This is by far, one of our most frequently asked questions. The problem with this question is that a TASER CEW exposure is a completely unique experience– there is almost no other feeling like it. When I’m asked about my own exposure with the X2, I often tell people that it feels how it sounds. Imagine what it feels like to be snapped with a rubber band. Now, imagine that rubber band snapping you 19 times per second throughout your entire body. It is definitely uncomfortable, but by no means is it excruciating. The five-second exposure tends to feel MUCH longer than five seconds, but once it’s over, you feel like nothing ever happened! I was actually smiling and laughing after mine! I had about as much muscle soreness the next day as I would after a light workout; it was hardly noticeable. Other than that, any discomfort associated with a TASER CEW exposure only lasts for those five seconds. I can confidently say that I will not volunteer for another exposure any time soon, but if I had to, it’s just five seconds.
First, let’s start with the basics:
Electricity is a flow of energy, or more specifically a flow of electric charge within a conductor. That conductor can be a copper wire, or it can be the human body. Much like water flows through a pipe, electrons flow through a wire. When we measure electricity, there are two key measures – voltage, measured in volts, & current, measured in amperes.
Voltage is similar to the pressure in a water hose. The voltage provides the “pressure” to push an electric current through the wire.
Current is the measure of the actual flow of electricity – how many electrons are actually flowing through the wire.
In our analogy to flowing water, voltage is like pressure, measured in pounds per square inch. Current is the flow rate, similar to gallons per second in our water analogy.
By way of analogy, let’s compare a waterfall to rainfall. The pressure or voltage behind each droplet of water in the waterfall is actually a lot less than for each rain drop – because the rain drop is falling from a much greater height. So, the “voltage” of this waterfall is much less than for rain.
However, the rate of flow or “current” for the waterfall is much, much higher than for the rain, which falls in small droplets separated in space & time compared to the continuous flow of the waterfall. Standing under the waterfall would certainly be a very dangerous place to be – much more so than in the rain. Similarly, being exposed to a high current electrical current – like the one out of your wall outlet, can be very dangerous, even at moderate voltages like 110 volts.
Exposure to high voltage, low current shocks – such as a static discharge on a dry day, is far less dangerous. Static shocks regularly exceed 30,000 volts, yet they deliver very low amounts of electric charge, & there has never been a reported injury directly from the effects of a static shock, although there have been some secondary injuries from people who were surprised & may have fallen, etc.
When we think about electricity, the first term to come to mind is usually “volts.” This is because our electric power grid is a fixed voltage system, & is rated in volts.
However, when we talk about electricity safety, the current in amperes is much more critical than voltage. For example, a TASER CEW has about a tenth of the peak current of a static shock.
So, if voltage is not the key factor in making an electrical stimulation effective, why does a TASER CEW have a high peak voltage?
The rainfall analogy is a very good one for a TASER CEW discharge. The drops of rain are separated by time & space such that the actual “current” or flow of water down from the sky is quite small.
So, this naturally begs the question – if the TASER CEW output current is so low, how can it be effective in stopping a violent subject?
The answer is because the TASER current does not rely on brute force, or on sheer power. Instead, the CEW’s pulsed output is really an elegant approach to incapacitating violent persons. Our TASER CEW pulses mimic the electrical signals used within the human body to communicate between the brain & the muscles. It simulates the pulsed communications used within the nerves, & interferes with communication – like static on the telephone lines within the body. When the device is on, a person cannot do controlled movements.
Sometimes people will ask “Isn’t electricity dangerous?” The answer is – well yes, it can be. But electricity is actually necessary for life – we literally cannot live without it.
Electrical pulses control every thought we have, every breath we take, every sensation we feel, every sight we see, every sound we hear – every complex life process depends on these electrical signals within our bodies that occur billions of times every second.
The brain is like an incredibly complex conductor, leading a string section of incomprehensible complexity. As the brain uses electrical “pings” to stimulate the nerves in a complex & highly coordinated fashion, consciousness emerges & neuromuscular control becomes possible.
