Study Suggests Use of Tasers by Law Enforcement Agencies Is Safe

Although the use of Tasers by law enforcement officials has been linked to some highly publicized deaths nationwide, the devices are safe and cause a low occurrence of serious injuries, according to a nationwide study.

“This study is the first large, independent study to review every Taser deployment and to reliably assess the overall risk and severity of injuries in real world conditions,” said Dr. William Bozeman, the lead investigator and an emergency medicine specialist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “The injury rate is low and most injuries appear to be minor. These results support the safety of the devices.”

Bozeman will present the results of the study Monday at the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Research Forum in Seattle. Earlier partial results from the study involving 597 cases were published in the September issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine.

In the full review of nearly 1,000 cases, 99.7 percent of people subjected to a Taser had mild injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or no injuries at all, the study found. Only three subjects (0.3 percent) suffered injuries severe enough to need hospitalization.

Two subjects died, but autopsy reports indicate that neither death was related to the Taser, according to the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice and included six law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Of the serious injuries, two suffered head injuries from falls after Taser use. A third subject was admitted to a hospital two days after arrest with a medical condition that could not be linked directly to Taser use.

For the study, a tactical physician at each participating agency reviewed police and medical records after each successful application of a Taser. Injuries were classified as mild, moderate, or severe and their relationship to the Taser was classified as direct, indirect or uncertain.

Bozeman said results from previous studies were limited by the use of animal models and of healthy police volunteers in training settings, not criminal suspects in real-world conditions.

“The Taser is a weapon and it can clearly cause injuries and even deaths in some cases,” Bozeman said in a news release. “The question is how likely is it to cause a significant injury, and whether that risk of injury outweighs the benefits it brings.”