Agencies abiding by this reasoning soon watched their CED deployments rehashed on the evening news where they shocked the public's conscience. These situations rattled the IACP and other police organizations, prompting them to create a restrictive model policy, specifying prohibitions to CED operation. This policy bans CED deployments on restrained prisoners, unless subjects remain overtly combative. "I think you can find a scenario where their application is appropriate on a handcuffed prisoner," says Ijames, "but they are few and far between." The IACP model policy also forbids CED use in a coercive or punitive manner. An officer can't instruct subjects to walk faster, for example, then place the device on drive stun mode and zap them.
While Seattle opts not to prohibit specific applications in policy, its officers study these situations in training. There, its 300+ CED-equipped officers learn it's unwise to shoot fleeing suspects or those riding bicycles because the device so quickly immobilizes them. "If they are running at a good clip or riding away on a bicycle, being hit could cause secondary injury," Kerlikowske explains. Officers also learn not to deploy the devices when an alcohol-based pepper spray is used or flammable liquids are present.
Westminster policy restricts CED use on the elderly, pregnant women, small children, etc. However, Montgomery adds, "There can always be an exception, and we leave that door open."
Reach out and touch the community
Be it filled with nay-sayers, critics or supporters, the public must be informed. Community outreach ranks high as a critical element of any CED program, stresses Montgomery, whose department demonstrates CEDs at its citizen police academies and to service organizations, judges and local prosecutors. In every demo, those present receive an opportunity to take a hit, and "many do," he says.
Being forthright reduces problems later on, adds Kerlikowske, who once took an exposure with the local NAACP chapter president on television then spoke with reporters afterward. "When he [the NAACP chapter president] asked me if I'd ever been hit, I said 'no.' I said, 'We issue guns and I have never shot myself either,' " he recalls. "But I told him if he was going to do it, I would do it too. It turned out to be an unbelievably positive experience."
The Seattle PD has faced litigation in just one out of 700 deployments. In this case, the department settled out of court for $25,000. Judicious use of the device keeps the number of complaints in any given year low. When complaints arise, Kerlikowske says he doesn't hesitate to go public. When an officer shocked a local teen, Kerlikowske met with the media to discuss the case. He explained the boy, who'd been treated for mental health issues for some time, stood before officers with a knife to his stomach and stressed that officers shot the teen to keep him safe. "Once we explained the situation, there was never another word said," he says. "A department has to be open about CED use."
Ijames echoes Kerlikowske's sentiments stating, "The agencies that get into trouble are the ones that have not done anything to open their doors and explain why they do what they do."
Community programs also must address "Electricity 101," says Sailor. Most people know their home electrical system carries 110 volts of electricity, and find it frightening that a CED releases 50,000 volts. They don't realize the shock from simply scuffing their feet across the carpet then grabbing a doorknob produces up to 30,000 volts. Fifty-thousand volts represents the pressure pushing the electrical charge along the device's wires and probes, not the shock delivered to the subject. It's amperage that's the real concern, he stresses. Here's where people can rest at ease because CEDs operate at extremely low amperage. (The M26 and X26 function at less than 4/1000 of an amp.)
Sometimes the public mistakenly believes CED-armed officers no longer require firearms, notes Kerlikowske. The savvy police department also addresses this misconception. "There will still be cases where officers face off with an armed subject and need to go directly to deadly force," he says. "You don't want people to be uninformed about where CEDs fit."
Keep it honest, keep it real
When law enforcement first introduced pepper spray, news broadcasts never criticized the motive behind its use. However, the media frequently questions the rationale behind CED applications. There are sound reasons for this, Ijames explains. "The CED has the potential for abuse. Law enforcement, though the numbers are very low, has done inappropriate things with CEDs, and we have been called on it on national television."