NIJ In-Custody Death Study: The Impact of Use of Conducted Energy Devices

While exposure to conducted energy devices (CEDs) is not risk free, there is no conclusive medical evidence that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CEDs. Field experience with CED use indicates that exposure is safe in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, law enforcement agencies need not refrain from deploying CEDs, provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines.

The purported safety margins of CED deployment on normal healthy adults may not be applicable in small children, those with diseased hearts, the elderly, those who are pregnant and other at-risk individuals. The use of a CEDs against these populations (when recognized) should be avoided, but may be necessary if the situation excludes other reasonable options.

Underlying medical conditions may be responsible for behavior that requires subdual by law enforcement, including the use of CEDs. Abnormal mental status in a combative or resistive subject may be associated with a risk for sudden death. This should be treated as a medical emergency.

A review of deaths following CED exposure indicated that many were associated with continuous or repeated discharge of the CED. There may be circumstances in which repeated or continuous exposure is required, but law enforcement officers should be aware that the associated risks are unknown. Therefore, caution is urged in using multiple activations of CEDs as a means to accomplish subdual.

Date Modified: March 29, 2011