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Taser Police Chief Mag Long Beach Ca Less-lethal Weaponry Case Study 2006

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long Beael'J, California
Editor's Note: TASER® is a registered trademark by
TASER International, which was founded in 1993 and has
its corporate headquarters and manufacturingfacility in
Scottsdale, Arizona. Taser has achieved in law enforcement
circles what Kleenex and Xerox achieved in society at large:
it has become the generic descriptorfor an entire type of
product.
The principles ofelectro-muscular disruption technology
were developed by Jack Caver, aNational Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) scientist experimenting with
electricity as anondeadly weapon in the 1960s. Cover spent
several years perfecting this device. Inspired by afuturistic
weapon used by Tom Swift, the hero ofVictor Appleton's
popular adventure stories from the early 1900s, Cover
named his invention the "Taser," an acronymfor "Thomas
A. Swift's electric rifle."
TASER International is not the only manufacturer of
electronic control weapons, whose operational concepts are
generally standard and easily adapted to similar devices.
However, although devices may be similar in design,
function, and appearance, the individual manufacturer's
guidelines may differ and should be followed for particular
devices.
See the IACP National Law Enforcement Policy Center,
"Electronic Control Weapons: Concepts and Issues Paper"
(Alexandria, Va.: December 2004); Means, Randy and Eric
Edwards, "Chief's Counsel: Electronic Control Weapons-Liability Issues,"'Ibe Police Chief 72 (February
2005): 10-11; International Association ofChiefs ofPolice,
Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology, (Alexandria,
Va.: ) http://www.theiacp.org/research/CuttingEdge/EMDT9Steps.pdJ, July 12, 2006. •

Less-lethal Weaponry Case Study
By Chief Anthony W. Batts and Sergeant Susanne Steiner, Long Beach Police Department,
California, and Data Collection and Analysis by Lieutenant John Lembi, Long Beach Police
Department, California

Background
In early 2002, officers from the Long Beach
Police Department's (lBPD) south patrol division were dispatched to a busy downtown area
street regarding a woman armed with a knife.
During this confrontation, she refused to drop
her knife and continued to advance toward officers. Using the less-lethal weaponry available at
the time, officers shot at her with four beanbag
rounds from a less-lethal shotgun, all of which
failed to disarm her. The incident ended shortly
thereafter with an officer-involved shooting that
resulted in the woman's death. The woman's
death created a divide within a segment of the
Long Beach community, which asked the police
departmentto address their concerns.
In the subsequent search for additional lesslethal weaponry options, Chief Anthony W. Batts
was searching for innovative tools that would not
only decrease injuries to both officers and suspects, but would also help limit the liability and
damage claims filed against the department.
Chief Batts contacted Deputy Chie'f Frank G.
Fernandez, a colleague with the City of Miami,

Florida, Police Department, who was able to
refer him to Miami's recent success with lesslethal technology. In late 2002, the lBPD training division begantesting TASER International's
M26 TASER for limited use in the field. Since
2003, when the LBPD widely adopted the Taser,
Long Beach has recorded a marked decrease
in use-of-force-related officer injuries as well
as a drop in liability claims filed against the
department.
Long Beach, as any other police
department will need to do, had to consider several factors before authorizing
the use of the electro-muscular disruption technologyl as an alternative use-afforce weapon. Departments deploying
this technology will need to consider factors including officer and suspect safety,
community acceptance, policy, training,
liability, and cost. LBPD's lessons learned
may help other departments facing this
same challenge.

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THE POLICE CHIEF/SEPTEMBER 2006

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Deployment
Original Taser deployment in 2002 was
limited. At first, the Taser was assigned to
field sergeants' patrol vehicles, SWAT personnel, and the advanced officer training
instructors. Its use proved so valuable that
additional Taser units were purchased and
distributed for further testing in the patrol
arena. Select officers were assigned the
Taser as a personal weapon so they did not
have to wait for a patrol sergeant to arrive
on scene.
In 2003, the department purchased
the X26 TASER, which was not only
smaller, but also more effective due to
adjusted wattage and pulse capabilities.
The department upgraded its entire cache
to the newer model and distributed the
Taser to as many officers as there were
weapons available.
As of 2006, approximately 900 Tasers
are issued throughout the patrol bureau,
gang enforcement section, detective
bureau, motor division, and SWAT. To
preserve the Taser's field availability, the
training division maintains a small surplus to temporarily replace those units
that need repair. The manufacturer trained
and qualified training division personnel in routine weapon maintenance, part
replacement, and general repairs so the
units can be refurbished on site. Additional digital power magazines (batteries)

