Two recently published research papers with ties to UCF are starting to recharge the debate on stun gun usage.
The papers, which were co-authored by Eugene Paoline of UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice, center on the probability that a citizen or a police officer would be injured when a stun gun, officially known as a conducted energy device, is used. The CED injury probabilities were compared to the probabilities of injury from other forms of non-lethal force, such as chemical sprays and rubber bullets, to determine what type of force had the highest probability of injury.
Based on the data found in the two papers, Paoline reached an overall conclusion on CED usage.
“The aggregate finding [of the two papers] is the probability of citizen injury increases whereas the probability of officer injury decreases” when CEDs are used, Paoline said.
What do the findings of these research papers mean for people and students at UCF? For the time being, it seems that the issue is null and void. Sgt. Troy Williamson, community relations supervisor for the UCF Police Department, said that it has been “a few years” since a CED has been used by UCF Police.
Nonetheless, it is important to know what a CED is capable of doing to a person.
“In layman’s terms … it causes an involuntary muscle contraction in your major muscle groups,” Sgt. Jim Vachon of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said. “I know, when I was tased, it just felt like you couldn’t move. It’s like every muscle in your body flexes at once.”
Yet, contrary to popular media, being hit with a CED will not knock you unconscious.
“In movies and TV, you get tased and it knocks you out and all that. It’s just not accurate. You’re very aware of what’s going on around you,” Vachon said.
However, because of the contracted muscles, a person who has been hit with a CED is unable to move until the CED’s five-second shock cycle ends.
The first published paper, which was included in the April 2012 edition of Justice Quarterly, focused on the probability of injury to civilians when non-lethal force is used. According to the paper, 41.2 percent of incidents where a CED was used resulted in an injury for the suspect.
“The probability of your citizen being injured when a Conducted Energy Device [is fired] … in nearly all the comparisons [to other forms of non-lethal force], it’s higher,” Paoline said. “The only time it’s not higher is when you compare it to other impact weapons.”
Paoline said that impact weapons include batons and canines.
The second published paper, which was included in the June 2012 edition of Police Quarterly, focuses on the probability a suspect could injure an officer once a non-lethal force has been used.
Paoline collaborated on the papers with criminal justice professors representing Michigan State University and Illinois State University. The researchers obtained the data used in the papers from a study on CED usage performed by the National Institute of Justice. The NIJ study examined more than 18,000 incidents of non-lethal force used by the police departments of eight major U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008.
While the impact these papers are having on the law enforcement community is not fully known, it is apparent that the papers are stirring up local and national media outlets. Media outlets WESH, Yahoo! News and United Press International have covered the release of the papers.
For more information on the papers, UCF’s official press release can be found at http://today.ucf.edu/study-concludes-use-of-stun-guns-increases-injuries/.
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