Tasers Are Not a Deadly Force Option

Police officers have enjoyed the use of the Taser X26 (and the effective M26 before that) as an excellent intermediate force option that allows the quick incapacitation of an offender while minimize the chance of harm to the suspect and officers involved. Tasers tend to be effective where pain compliance techniques are not.

However, Tasers are not 100% reliable. For the Taser to work properly there has to be a completed circuit with electricity flowing through a wide section of muscle mass. The failure of a Taser to effectively work can happen if only one probe hits the suspect, or the probes land too close together, or there is a faulty battery, or thick clothes do not allow the probes to get close to the skin. I’ve seen Tasers fail to incapacitate in each of these situations. The point is: the X26 is effective but not 100%.

There is an understandable reluctance by police officers to use deadly force. Cops are not evil people and they do not want to harm or kill anyone. So, many times when a police officer faces a situation in which deadly force is the appropriate level of force, the officer may hesitate or seek some other lower level of force, which generally decreases their own safety. While in some respects this is admirable, the fact is the officer must survive and win the encounter, not just for his or her own well being, but for the community as a whole. For if the officer is incapacitated or killed due to their attempt at a lower force option, their killer is now free to harm other innocents…perhaps even with the officers own weapons.

If a police officer encounters a suspect armed with a deadly weapon, the officer’s appropriate response will be deadly force, not a Taser. A suicidal subject armed with a knife or a gun needs to see the business end of your AR, shotgun, or pistol…not the blast doors of a ‘green’ X26 cartridge. If you have appropriate deadly force cover (say your two zone partners are in a position of advantage covering the suspect with .223 rifles), then you might –in certain circumstances– attempt to use a Taser to subdue the suspect. The idea is that your backup can employ deadly force should the Taser attempt go wrong.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of us have Taser cartridges that are good to a maximum of 21′ or 25′. Perhaps 21′ sounds familiar? That distance should be known to all police officers as it relates to the Tueller Drill. The Tueller Drill was developed by Sgt. Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City PD. Sgt. Tueller discovered that an average person could cover 21′ and begin stabbing an officer in 1.5 seconds: the same amount of time an officer could draw his weapon and put a round on the threat. That, of course, does not take into account that a fatal shot is not likely to instantly stop the attack.

So, if you encounter a violent subject armed with an edged weapon AND you have lethal force cover AND you want to try to use a Taser, you better hope it works. If it doesn’t, you will likely have a subject on top of you in less than two seconds. Your partners better be very accurate and very quick. Even then you stand a pretty decent shot at getting hurt.

If the subject has a firearm, you don’t even have 1.5 seconds, as they just have to point and pull the trigger.

So, read your department SOP’s, know your state laws of the use of force, and work out plans with your zone partners before you encounter a deadly force situation in which you may want to try a Taser.

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Richard Johnson is a gun writer, police trainer and really bad joke teller. Check out his other writing on sites like Human Events, The Firearm Blog and Police & Security News.

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