and dart cartridges are also maintained to
ensure weapon availability,

Policy Considerations
The Taser is considered a less-lethal
weapon, and its deployment falls within the
department's use-of-force paradigm. Officers
are authorized to deploy the weapon when
suspects have made credible threats to harm
themselves, others, or officers. Other authorized uses include defending against aggressive actions by a suspect, in riot or unlawful
assemblies, during incidents of active resistance, or when it may be necessary to subdue
an attacking animal.
Unless reasonable alternatives would
pose a greater safety risk to the subject and /
or the officer, officers will not use the Taser
against handcuffed prisoners, pregnant
females, pre-teen children, the elderl)j or
the physically disabled. Because the Taser
is designed to temporarily incapacitate by
making the muscle tissue uncontrollably
contract, officers are encouraged to target
major muscle groups such as the back or
legs, avoiding the head and neck.
Each successful Taser deployment,
whether a dart or direct contact stun,
requires a medical evaluation by emergency room personnel before booking the
suspect. In addition to ensuring the suspect
receives mandatory medical treatment,
the officer who deployed the Taser must

complete a use-of-force report. The field
supervisor also files a summary report and
notifies necessary officials. Once written,
the reports are reviewed by several different
command levels, including internal affairs,
to ensure officers' policies and training
needs remain current, practical, and met.
If the review process reveals issues of
concern, department-wide training is instituted to ensure officers are well informed
and proficient with the changes and/or
clarifications. Debatable deployments are
reviewed so that policy changes, retraining, or disciplinary concerns are quickly
and consistently addressed if necessary.

Training
Currentl)j the department has two expert
lead instructors as well as several other qualified co-instructors. Each officer undergoes 10
hours of hands-on training when issued the
weapon for field use. Re-certification occurs
every ye~ at which time the Tasers are
cleaned, tested, and downloaded to ensure
the time-stamping mechanism and deployment records are accurate.2 Officer training
and re-certification include simulated scenarios as well as written exam questions at
the end of each class.

Benefits
Since the department-wide Taser distribution took place in 2003, the Taser has

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THE POLICE CHIEF/SEPTEMBER 2006

51

Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A
Nine-Step Strategy for Bfective Deployment
The International Association of Chiefs of Police,
supported by the National Institute of Justice, Office of
Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice and in collaboration with the Montgomery County, Maryland, Police
Department. developed an executive brief to inform law
enforcement leadership on the deployment challenges
surrounding the EfVlDT technology.
This executive brief offers a step-by-step guide to
aid law enforcement agencies in selecting, acquiring and
using EfVlDT The brief focuses on managing the technology to help leaders develop policies, procedures, and
training curricula that are responsive and relevant to the
needs of their departments and communities.
To obtain a copy of the executive brief, contact the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 N.
Washington Street. Alexandria, VA 22314; SOD-THE
IACP; or visit the IACP web site at http://VvWN.theiacp.
org/research/CuttingEdge/EMDT9Steps.pdf

become the most frequently used tool when
compared to arrest control techniques and
other impact weapons. Using data from June
2003 through June 2005, the other use-offorce options experienced a decline in usage
ranging from 27 percent to 63 percent. The
impact batons accounted for the smallest
drop, while. the largest reduction occurred

with pepper spray. Because officers would
not deploy a Taser against a suspect armed
with a gun, there was no change in the officer-involved shooting category.
Inspite ofa 2percentincrease in arrests and
an 8 percent increase in overall uses of forc;e
during the same time period, arrest-related
officer injuries decreased 25 percent. The significant drop in officer injuries, however, did
not carry over to the suspects, whose injuries
actually rose 10 percent. The data revealed
that the officers inconsistently reported "redness" as an injury rather than a non-injury,
which potentially skewed the numbers.
Of the 284 instances where the Taser was
deployed between June 2004 and June 2005,
only three cases involved serious injuries,
while 19 involved moderate injuries. In all
three cases involving serious injuries, the
injuries were caused by something other
than the Taser, and none of the injuries led
to death. In most of the 19 cases where moderate injuries were incurred, the injuries
were also caused by something other than
the Taser. Injuries attributed to the Taser
included abrasions and lacerations routinely caused by the fall to the ground after
the subject loses muscle control. Due in part
to the constant review of policies and procedures, there have been no deaths associated
with the use of the Taser.

