6.20.2011

Tools of Law Enforcement – The Taser




By Scott Hall

     The taser was invented by Jack Cover in 1974, as a means to use non-lethal force to subdue suspects in a variety of environments. Many times in our vast media outlets, we see programs that depict a police officer that uses a taser on their subject.  Sometimes we may even laugh at the subject who hits the ground, squeals in pain and acts foolish at the hands of its ability to cause partial muscle immobility.  Many state laws support use by both civilian’s and police officers with certain restrictions to age or concealed weapons laws by the individual state. 

     The earlier versions of the taser were considered small fire arms as the darts that they projected, were propelled by gun powder in small amounts.  In 1995, Mr. Cover modified the taser to use compressed nitrogen as the propeller agent.  The idea of the taser came to Mr. Cover upon seeing an article of a man who ran into an electrified fence and survived though he had been immobilized.  The idea is to send a controlled amount of electric current into the subject’s person, temporarily immobilizing them thus assisting the officer with the safe apprehension of the suspect or for self protection.

     Imagine you are out on a walk through your neighborhood on a nice day.  As you walk along, you don’t notice that you are being followed by someone who wishes to take your money by force.  Imagine their surprise as they grab at you, when you shove a smaller version of the dart taser gun, into their gut, pull a trigger or hit a switch, and suddenly when they come to, they are staring at the police, who are in front of you.  That is the instantaneous power of the weapon itself.  We need not worry too much about large injury to the subject in view of one of these as well, unless they have a heart condition or some other detrimental health issue that may cause them further harm as a result of the electric current.

     In a study conducted by Wake Forrest University’s Baptist Medical System, it was found that in 99 percent of all cases, little or no harm to the subjects had occurred, other than a few bruises and puncture wounds where the darts stuck to the subjects.  Officers and users of a taser, once the dart has been removed, generally monitor the suspect to ensure against the 1 percent that may have a bad reaction to being “tased”.  Law enforcement persons and citizens should use good judgment when deciding to operate a taser.  Training is the key to its overall effective usage.   That training could include a variety of topics, such as, fleeing suspects, the mental capacity or awareness of the suspects, likelihood of violent reaction to apprehension, and forcing compliance with the request of the officer.

    In all cases of the decision to use a taser, the officer is preserving life not only for the suspect but also for the general public.  Jack Cover in the earliest of stages was focused on reducing the need for lethal force.  I am sure he never would have imagined it would serve universally well in versatile markets.  From defense against mugging to the possible safe apprehension of a hijacker on a plane, this tool will continue to shape law enforcement.  Mr. Cover passed away in 2009, but one cannot help but wonder what his thoughts would be on the next generation of shock gloves or what innovative ideas he would add to them.
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