Safety and injury profile of conducted electrical weapons used by law enforcement officers against criminal suspects

Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Apr;53(4):480-9. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2008.11.021. Epub 2009 Jan 21.


Study objective: Conducted electrical weapons such as the Taser are commonly used by law enforcement agencies. The safety of these weapons has been the subject of scrutiny and controversy; previous controlled studies in animals and healthy humans may not accurately reflect the risks of conducted electrical weapons used in actual conditions. We seek to determine the safety and injury profile of conducted electrical weapons used against criminal suspects in a field setting.

Methods: This prospective, multicenter, observational trial tracked a consecutive case series of all conducted electrical weapon uses against criminal suspects at 6 US law enforcement agencies. Mandatory review of each conducted electrical weapon use incorporated physician review of police and medical records. Injuries were classified as mild, moderate, or severe according to a priori definitions. The primary outcome was a composite of moderate and severe injuries, termed significant injuries.

Results: Conducted electrical weapons were used against 1,201 subjects during 36 months. One thousand one hundred twenty-five subjects (94%) were men; the median age was 30 years (range 13 to 80 years). Mild or no injuries were observed after conducted electrical weapon use in 1,198 subjects (99.75%; 95% confidence interval 99.3% to 99.9%). Of mild injuries, 83% were superficial puncture wounds from conducted electrical weapon probes. Significant injuries occurred in 3 subjects (0.25%; 95% confidence interval 0.07% to 0.7%), including 2 intracranial injuries from falls and 1 case of rhabdomyolysis. Two subjects died in police custody; medical examiners did not find conducted electrical weapon use to be causal or contributory in either case.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, these findings represent the first large, independent, multicenter study of conducted electrical weapon injury epidemiology and suggest that more than 99% of subjects do not experience significant injuries after conducted electrical weapon use.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Injuries / classification
  • Electric Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Electroshock*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Safety
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology