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Police issue X26 Taser with cartridge installed

A Taser is an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles. Its manufacturer, Taser International, calls the effects "neuromuscular incapacitation" and the devices' mechanism "Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology". Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions. Tasers do not rely only on pain compliance, except when used in Drive Stun mode, and are thus preferred by some law enforcement over non-Taser stun guns and other electronic control weapons. At the present time, there are two main police models, the M26 and X26. Both come with various accessories, including a laser sight and optional mounted digital video camera that can record in low-light situations. Taser International is also marketing a civilian model called the C2. On 27 July 2009, Taser introduced the X3, capable of subduing 3 suspects without reload.

Tasers were introduced as less-lethal weapons to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous subjects, often when what they consider to be a more lethal weapon would have otherwise been used. The use of Tasers has become controversial following instances of Taser use that have resulted in serious injury and death, and while they are far less lethal than many other weapons, the U.N. are concerned that use of Tasers may amount to torture, and Amnesty International has reported cases where they believe that their use amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law".


Taser is an acronym, named for a fictional weapon: Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle. Taser is a registered trademark. It has prompted a backformed verb to tase, which means to use a Taser on; however, to taser is also commonly used.


Jack Cover, a NASAmarker researcher, began developing the Taser in 1969. By 1974, Cover had completed the device, which he named after his childhood hero Tom Swift. The Taser Public Defender used gunpowder as its propellant, which led the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to classify it as a firearm in 1976.In 1991, a Taser supplied by Tasertron to the Los Angeles Police Department failed to subdue Rodney King. Its lack of effectiveness was blamed on a faulty battery.

Taser International CEO Rick Smith has testified in a Taser-related lawsuit that the catalyst for the development of the device was the "shooting death of two of his high school acquaintances" by a "guy with a legally licensed gun who lost his temper." In 1993, Rick Smith and his brother Tim began to investigate what they called "safer use of force option[s] for citizens and law enforcement." At their Scottsdale, Arizonamarker facilities, the brothers worked with the "... original TASER inventor, Jack Cover" to develop a "non-firearm TASER electronic control device."The 1994 AIR TASER Model 34000 had an "anti-felon identification (AFID) system" to prevent the likelihood that the device would be used by criminals; upon use, it released many small pieces of paper containing the serial number of the Taser device. The US firearms regulator, the ATF, stated that the AIR TASER was not a firearm. In 1999, Taser International developed an "ergonomically handgun shaped device called the ADVANCED TASER M-series systems" which used a "patented neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) technology." In May 2003, Taser International released a new weapon called the TASER X26, which used "Shaped Pulse Technology." On July 27, 2009 Taser International relasead a new type of taser called the X3 which can fire three shots before it must be reloaded. It holds three new type cartridges, which are much thinner than the previous model.


The M-26 Taser, the United States military version of a commercial Taser
The Taser fires two small dart-like electrodes, which stay connected to the main unit by conductive wire as they are propelled by small compressed nitrogen charges similar to some air gun or paintball marker propellants. The air cartridge contains a pair of electrodes and propellant for a single shot and is replaced after each use. There are a number of cartridges designated by range, with the maximum at 35 feet (10.6 m). Cartridges available to non-law enforcement consumers are limited to 15 feet (4.5 m). The electrodes are pointed to penetrate clothing and barbed to prevent removal once in place. Earlier Taser models had difficulty in penetrating thick clothing, but newer versions (X26, C2) use a "shaped pulse" that increases effectiveness in the presence of barriers.

Tasers primarily function by creating neuromuscular incapacitation, which means that it interrupts the ability of the brain to control the muscles in the body. This creates an immediate and unavoidable incapacitation that is not based on pain and cannot be overcome. Many subjects of police intervention experience little to no pain due to intoxication, extreme motivation, or otherwise, which therefore makes other techniques nearly useless. Once the electricity stops flowing the subject immediately regains control of their body. Most subjects after being Tasered once will comply so as to avoid being Tasered a second time.

