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Back to Archives | Back to May 2005 Contents 

President's Message

Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Law Enforcement

Chief Joseph Estey, Hartford Police Department





Chief Joseph Estey
Chief Joseph G. Estey, Hartford Police Department

hroughout the history of our profession, law enforcement agencies have benefited from technological advances in a number of areas: communications, transportation, officer safety equipment, and restraint and compliance technology. Often, the deployment of these new technologies confronts us as law enforcement executives with questions over how best to manage deployment in a way that minimizes disruptions in the department and in the communities we serve.

In recent years, one of the most important areas of research and development has been in less-lethal technologies. These less-lethal technologies have reduced injuries to suspects and officers while permitting officers to carry out their required law enforcement duties. But deployment of these technologies has led to concerns among community members and confusion among officers as to what is the appropriate circumstance in which to use them.

For example, in the early 1990s, oleoresin capsicum (OC), commonly known as pepper spray, was introduced as a law enforcement use-of-force option. When it was first deployed in the field, citizens and advocacy groups in communities throughout the country expressed concerns over the potential harm posed to those exposed to pepper spray. In response, the IACP, with funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), conducted a study on the use of pepper spray. That study demonstrated that the use of pepper spray reduced reliance on chemical sprays (such as mace) and batons, reduced the number of suspect and officer injuries, and led to fewer use-of-force complaints.

Today, we are witnessing a similar controversy over the use of electro-muscular disruption technology (EMDT), popularly known as stun guns. EMDT devices use a high-voltage, low-power charge of electricity to induce involuntary muscle contractions that cause temporary incapacitation. Many police departments are using EMDT on resisting subjects, with a minimum of serious injuries or lethality. The increased use of these weapons, however, has raised concerns about the safety of EMDT, as well as the liability and risks
associated with deployment of stun guns.

To address these deployment concerns, the IACP has developed an executive brief called “Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology: A Nine-Step Strategy for Effective Deployment” to inform law enforcement leadership on deployment challenges surrounding this technology. The executive brief offers a step-by-step guide to aid law enforcement agencies in selecting, acquiring, and using EMDT. The brief is designed to offer police agencies a framework for developing safe and sensible deployment and management plans for stun guns. With these guidelines, it is the IACP’s hope that departments can balance the risks associated with stun guns with their benefits.

The report is an initial analysis of EMDT, focusing not on the technology itself but rather on the management of the technology. It is intended to help law enforcement leadership develop policies, procedures, and training curricula that are responsive and relevant to the needs of the communities they serve. Although research findings and best practice information will continue to evolve, it was the association’s desire to make interim technology management information available to federal, state, local, tribal, and other law enforcement agencies as soon as possible.

Briefly, the report offers suggestions on developing policies and procedures associated with stun gun use:

•Establishment of medical protocol options after an incident with a stun gun
•Determining the placement of EMDT on the local use-of-force continuum based on an assessment of the technology
•Development of comprehensive training programs for officers equipped with stun guns
•Implementation of departmental reporting systems to track EMDT-related incidents

The report is available, free of charge, to all interested parties. To obtain a copy of this report, please visit the IACP Web site at www.theiacp.org

In addition to the executive brief, the IACP is in the final stage of development for a two-day training course on electronic incapacitation devices. Once this program is finalized, agencies that are interested in cohosting this training are urged to contact the IACP training department at 800-THE-IACP.

For more than 100 years, the IACP has strived to fulfill its mission to advance the art and science of policing and to serve as a vital resource to law enforcement agencies throughout the world. It is my belief that reports of this nature, which provide police chiefs with carefully researched, thoughtful, and practical advice on how to address a critical law enforcement management issue, are the hallmark of the IACP and continue to demonstrate our association’s continuing role as a leader in the law enforcement community.



 

From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 5, May 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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