Click here to learn more: http://www.taser.com/taser-products-save-lives/times-police-have-used-taser-ecds-in-the-field
Dr. Douglas Zipes recently had a case series publish in one of the American Heart Association’s journals called, Circulation.
Zipes’ article is not a position paper by the American Heart Association. A case study or even a case series should report interesting associations and novel curiosities of medicine based on uncontrolled and anecdotal observations. His article provides observational data from a series of 8 cases provided to him in his disclosed role as a plaintiff’s expert during litigation of these cases. He does not conclude that these cases reveal a fundamental flaw in the design of the devices.
The American Medical Association issued a White (Position) Paper on TASER safety in June 2009 that states:
Clearly Dr. Zipes has a strong financial incentive based on his career as an expert witness, which might help explain why he disagrees with the findings of independent medical examiners with no pecuniary interest in these cases as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s independent study that concluded:
There are critical statements in this three-year study called, Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption, in which a panel of experts examined why individuals died after exposure to a TASER device (aka CED) during encounters with law enforcement. The panel, selected in collaboration with the College of American Pathologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Association of Medical Examiners, reviewed nearly 300 cases to determine whether CEDs contributed to or were the primary cause of death.
The panel found that while in some cases the possibility that the direct effects of a CED can be lethal cannot be excluded, the risk of death due to the electrical effects of a CED has not been conclusively demonstrated and that caution should be used when interpreting the inclusion of a CED on a death certificate or the classification of the manner of death as a homicide as an absolute indictment of the CED as the sole or primary reason for the death.
The panel found that from a medical perspective, law enforcement need not refrain from using CEDs, provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines and appropriate policy. The use of a CED on potentially at-risk individuals should be minimized or avoided unless the situation excludes other reasonable options. It is critical to minimize or avoid multiple or prolonged activations of CEDs to subdue an individual. However, there may be circumstances where this is required.
The panel members included a cardiologist, an emergency medicine doctor, five medical examiners, and a toxicologist. Consulting specialists were available to the panel as needed and included an anesthesiologist, clinical pathologist, epidemiologist, electrical engineer, neurologist, and psychiatrist.
Let’s review excessive force for a moment. Clearly, this is the bane of existence of any community as there are no winners when this occurs. Many times it happens when there is no evidence available to back up an law enforcement officer when it becomes a “she said/he said case. An article from the Denver Post entitled “Denver police paid $1.34 million in 2011 to settle excessive-force lawsuits,” showed just how costly this is for cities.
Note the average dollar pay out per officer per year to settle use of force cases:
• Denver – $697 per year per officer
• Chicago – $2,930 per year per officer
• Los Angeles – $2,200 per year per officer
• Philadelphia – $1,360 per year per officer
If any of you reading this aren’t saying, “HOLY SMOKES!” — well you should be as this is a tremendous waste and cost to taxpayers.
Perhaps, it’s important to discuss the future of policing technologies. We know statistically that use of TASER ECDs reduces injuries to officers AND suspects (US DOJ Report) so we know TASER ECDs can make a difference but they have to be in the hands of all patrol officers for maximum effectiveness for this reduction. Most suspects won’t wait for a supervisor to show up (just ask a local cop.)
But there can me more that can be done to reduce these claims. For one, better policies and enhanced scenario-based training — not just for TASER ECD usage but for all reponses to resistance. Agencies can also make sure they have TASER CAM recorders that record the use of any TASER ECD deployment.
Finally, let’s discuss the one other technique that can help — on-officer videos that record from the officer’s point of view like our TASER AXON on-office camera. Before you say this is a TASER sales pitch take a moment to see what the City of Burnsville, MN did with their AXON cameras at Burnsville Police Department. Want proof? Watch this progressive law enforcement ageny’s video they put on YouTube — the proof is in the pudding: http://bit.ly/wxL0nS
It’s time that taxpayers demand to get more return on their investments for safer communities at a lower cost. You can be sure that TASER is doing all it can to make that our mission.
If you don’t think video is the solution then perhaps you should know that an International Association of Police Chief’s survey has statistical data that indicates that 96.2 percent of the time, the recording of the event exonerated the officer of the allegation or complaint. That alone is worth the costs and more than provides a return on investment.