Tasers also provide a safety benefit to police officers as they have a greater deployment range than batons, pepper spray or empty hand techniques. This allows police to maintain a safe distance. A study of use-of-force incidents by the Calgary Police Service conducted by the Canadian Police Research Centre found that the use of Tasers resulted in fewer injuries than the use of batons or empty hand techniques. Only pepper spray was found to be a safer intervention option.

Drive Stun

Some Taser models, particularly those used by police departments, also have a "Drive Stun" capability, where the Taser is held against the target without firing the projectiles, and is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the target. "Drive Stun" is "the process of using the EMD weapon [Taser] as a pain compliance technique. This is done by activating the EMD and placing it against an individual’s body. This can be done without an air cartridge in place or after an air cartridge has been deployed."

A Las Vegasmarker police document says "The Drive Stun causes significant localized pain in the area touched by the Taser, but does not have a significant effect on the central nervous system. The Drive Stun does not incapacitate a subject but may assist in taking a subject into custody." "Drive Stun" was used in the UCLA Taser incident and the University of Florida Taser incident. It is also known as "dry tasing", "contact tasing", or "drive tasing".

Amnesty International has expressed particular concern about Drive Stun, noting that "… the potential to use TASERs in drive-stun mode — where they are used as 'pain compliance' tools when individuals are already effectively in custody — and the capacity to inflict multiple and prolonged shocks, renders the weapons inherently open to abuse."


The TASER CAM is a specialized device designed for the Taser X26 to record audio and video when the Taser's safety is disengaged. The CAM is integrated into a battery pack and does not interfere with the Taser's existing function.


Taser use in Phoenix increased from 71 incidents in the year 2002 to 164 incidents in the year 2003. In addition, the number of officer-involved shootings decreased by seven during this time period. In Houstonmarker, however, police shootings did not decline after the deployment of thousands of Tasers.

According to the analysis of the first 900 police Taser incidents by the Houston Chronicle, no crime was being committed and no person was charged in 350 of those cases. In addition, it has been reported that the Houston Police Department has "shot, wounded, and killed as many people as before the widespread use of the stun guns" and has used Tasers in situations that would not warrant lethal or violent force, such as "traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints, and reports of suspicious people."In Portland, Oregonmarker, meanwhile, police found that 25 to 30 percent of the situations in which a Taser was employed met the criteria for the use of deadly force. How the Taser Works Dec 2007

Although Tasers were originally proposed as alternatives to lethal force, they have entered routine use as a way to incapacitate suspects or as a "pain compliance" method at times when the use of firearms would not be justifiable. The American Civil Liberties Union alleges that, since 1999, at least 148 people have died in the United States and Canada after being shocked with Tasers by police officers. Police departments counter that while Tasers were used to subdue these individuals, their in-custody deaths were un-related to their encounter, and could have likely been caused by more traditional police impact weapons (like batons).

A recent development has included marketing Tasers to the general public. A line of pink Tasers are specifically being marketed for women. The Taser website states "Who says safety can't be stylish?" in reference to its "latest designer TASER C2 colors" and patterns, which include leopard print patterns and a range of colors.



Taser use in Australia is varied from state to state, though possession, ownership and use of a stun gun (including Tasers) by civilians is considerably restricted, if not illegal.


According to previous interpretation of the Firearms Act, Tasers were considered to be "prohibited weapons" and could be used only by members of law-enforcement agencies after they were imported into the country under a special permit. The possession of restricted weapons must be licensed by the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program unless exempted by law. A 2008 review of the Firearms Act found that the act classifies "the Taser Public Defender and any variant or modified version of it" as "prohibited firearms". However, Canadian police forces typically treat Tasers as "prohibited weapons", inconsistent with the restrictions on firearms.

