The media often downplays that no other less-lethal device builds in as much accountability as the CED. Besides recording the details of each and every use, systems are now available to videotape every application. "This protects officers from unfounded complaints and keeps cops honest," Ijames says. "They know if they abuse it, we can download the data and find out."
However, data's rendered meaningless if officials fail to track and monitor these records. The Seattle PD scrutinizes CED use by keeping a data-intensive record on each application. Each entry in this database includes information about: the call's circumstances, whether the subject was impaired due to drug or alcohol use or mental illness, and if the suspect brandished a weapon or threatened violence. It also incorporates information on the tool's effectiveness. This report travels through the department for review.
A department official should examine use-of-force reports and other officer accounts after every field use. As long as the download somewhat parallels officer statements, there's little need for concern. "It's not unusual for an officer to forget the details of a very heated battle," Sailor says, noting he also retrieves the offense report, which contains more comprehensive information. This helps him determine the application's appropriateness. "There has only been a few times where CED use was found inappropriate for the circumstances," he says. "For the most part officers abide by our policy and the training received."
Ijames advocates mandatory quarterly and random CED downloads in addition to downloads after a field use. "There has to be absolute accountability," he says.
When reviewing CED logs, this veteran trainer says he analyzes every use, from the 1-second spark test required at the beginning of a shift to actual deployments, and compares this data to all reported applications. Intensive scrutiny helps him identify potential problems. For example, if the log shows deployment during a 90-day period with no operational record on file, discipline will follow. "That's inappropriate and absolutely inexcusable," he says. "You are not allowed to show your friends how they spark. That's like shooting off your gun in the parking lot."
Without such record keeping, the potential for abuse or misuse exists, he stresses. "This is basically good housekeeping. We have to do everything we can to prove our officers are using this technology appropriately."
Train, train and train again
"You can't just issue these things and put them in the field," Kerlikowske maintains. "You need a comprehensive training program to monitor applications and keep officers abreast of technology changes, best practices and protocols."
TASER International offers an extensive train-the-trainer course that teaches participants to instruct end-users in their own departments. The 16-hour course discusses CED technology, electricity, medical research, the body's response to exposure, and correct use of the device, then hosts several firing drills. To qualify as a certified trainer, participants must shoot five or more cartridges, pass a written test and retake the class every two years.
Because it's critical that this instruction match state and local standards, departments should tailor manufacturer training to their own needs. In Colorado, Sailor must ensure curriculum dovetails state policies and Colorado Association of Chief's of Police (CAPS) standards, so he sprinkles TASER's curriculum with information from Westminster's own policy handbook. He supplements TASER's program with the department's definition of less-lethal force, approved CED target zones, legal updates, deployment justifications, situations where it can and cannot be used, and reporting requirements. Participants must pass a written test after they've completed this 6-hour class, and re-certify annually.
Westminster recently added realistic CED training drills to its training regime, using TASER's live simulation cartridges. These cartridges send probes downrange, minus the conductive wire, at subjects wearing protective padded suits. Such scenarios allow officers to fire at a moving subject rather than simply shoot at a foil target. Sailor plans to make this hands-on, dynamic training part of the annual re-certification process.