NIJ In-Custody Death Study: Background

An increasing number of law enforcement agencies use conducted energy devices (CEDs) (the most common is Taser). At the same time, the number of deaths associated with the technology also has increased. 

NIJ commissioned a study to help understand whether the technology can contribute to or cause death and, if so, in what ways. The study is one of several NIJ-funded research projects on Conducted Energy Devices.

The study, titled "Deaths Following Electro-Muscular Disruption" began in May 2006. The final report, Study of Deaths Following Electro-Muscular Disruption (pdf, 74 pages), was issued in 2010. See also an interim report (pdf, 21 pages).

Steering Group

The study's steering group was co-chaired by the NIJ Deputy Director for Science and Technology and a medical examiner appointed by the National Association of Medical Examiners. The group also included representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the College of American Pathologists.

The steering group selected members of the mortality review panel described below.

Mortality Reviews

A distinguished panel of doctors conducted mortality reviews on deaths associated with CEDs. Findings from an autopsy and toxicological analysis were combined with findings from the scene investigation, post-exposure symptoms and post-event medical care. The panel assessed any diseases the subject may have had to find out whether the disease may have contributed to or caused the death.

The panel members included a cardiologist, an emergency medicine doctor, five medical examiners and a toxicologist. Consulting specialists were available to the panel as needed and included an anesthesiologist, clinical pathologist, epidemiologist, electrical engineer, neurologist and psychiatrist. The members are listed in the panel's final report (pdf, x pages).

Field Research

NIJ is collaborating with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to conduct field research to support the mortality reviews of deaths related to CEDs. The IACP will bring together experienced investigators to collect data that will help the reviewers determine the cause of death and the possible role of CEDs in the deaths.

Date Modified: June 15, 2011