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League leads the charge in weapons training 

by Jessica Wells, League Communications Specialist

On the use of force continuum, conducted electrical weapons, commonly referred to as Tasers or stun guns, are listed just below lethal force, yet on average officers receive more hours of training to operate a radar speed gun.

Conducted electrical weapons are designed to immobilize a suspect without causing serious injury. Propelled by gas, gunpowder or nitrogen, the weapon embeds two metal barbs in the suspect and delivers just enough electrical current that the target momentarily loses bodily control and the officer is able control the situation.

These weapons are incredibly useful tools in apprehending suspects. Their use results in fewer injuries to officers and suspects, but there are a large number of claims across the nation attributed to improper deployment.

"Just by the nature of the tool, there seems to be a disconnect with the amount of training," League Risk Management Services Director of Field Services Bryan Leaird said. "We identified a resource that is able to bring some advanced level training for stun guns."

Last year, instead of the standard 8 hours of training, the League trained a pilot group of police chiefs on policies and appropriate stun gun use.

"We had the instructor for this training meet with our Police Chiefs Advisory Committee – 10 chiefs from across the state – and the chiefs unanimously said, "We feel a need to have this training," Leaird said. "We had tremendous feedback from instructors in the pilot program. They all said "Yes, this is something officers across the state need."

Risk Management Services plans to give every police department in the Property and Liability insurance pool the opportunity to participate in this train-the-trainer program starting with a group of 23 in Raleigh Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

"We see the weapon as a valuable tool. It has the capability, when used properly, of minimizing injuries to the officer, but it’s like any other tool – you have to receive appropriate training and continue to follow what’s happening in your profession so you can adjust the use of the instrument accordingly," Leaird said. "That’s what this class will help them do."

The program does have a few hours of hands-on training, but most of the time is filled with studying case law and appropriate policies to have in place. Many of the injuries and claims associated with stun guns are not related to injury from the shock, but from suspects falling and hitting their heads on the ground or nearby objects because they lost voluntary control of being able to stand.

Severe injuries and even fatalities are result from officers targeting suspects who are fleeing, climbing a fence, or even riding a bicycle. Not only are people dying, police departments are left with liability lawsuits and medical bills that drive up costs for all departments in the insurance pool. Leaird said he believes some of these claims could’ve been avoided with training on how and when to deploy the weapons.

"It’s not the tool that’s the problem," Leaird said. "It’s how and when it’s deployed that’s the problem. "There have been cases of people being shocked after they’re in handcuffs and it became less of a means of controlling a suspect and more of a punishment. These are all things that must be addressed in policy."

In addition to studying case law, the course will examine how the weapons affect the body, what areas should be targeted, and address weapons confusion and quick decision making techniques. In high stress situations, an officer may accidentally draw his firearm instead of the stun gun. This training will suggest alternate ways to carry the weapons and walk officers through scenarios that they might have been through in firearms training but could be applied to stun guns as well. This exercise will reduce the natural reaction to grab the firearm due to muscle memory.

"In a stressful situation, you revert back to your training. If the training is not adequate, that’s when problems arise," he said. "When you’re firing your gun, you’ve got to be mindful of what’s behind the suspect because that bullet could easily miss a suspect or go thorough him and hit whatever is behind him. Same thing with a stun gun, you’ve got to be aware of where the individual is and what the circumstances are."

Risk Management Services will continue to hold these trainings until every department in the Property and Liability insurance pool has an opportunity to attend. For more information on the League’s insurance trusts, visit rms.nclm.org or contact Leaird at (919) 715-2905.