Effectiveness
Of the 284 Taser deployments, 219 were
dart cartridge discharges while 65 were
direct skin or clothing contact "drive stuns."
221 incidents were effective (78 percent), and
the suspect was taken into custody without
further incident. The 63 ineffective deployments related to the distance at which the
Taser was fired, thick or impenetrable clothing worn by the suspect, or both darts not
striking the suspect for the connectivity of
the charge, and other similar factors.
Because the Taser is less invasive than
other force options-suchas the impact
baton or carotid restraint hold-the department anticipated fewer damage claims
against the department and internal affairs
complaints. This is, in fact, the case. liability claims filed against the police department fell 33 percent, while internal affairs
complaints dropped 9 percent.
Although difficult to quantify, anecdotal
reports indicate officers' morale improved
with the Taser distribution. Good officer tactics dictate distance as a critical safety factor.
Generally speaking, many officers and combative subjects incur injuries when the distance is eliminated and the officer is forced to
go hands on with the aggressive subject.
The Taser essentially creates a 21-foot
safety zone for the officer in which to gain

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THE POLICE CHIEF/SEPTEMBER 2006

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the subject's compliance. Officers immediately acknowledged the Taser's usefulness
and recognized the benefit to themselves,
the subjects they touch, and the community
members who may witness the altercation.

Recommendations

I
I

More and more police departments will
probably undertake deploying some form of
electronic control weapon. Reflecting on the
LBPD's experience, any department considering deploying this technology should consider the following:
• Create a searchable, computerized
database to compare, cross-reference,
and analyze Taser deployments within
the scope of all use-of-force options.
Include the following categories
• Type of deployment (dart cartridge
discharge or direct contact stun)
• Each deployment's effectiveness
• Injuries to both officers and subjects
caused specifically by Taser use
• How often the Taser is the only
response to a combative subject versus
how many times it is used
in conjunction with other use-of-force
options
• Number of cycles used for each
deployment
• What effect Taser deployment has

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had on excessive force complaints and
liability claims filed against the department
• When writing a deployment poliC)j
clarify who the Taser should and should
not be used against, in order to help
avoid the potentialfor death or serious
injury to subjects incapable of withstandingthestun
• Discuss the type of clothing the subject is
wearing to ensure the pulse of the darts
can penetrate the garments
• Perform a daily spark test (with the
dart cartridge removed) to keep the
digital power magazine sufficiently
charged for immediate field use. The
spark test will also alert officers about
any maintenance issues
• Because the Taser may be used more
frequently than other use-of-force
options, conduct periodic refresher
training for the force options used less
frequently
• Educate officers on the civilian Taser
model (X26c) and its stun capabilities.
Although the civilian model's wattage
is less than the law enforcement model's, the stun cycle's timing increases
from five to 30 second
The LBPD's Taser success has allowed
the department to enhance professional

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service to Long Beach residents while giving officers better options for solving problems, preventing injuries, and ensuring
safety. Because the community and media
focus on law enforcement tactics and liability, the Long Beach Police Department will
continue to search for innovative ways to
positively impact our community. •:.
1 Electro-muscular disruption technology
(EMDT) uses pulses of electricity to incapacitate suspects. The weapons are designed to
deliver up to a 50,000 volt charge with low
power and can incapacitate at a distance. Two
metal probes connected by thin insulated
wires are propelled by either gunpowder or
nitrogen gas into the targeted suspect. Once
the connection is made, electrical pulses are
conducted through the wires for a number of
seconds. The electric pulse delivered by EMDT
incapacitates suspects by causing the muscles
to contract, resulting in the loss of body control.
International Association of Chiefs of Police,
Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology, (Alexandria, Va.:): 6 http://www.theiacp.org/research/
CuttingEdge/EMDT9Steps.pdf, July 12, 2006.
2 According to TASER International,
the TASER X26 stores time, date, duration,
temperature, and energy cell status of over
1,500 firings. Data accessed through USB into
encrypted secure x 26/1 file format on Windows® PC (Windows® 2000, XP, or ME). http://
www.taser.com./facts/qa.htm. July 12, 2006.
/I.

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THE POLICE CHIEF/SEPTEMBER 2006

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