New Jersey police officers will soon be permitted to employ "conducted energy devices (CED)," commonly known as tasers. Used properly, tasers can be an effective tool to bring a violent suspect under control without the need to resort to deadly force. The New Jersey Attorney General should be commended for insisting that the use of tasers by law enforcement be the subject of testing and evaluation to determine how the devices can be used safely and how officers should be trained.
During the course of the vetting process for these conducted energy devices, law enforcement discovered a disturbing possibility. It seems that some New Jersey police departments equip officers with a type of pepper spray (known as OC by the law enforcement community) which contains a flammable liquid. When officers spray this type of pepper spray, a suspect's clothing becomes dampened with this flammable propellant. If that pepper spray does not diffuse a volatile situation, and officers resort to use of a taser, the consequences can be deadly:
certain types of aerosol chemical or natural agents can ignite when subjected to the electric spark generated by a CED dart/electrode. This poses a very serious threat to public and officer safety.
The Attorney General has therefore directed that:
- no officer shall be authorized by his or her agency to fire and discharge a CED unless and until the chief executive of the agency reports in writing that no officer employed by the agency is equipped with an aerosol spray device that emits a flammable substance.
- any officer who is equipped with an aerosol spray device that emits a flammable substance and who discharges such device against a suspect shall be responsible for alerting all other officers at the scene, and any officer(s) who may take custody of the suspect, that 1) the suspect has been subjected to the use of an aerosol spray device that emits a flammable substance, and 2) notwithstanding any provision of the Revised Policy On Conducted Energy Devices to the contrary, the use of a CED against the suspect is strictly prohibited.
A 2011 story on 60 Minutes suggested that officers in other jurisdictions may resort to use of a taser much too quickly. The respected National Institute of Justice has observed that "a critical research question is whether officers can become too reliant on CEDs. During interviews with officers and trainers, the researchers heard comments that hinted at a 'lazy cop syndrome.' Some officers may turn to a CED too early in an encounter and may rely on a CED rather than on their conflict resolution skills or even on hands-on applications."
While the taser is undoubtedly an effective law enforcement tool when used properly, proper training and oversight is essential for public safety and to minimize misuse.
The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and current as of the date of publication, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.
This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk. We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability. Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein. We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.
We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.
If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at www.wilentz.com. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.