The direct source for this information comes from an independent report produced by Compliance Strategy Group for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The report is called An Independent Review of the Adoption and Use of Conducted Energy Weapons by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the report that is available through access to information, the authors argued that the CEW was, for several years after its adoption by the RCMP, erroneously characterized as a prohibited "weapon" under the Criminal Code, as opposed to a prohibited "firearm." This misunderstanding was subsequently incorporated into the RCMP's operational policies and procedures as well as those of other police services in Canada. While the most recent RCMP operational manual, completed in 2007, correctly refers to the CEW as a prohibited firearm, a number of consequences of this error in classification remain to be dealt with by both the RCMP and other Canadian police services. Consequently, it could be argued the police in Canada may not have had the proper authority under their provincial policing Acts and Regulation to use the CEW in the first place. The point of unauthorized use by the police was also raised by Dirk Ryneveld, British Columbia's Police Complaint Commissioner at the Braidwood inquiry on June 25, 2008.


Tasers are not allowed in this country.


Tasers are used by the French National Police and Gendarmerie. In September 2008, they were made available to local police by a government decree, but in September 2009, the Council of State reversed the decision judging that the specificities of the weapon required a stricter regulation and control.


The Greek police use tasers. Greek Police Special Forces used a taser to end the hijacking of a Turkish Airlines A310 by a Turkish citizen at Athens International Airportmarker on March 2003.

Hong Kong

Under HK Laws. Chap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance, "any portable device which is designed or adapted to stun or disable a person by means of an electric shock applied either with or without direct contact with that person" is considered as 'arms' and therefore, the importation, possession and exportation of Tasers require a license by the Hong Kong Police Force which would otherwise be illegal and carries penalties up to a fine of $100,000 and 14 years in jail.


Use of tasers are prohibited in Icelandmarker, for both civilians and police.


Use of tasers are prohibited in Ireland, for both civilians and police.


Israeli police approved using Tasers. As of 16 Feb 2009, the first Tasers became available to police units. Tasers are expected to enter operational use by the Israeli Defense Forces in the near future.


Royal Malaysian Police are set to become the second in Southeast Asia police force after Singapore Police Forcemarker to use the non-lethal Taser X26 stun guns. The force had taken delivery of 210 units of the stun guns, known as the X26 electronic control device, which cost RM2.1 million, last year they have yet to be distributed to personnel on the ground. Taser would be included under the Firearms Act 1960. The Taser X26 set bought by Malaysian police comes with a holster and uses a non-rechargeable lithium battery able to deliver 195 cartridge shots. Policemen going on rounds will be issued four cartridges. The force began toying with the idea of using Tasers in 2003 when they purchased 80 units of the M26, the X26's bulkier predecessor. This was not made public as it was part of a testing exercise. The Tasers were issued to policemen in Petaling Jaya, Dang Wangi in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.


Under Polish law, Tasers are not considered to be firearms. No permission is needed to buy and carry one.


Tasers are considered to be 'prohibited weapons' under the Firearms Act and possession is banned without the written permission of the Home Secretary. The maximum sentence for possession is ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Taser guns are now used by some British police as a "less lethal" weapon. It was also announced in July 2007 that the deployment of Taser by specially trained police units who are not firearms officers, but who are facing similar threats of violence, would be trialled in ten police forces. The 12 month trial commenced on 1 September 2007 and took place in the following forces: Avon & Somerset, Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire.

Following the completion of the trial, the Home Secretary agreed on 24 November 2008 to allow Chief Officers of all forces in England and Wales, from 1 December 2008, to extend Taser use to specially-trained units in accordance with current Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy and guidance, which states that Taser can be used only where officers would be facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves, and/or the subject(s).

A fund for up to 10,000 additional Tasers is being made available for individual Chief Officers to bid for Tasers based on their own operational requirements.


Taser devices are not considered firearms by the U.S. government. They can be legally carried (concealed or open) without a permit in 43 states. They are prohibited for citizen use in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, as well as certain cities and counties. Their use in Connecticut and Illinois is legal with restrictions.

Safety concerns

Taser International claims that Tasers are safe, but critics disagree, citing the number of deaths occurring after Taser use. Amnesty International has documented over 245 deaths that occurred after the use of Tasers. Amnesty International Canada and other civil liberties organizations have argued that a moratorium should be placed on Taser use until research can determine a way for them to be safely used.

