University of South Carolina

Study: Tasers, properly used, limit injury

Conducted electrical devices (CEDs), such as Tasers, limit injury to police officers and suspects if used properly, according to a three-year study released by researchers at the University of South Carolina and funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Geoff Alpert
Geoff Alpert

The study, one of the largest epidemiological studies to look at injuries from police use of force, comes at a time when more than 10,000 U.S. police agencies now use Tasers as one method to control suspects. The study also provides valuable understanding of injuries that result from other less lethal devices, such as pepper spray and batons, as well as firearms.

Dr. Geoff Alpert, a criminal justice professor and one of the nation’s leading authorities on policing, said the study is particularly important for its findings on the use of pepper spray and CEDs, which have generated controversy and been linked to deaths, overuse and abuse.

"We found that the use of pepper spray and CEDs, such as Tasers, reduced the likelihood of injuries to both officers and assailants," said Dr. Geoff Alpert, principal investigator of the study.

Alpert said the study, which included the review of 24,000 cases as well as national data, provides a much-needed picture of police use of force in America. Conducted from 2005 - 2008, the study was funded by a $650,000 grant from DOJ's National Institute of Justice.

The research team also comprised Dr. Michael Smith and Dr. Robert Kaminski, University of South Carolina; Dr. Lorie A. Fridell, University of South Florida; Dr. John MacDonald, University of Pennsylvania; and Bruce Kubu, Police Executive Research Forum.

The team's findings were based on data from a national survey of law enforcement policies and practices on use of force and statistics from law enforcement agencies in Miami, Fla., Seattle, Wash., Columbia, S.C., Austin, Texas and Orlando Fla. They also interviewed more than 250 officers and citizens.

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CED (Taser) use and abuse

  • DOJ-funded study defends responsible use of the devices

  • Tasers and pepper spray reduce injuries to officers and assailants

  • Overuse, and temptation to do so, acknowledged in study

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