I read a newspaper article recently about a law enforcement agency that had finally received the budget money and city council approval to outfit their officers with CEWs (Tasers). I applaud the efforts of the Chief and those in the agency who obviously fought a long hard battle to make this happen. I was frustrated however, to read this statement by the Chief in the article:
“He (the Chief) says officers will be trained to use a Taser only in times when they would reach for their firearm, and not when they’re in a lesser situation such as an argument.”
While I agree that we should likely not be using CEWs to manage ‘arguments’, I am concerned that this statement, and the underlying beliefs, will get officers injured and possibly killed. A CEW is a valuable intermediate force response option. It is not meant, and should not be trained or promised, as a replacement to deadly force. If the totality of circumstances warrant getting your gun out, then get your gun out. To leave your gun in your holster and transition to an intermediate weapon that has a limited range and the potential to fail is a less desirable response to a deadly threat. Yes, there may be times where it is appropriate to have an officer who has a CEW out while others have their firearms drawn. The keys are distance, shielding, lethal overwatch and an understanding of time and distance and action / reaction times.
We need to stop selling city councils and the public the lie that CEWs will reduce the use of deadly force. They have been shown to reduce injuries to both officers and subjects, but if a subject is a deadly threat and needs to be shot, they should not be shot with a CEW.
As trainers you need to educate your officers, your management personnel and the public about the realities of use of force.
Trainer, thought leader, author and a man with many questions
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