A number of studies have investigated the potential dangers of Taser use. They have included examination of incident records, limited human testing, and experimental studies on pigs. Although tests on police and military volunteers have shown Tasers to function appropriately on a healthy, calm individual in a relaxed and controlled environment, Amnesty International says that they "do not take into account real life use of Tasers by law enforcement agencies, such as repeated or prolonged shocks and the use of restraints".

At least one police official has been tased to demonstrate confidence in the device's safety. Police officers in at least five US states have filed lawsuits against Taser International claiming they suffered serious injuries after being shocked with the device during training classes.

While their intended purpose is to circumvent the use of lethal force such as guns, the actual deployment of Tasers by police in the years since Tasers came into widespread use is claimed to have resulted in more than 180 deaths as of 2006. It is still unclear whether the Taser was directly responsible for the cause of death, but several legislators in the U.S. have filed bills clamping down on them and requesting more studies on their effects. Despite the growing controversy, a study funded by the U.S.marker Justice Departmentmarker asserted that majority of people tasered from July 2005 to June 2007 suffered no injury. A study led by William Bozeman, of the Wake Forest Universitymarker Baptist Medical Center, of nearly 1,000 persons subjected to Taser use, concluded that 99.7% of the subjects had either minor injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or none at all, while three persons suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital admission, and two other subjects died. Their autopsy reports indicated neither death was related to the use of a Taser.

The use of the Taser has come under scrutiny in Canadamarker following national media coverage of the 2007 Robert Dziekański Taser incident in which a Polishmarker immigrant died after being tasered five times by a Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker officer at the Vancouver International Airport. As a result several official reviews of Taser safety are underway in Canada and two police forces have put large orders of the device on hold.

In October and November 2007, four individuals died after being tasered in Canadamarker, leading to calls for review of its use. The highest-profile of these cases was that of Robert Dziekański, a non-English-speaking man from Polandmarker who died in under two minutes after being tasered by Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker (RCMP) at the Vancouver International Airportmarker, October 14, 2007. Followed by three other post-Taser deaths, this incident led Amnesty International to demand an end to Taser use in Canada.

On December 12, 2007, in response to the death of Robert Dziekański, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day requested that the federal Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) prepare recommendations for immediate implementation. The CPC report recommended to "immediately restrict the use of the conducted energy weapon (CEW)" by reclassifying it as an "impact weapon." The commission released its report on 18 June 2008; recommendations include restricting use to experienced officers (5 years or more), providing medical attention to those who have been zapped, improving previous documentation of specific deployment of the weapon, among other things.

In June 2008, a federal jury ordered Taser International to pay the family of Robert Heston, Jr., $6 million in punitive and compensatory damages for the 2005 death of the man a day after he was shocked repeatedly by officers using Tasers. According to a press report, the jury "said Taser had failed to warn police in Salinas, California, that prolonged exposure to electric shock from the device could cause a risk of cardiac arrest."

In December 2008, in light of extensive testing of Tasers by the CBC, many Canadian police agencies, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have suspended use of either all Tasers or just those manufactured before 2006.

On September 30, 2009, the manufacturer issued a warning and new targeting guidelines to law enforcement agencies to aim shots below the chest centre mass as "avoiding chest shots with ECDs avoids the controversy about whether ECDs do or do not affect the human heart" Calgary Police Service indicated in a news interview that the rationale for the warning was "new medical research that is coming out is showing that the closer probe to heart distances have a likelihood, or a possibility, that they may affect the rhythm of the heart". In response to claims that the new guidelines were implemented to avoid health concerns, Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International states, "We have not stated that Taser causes [cardiac] events in this bulletin, only that the refined target zones avoid any potential controversy on this topic."

