In today’s law enforcement community, there is no shortage of awareness of the extreme scrutiny we operate under day to day. Virtually every use of force has to be justified but, God forbid, if the mainstream media can somehow sensationalize the incident then we’re going to get crucified in the court of public opinion whether we were 100% justified or not. In fact, we all know of incidents where the officer used a lot less force than could have been justified and still received a complaint filed against them.
In some instances the use of lethal force can be avoided through the proper use of officer survival tactics and less-lethal weapons. Under no circumstances will this author EVER tell you to take an unnecessary risk or to ignore proper officer survival tactics; however, circumstances permitting, less-lethal weapons can offer us an opportunity to perform our duty while also minimizing force used beyond anyone’s reasonable expectation.
That all said, the use of conductive energy weapons (CEW) is growing and certainly receiving a lot of examination from those folks who like to be critical of law enforcement professionals. Recently I received a PhaZZer CEW for test and evaluation and then was lucky enough to attend an instructor certification course for this tool while I was in the midst of the T&E period.
Now, let me make two observations before I go on, just so they are out of the way:
First, I typically avoid mentioning competitors in any T&E report. In this case, the PhaZZer CEW is capable of using TASER cartridges and since TASER is PhaZZer’s only competitor, it’s kind of impossible not to mention them at all.
Second, I’ve always said that increased versatility equals increased value. What’s not usually added on is that often, increased versatility also means an increased training curve. That’s the case with the PhaZZer CEW and we’ll discuss why further down.
So, in 1964 the science-fiction show, Star Trek, introduced us to the then-fictional electronic clipboards, communicators and phasers. Less than a century later we have iPads (and other tablets), cell phones and PhaZZers… or tasers. While it’s true that our CEWs still require wire leads, we’re THAT close to making another once-science-fiction device into reality.
The PhaZZer Enforcer should look pretty familiar to most of you as it does resemble, to some extent, it’s only competitor, TASER – in its X26 configuration. The PhaZZer Enforcer, however, has some features and capabilities that the TASER X26 doesn’t. The additionally capabilities of the PhaZZer Enforcer make it a more versatile less-lethal weapon, and when you balance that out against its lower purchase cost, you have to start scratching your head as you wonder about why you’d buy a TASER instead.
As published on the PhaZZer website, here are the features of the Enforcer:
- Safety Shut-Down Circuit Technology
- Integrated Sight Laser and 160 Lumen LED Light
- Alternative Ammunition For Any Situation
- Rechargeable/replaceable Lithium Ion Battery
- TC100 Wireless Data Port (optional)
- HD DVR Rail-mount Camera (optional)
Let’s take a look at those one by one.
The Safety Shut-Down Circuit Technology forces you to manually turn off the weapon and turn it back on IF you want to deliver more than three charges to a given subject. It requires a conscious decision and action to put the safety on, take the safety off and pull the trigger again. While you are in the “heat of the moment” and your level of adrenaline may have you locked up in your decision making cycle, this feature can force you to reset your decision making and re-examine the need for further deployments.
The Integrated Sight Laser and 160 Lumen LED Light is something you’d expect on a device of this type. The good news is that you choose whether or not you activate the light separate from the operation of the CEW. The on/off safety switch on the back of the Enforcer is actually what turns it on and off – and the laser is one indicator that it’s ON. The other is a small light that’s easy to see just below the switch. The light is turned on and off by sliding an ambidextrous switch that is above the trigger. In fact, it’s located just under your index finger if you put your trigger finger out along the side of the frame (where it would be on the slide of a handgun until you were ready to shoot). The light appears to be optically focused and provides usable light out to about 25 meters.
The Alternative Ammunition For Any Situation is one of the things that makes this device so versatile so I’m going to address it last.
Having a Rechargeable/replaceable Lithium Ion Battery makes the device easier to maintain as far as needed charge is concerned. As of the time I took the Instructor Certification training program, PhaZZer had a car charger in development. That’s something the “other guy” hasn’t approached doing as far as I know. Being able to recharge batteries helps to keep on-going costs down as well.
The TC100 Wireless Data Port may be optional but I highly recommend it. It keeps track of all your tests and deployments, length of discharge, etc. and can be managed so that the information is all maintained as evidence.
The HD DVR Rail-mount camera, also optional, is another good idea. As we’ve seen from the mainstream media lately, all video evidence we can capture is of value. Now we’re even seeing videos captured of suspects who beat themselves up and then claim “the cops did it.” If you’re going to draw a weapon of any kind and you have the option to video tape the suspect’s behavior before your weapon deployment, it’s a good thing.
Now… let’s talk about versatility. While CEWs have always presented two options for use – those being firing conductive projectiles to create a circuit OR contact stun use to create epidermis level pain compliance – the PhaZZer Enforcer has taken another step and offers other force options. According to the paperwork I received with my test unit, PhaZZer makes available eight different kinds of cartridges that can be loaded into the Enforcer and fired. They are:
- 30’ Pepper Ball Cartridge
- 30’ Paint Ball Cartridge
- 25’ Dart Cartridge
- 30’ Rubber Ball Cartridge
- 21’ Dart Cartridge
- 21’ Training Dart Cartridge
- 15’ Dart Cartridge
- 8’ Pepper Powder Cartridge
Looking at them by their capabilities, let’s start with the best known and common “Dart Cartridges.” In the list you’ll see three with varying engagement distance capabilities: 15’, 21’ and 25’. Anyone who is certified with a CEW knows that closer engagements allow a higher confidence level in dart placement. That said, if you’re using a less-lethal tool to engage a potentially lethal subject, i.e. a man with a knife, distance is your friend. With three options to choose from, you can select the one that best suits the largest majority of situations you find you or your officers engaging in.
You’ll also see two OC/Pepper options listed there; something the competition doesn’t offer. Pepper Ball deploys two types of less-lethal force: the impact of the ball itself, akin to being hit with a paintball for those of you who have experienced that, and the discharge of the OC/Pepper product inside once that ball impacts and breaks open. Who doesn’t know the feeling of exposure to OC/Pepper in today’s LE world? We all do and it’s not pleasant (that’s a kind way of putting it). The other OC/Pepper option is a simple discharge of OC/Pepper powder. NOTE: Minimum engagement distance for this cartridge should be three feet; distance from cartridge doors to subject’s person. The inclusion of OC/Pepper Ball and Powder cartridges allows for additional options in use of force without having to hold special classes for Pepper Ball delivery systems (pepper ball guns). With the training and certification course offered by PhaZZer, the officer gains another option of force; more versatility in a carried tool.
Finally, there is also the Rubber Ball cartridge. The only other force option tool that this author is familiar with that delivers rubber balls is a shotgun. By using the PhaZZer Enforcer with a Rubber Ball cartridge you get the option of a single shot delivery without having to present or use a lethal weapon system – the shotgun. For crowd control situations this may present an option for use of force that is far more acceptable to witnesses… including those mainstream media cameras that like to make much of nothing.
Of course there is also the training cartridge and a special cartridge made with alligator clips to allow for exposures in certification training without having to actually be hit by the darts.
With an MSRP that runs about 75% of the competition and a lower long term maintenance/use cost, the PhaZZer has more going for it than just the versatility offered by cartridges available. The conducted energy and neuromuscular incapacitation is reportedly the same as the competition’s (and it felt the same during exposure, thank you very much).
So, if you’re in the market for a CEW or if your agency is searching for one to incorporate into its force options, check out the PhaZZer Enforcer. Overall it is an impressive tool with greater options available than any other such tool in the market today.