Law enforcement officers face countless challenges in their line of duty, requiring them to make split-second decisions to ensure public safety. Police officers are required to be competent and skilled in many disciplines, including tactical training, driving, medical aid, and defensive tactics. Officers are also required to carry and maintain competency with the tools they carry.
Among the tools at their disposal, the Taser is a viable option in certain situations. However, it is crucial to recognize that the Taser is not a universal solution to an evolving problem and should be employed strategically. In this article, we will explore how officers can effectively deploy Tasers while mitigating the risk of suspects overpowering them and why it should not replace defensive tactics and physical training.
Understanding the Taser as a Tool
The Taser, also known as a Conducted Electrical Weapon (CEW), is designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject by delivering an electric shock, overriding the individual’s control of their muscles. Its primary purpose is to provide law enforcement officers with a non-lethal alternative to incapacitate and gain compliance when confronted in potentially dangerous situations. The taser, like breaching tools, is only as useful as the users understanding of the device’s capabilities and limitations.
While the effectiveness of a taser is not guaranteed, the reason it will likely not achieve desired results is due to user error. Tasers have a potential to have reduced or no effectiveness because of loose/baggy clothing, a single probe hit, or a limited probe spread. In rare instances I have seen tasers, seemingly deployed correctly, have no effect on subjects under the influence of narcotics.
Distance and Positioning
Although taser models vary, generally there needs to be at least a 12-inch spread between the two deployed taser darts. This means that this would cause the officer to maintain a minimum standoff distance to achieve the required spread.
Maintaining a safe distance and strategic positioning is crucial when deploying a Taser. Officers should aim to create a sufficient gap between themselves and the suspect to reduce the risk of a physical confrontation. By doing so, they minimize the opportunity for suspects to seize the Taser or close the distance rapidly, compromising their control over the situation.
If you are actively engaged in a confrontation with a suspect who is resisting your efforts to take them into custody, your taser is likely not the answer. I commonly see officers who are physically controlling a subject deploy a taser, losing control of that taser, resulting in the officer using lethal force. Since we know that the deployment of the taser darts at close range will likely not work, officers seem to think the “drive-stun” technique will achieve similar results.
The drive stun technique occurs when you forcibly press the taser against the subjects body and arc the taser without deploying the darts. In my experience this technique has only caused the subjects to quickly move and jolt their body, making controlling the subjects body even more difficult. Officers need to understand the difference between the effects of a dart deployment and that of a drive-stun. The cause and affect are not one in the same.
The user manual of the Axon X2 taser, a commonly used taser in law enforcement, states “The subject is likely to recoil and try to get away from the Controlled Energy Weapon (CEW).” Therefore, your decision to deploy your taser at such close distances either won’t be effective, will make it more difficult for your to control the subject, or potentially allow the subject access to your taser.
Comprehensive Training in Defensive Tactics
A taser is not a substitute for strength, conditioning, and defensive tactics training. Physical training, defensive tactics, and hand-to-hand combat techniques remain fundamental skills for law enforcement officers. These skills allow officers to respond appropriately in situations that require immediate physical intervention or when a Taser may not be a viable option. Adequate training in these areas ensures officers can protect themselves and others when faced with aggressive or combative subjects.
Most officer get very little or no defensive tactics training after the academy, even though this is by far the most likely types of altercations officers find themselves in. Effective Fitness Combatives (EFC) provides online an in person, education, and training for law enforcement officers through proven science-driven fitness and combatives. Their course provides consistent and standardized training that ensures all officers are using the same tactics and techniques, based on up-to-date information on best practices in defensive tactics. This includes legal and ethical considerations, so you can be confident that you’re using tactics that are not only effective but also safe and compliant with relevant regulations.
Reliance solely on a Taser without comprehensive physical training can lead to an overreliance on the device. This may result in officers bypassing non-violent resolution tactics, escalating situations unnecessarily, or failing to react effectively when a Taser malfunctions or proves ineffective. Proper training in defensive tactics helps officers make well-informed decisions and ensures they have a diverse range of skills to rely upon when necessary.
It is essential to recognize that the Taser is just one tool in an officer’s arsenal and should not be seen as a substitute for comprehensive physical training and defensive tactics. By understanding the limitations and employing a balanced approach, law enforcement officers can enhance their ability to protect themselves and the communities they serve while minimizing unnecessary risks.
Taser Deployment Tips and Best Practices
- Don’t be overly dependent on the taser.
- Deploy the taser when you have created distance from the subject.
- Avoid the “Drive-Stun” technique unless the subjects limbs are controlled but you are unable to place the subjects hands behind their back. This will require at least three officers. Two to control the arms and one officer dedicated to the taser.
- Remain current and competent with physical fitness and defensive tactic techniques.