Excited delirium

Taser and its supporters in the police community regularly attribute the cause of deaths that follow Tasering to "excited delirium", a term for a phenomenon in which agitated or disturbed individuals respond in an irrational, bizarre, and hyperactive manner when confronted or apprehended by police. Critics argue that as this alleged condition exists only in relation to being apprehended by police, its existence is dubious. Grame Norton, director of the public safety project of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that "Anytime you see a specific condition being referenced in only one context, it raises serious question." Other critics assert that the term is used to mask police brutality. While the term "excited delirium" has been accepted by the National Association of Medical Examiners, in the United States it has been rejected by the American Medical Association, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal dismisses it as a "pop culture phenomenon". The condition is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Police psychologist Mike Webster testified at a British Columbia inquirymarker into Taser deaths that police have been "brainwashed" by Taser International to justify "ridiculously inappropriate" use of the electronic weapon. He called "excited delirium" a "dubious disorder" used by Taser International in its training of police.


Taser-related incidents that gained widespread media coverage include:

Use in schools and on children

Police officers that patrol schools, including grade schools, in several U.S. states (including Kansasmarker, Minnesotamarker, Kentuckymarker, Virginiamarker and Floridamarker) have been carrying Tasers since the early 2000s. In 2004, the parents of a 6-year-old boy in Miamimarker sued the police department for tasering their child. The police said the boy was threatening to injure his own leg with a shard of glass, and claimed that using the Taser was the only option to stop the boy from injuring himself. Taser International asserts that the Taser is safe for use on anyone weighing 60 pounds (27 kg) or more. Nevertheless, the boy's mother told CNN that the three officers involved might have found it easier to reason with her child. Two weeks later, a 12-year-old girl skipping school was tasered in Miami-Dademarker. In March 2008, an 11-year old girl was shocked by a Taser. In March 2009, a 15-year-old boy died in Michiganmarker after being tasered.

Taser supporters suggest that the use in schools consist of merely switching on the device followed with threatening to use it, which can be effective in frightening violent or uncooperative students. This is the method, only if verbal reprimands have not succeeded. Critics counter that Tasers may interact with preexisting medical complications such as medications, and may even contribute to someone's death as a result. As a result, tasers should either be prohibited in schools or classified as lethal weapons. Critics also suggest that by using a Taser on a minor, particularly a young child, is effectively cruel and abusive punishment, or unnecessary.

Tools of political suppression

Tasers and other electroshock weapons have been used at political protests such as those by the anti-globalization movement in the United States, France, Switzerland, Germany, and several other countries. Members of the movement, as well as world press are concerned that the technology, and other "less-lethal" weapons, are likely to become tools for suppressing legitimate protest associated with imposition of "neo-liberal economic policies". Thomas Gebauer, of the German non-governmental organization Medico International, describes "non-lethal weapons" as a symbol of "the growing repressive character of European and North American governments" willing to suppress protests against the spreading social injustice. According to Gebauer, "the aim of these weapons is to guarantee social borders, to install perennial control of movements, to restrict democracy."


A report from a meeting of the United Nations Committee against Torture states that "The Committee was worried that the use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use."Amnesty International have also raised extensive concerns about the use of other electro-shock devices by American police and in American prisons, as they can be (and according to Amnesty International, sometimes are) used to inflict cruel pain on individuals. For example, Eric Hammock of Texas died in April 2005 after receiving more than 20 Taser shocks by Fort Worth police officers. Maurice Cunningham of South Carolina, while an inmate at the Lancaster County Detention Center, was subjected to continuous shock for 2 minutes 49 seconds, which a medical examiner said caused cardiac arrhythmia and his subsequent death. He was 29 years old and had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

In response to the claims that the pain inflicted by the use of the Taser could potentially constitute torture, Tom Smith, the Chairman of the Taser Board, has stated that the U.N. is "out of touch" with the needs of modern policing.

"Pepper spray goes on for hours and hours, hitting someone with a baton breaks limbs, shooting someone with a firearm causes permanent damage, even punching and kicking - the intent of those tools is to inflict pain, ... with the Taser, the intent is not to inflict pain; it's to end the confrontation. When it's over, it's over."

- Taser Chairman Tom Smith

Tasers may also not leave the telltale markings that a conventional beating might. The American Civil Liberties Union has also raised concerns about their use.

See also

*UCLA Taser incident
*University of Florida Taser incident
*Robert Dziekański Taser incident


External links

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