Conducted electrical weapons (CEWs) such as the TASER are often used by law enforcement (LE) personnel during suspect apprehension. Previous studies have reported an excellent safety profile and few adverse outcomes with CEW use in adults. We analyzed the safety and injury profile of CEWs when used during LE apprehension of children and adolescents, a potentially vulnerable population.
Consecutive CEW uses by LE officers against criminal suspects were tracked at 10 LE agencies and entered into a database as part of an ongoing multicenter injury surveillance program. All CEW uses against minors younger than 18 years were retrieved for analysis. Primary outcomes included the incidence and type of mild, moderate, and severe CEW-related injury, as assessed by physician reviewers in each case. Ultimate outcomes, suspect demographics, and circumstances surrounding LE involvement are reported secondarily.
Of 2026 consecutive CEW uses, 100 (4.9%) were uses against minor suspects. Suspects ranged from 13 to 17 years, with a mean age of 16.1 (SD, 0.99) years (median, 16 years). There were no significant (moderate or severe) injuries reported (0%; 97.5% confidence interval, 0.0%–3.6%). Twenty suspects (20%; 95% confidence interval, 12.7%–29.1%) were noted to sustain 34 mild injuries. The majority of these injuries (67.6%) were expected superficial punctures from CEW probes. Other mild injuries included superficial abrasions and contusions in 7 cases (7%).
None of the minor suspects studied sustained significant injury, and only 20% reported minor injuries, mostly from the expected probe puncture sites. These data suggest that adolescents are not at a substantially higher risk than adults for serious injuries after CEW use.