Since technology is ever-evolving, and case law regarding use of force is constantly changing, law enforcement looked to private industries to provide equipment that could be used in the daily law enforcement mission: taking criminals to jail using the least injurious means possible. There’s one particular company that stands out in the crowded arena of less-lethal devices. That company is Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

An entire book could be written regarding the history of this very successful American enterprise. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, Taser International’s success in the ongoing development of one of law enforcement’s single greatest tools speaks for itself. There are currently 13,000 agencies in over 40 countries that deploy a combined total of more than 300,000 Tasers. As a civilian company that manufactures an electronic control device (ECD) sold to governmental agencies, Taser International (hereinafter referred to as “Taser”) offers an instructor certification course. They also provide the instructors with suggested training and recommendations for policy and procedure guidelines.

However, just as firearms manufacturers do not dictate mandatory qualification courses of fire, Taser does not dictate mandatory departmental directives—it’s up to each agency to develop and implement their own training and deployment polices and procedures. In fact, the most recent Law Enforcement Operator’s Manual from Taser states, “Each agency is responsible for creating its own use-of-force policy and determining how Taser devices fit into their use-of-force matrix based upon legal and community standards. Make sure your agency has a use-of-force policy that addresses Taser device use and that the policy is clearly addressed during end-user training.” This article is intended to serve as a basis for implementing a department Taser program or to serve as a basis of comparison for an existing program.

Begin with Step-Written Department Directives
Prior to implementing a Taser program, an agency must develop step-written directives regarding the use of the Taser device, the same as required for any other item of equipment deployed by officers. The directive should include a training and certification program (as well as a periodic recertification mandate), issuance guidelines, appropriate deployment procedures and post-deployment procedures. Taser provides sample policies and includes them during the instructor course. A survey of surrounding agencies in your county or region is a good starting point. Compile existing department directives and take the “best of the best.” Determine what the regional standard is so your agency is consistent (and defensible in case of litigation). It’s also important to find out what booking requirements the jail has in regards to medical screening of prisoners who have been tased and are to be booked into a jail facility. Does the jail medical booking procedure require a medical screening of someone subjected to a taser prior to receiving the prisoner? Will their nursing staff remove embedded probes, or can your city’s paramedic service deal with this? These questions need to be answered and included in your agency’s directives.

Taser Training Curriculum
Training should only be conducted by Taser-certified instructors. This will give the training the credibility it needs if it’s ever challenged in court. It also gives the instructor a knowledge base to deliver to students. Either firearms range staff or defensive tactics instructors are generally utilized as Taser instructors for obvious reasons. A solid background in use of force and relevant case law is imperative. The ability of the instructor to impart safe, sound tactics is crucial.

Most Taser instructors, myself included, find no reason to deviate from the Taser training curriculum provided during the Taser instructor course. At the very least, the recommended training from Taser serves as the basis

for the end-user course. Depending on class size and training budget, role-playing can be added into the basic course for additional realistic training.

Over the past several years, the recommended training curriculum has continued to evolve alongside the product. The current training consists of a six-hour training block. The course includes information provided by Taser related




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Chris BoydChris Boyd is a 21- year veteran of the Carlsbad (Calif.) Police Dept. He has worked patrol, K-9 and vice/narcotics. Boyd is a certified Taser, MP5, NFDD and firearms instructor, and is currently assigned as a patrol sergeant. He’s also an entry-team leader on his department’s SWAT team.

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