San Diego Police Upgrades to TASERs with Longer Range, Less Voltage

June 10, 2024
"The TASER 10 design is a game-changer and will make the TASER more effective when used in situations that warrant less-lethal force," said former San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, who retired last week.

The San Diego Police Department is upgrading its Tasers to a model with better range, a more versatile firing system and far less voltage — improvements that may make the tool more effective.

Stun guns have long been hailed as a less-lethal alternative to a firearm. The tool quickly immobilizes someone by jolting them with electricity, causing muscles to seize.

But for a variety of reasons, Tasers don't always work. San Diego officers deployed the stun guns more than 650 times over the last five years, and they were effective about 60 percent of the time, according to department data. Police officials said a new model features some obvious upgrades.

The Taser 10 has double the range of the old stun gun, the ability to automatically turn on body-worn cameras that are nearby and a different firing mechanism that should make effective use easier. And while the department's current Taser packs quite the punch at 50,000 volts, the new model has been scaled down to 1,000 volts.

The City Council signed off on the upgrade — and a new five-year agreement with Taser creator Axon Enterprise Inc. — last week. Purchase of the Taser 10 and associated training is expected to cost just under $2 million. The new five-year agreement will not exceed $9.75 million.

Several law enforcement agencies in Southern California have upgraded to the new model, but the San Diego department will be the first to do so in the county.

"The TASER 10 design is a game-changer and will make the TASER more effective when used in situations that warrant less-lethal force," said former police Chief David Nisleit, who retired on Thursday.

Currently, officers carry the X-26P Taser model, which has a range of 21 feet and fires two probes simultaneously, department officials said. Both probes must connect with someone to produce a charge, so officers have to consider the spread of the shot, what a person is wearing and other factors before firing.

The new model has a 45-foot range and comes with 10 probes that fire individually. This allows officers to more carefully position where the probes connect and fire multiple times should one fail to connect. Even if all 10 probes make contact, however, current only flows through the best four connections, department officials said.

When the Taser 10 is turned on, it also automatically activates any body-worn cameras within 30 feet that are in buffering mode. The department's body-worn cameras are also Axon products.

That's a helpful addition since a 2022 City Auditor's Office report found that as many as 40 percent of San Diego police officers working enforcement encounters from October 2020 through September 2021 did not activate their body-worn cameras as required by the department.

Officers are generally required to leave their body-worn cameras on, or in buffering mode, during their shifts and to hit record before "enforcement" contacts, such as traffic stops and the questioning of crime suspects. Department officials said the new Taser's automatic activation feature could be useful if an encounter is sudden and an officer doesn't activate their camera immediately.

Axon says its newest model is part of the company's "moonshot goal" to reduce fatal police shootings by 50 percent. The company has claimed that many lives have already been saved by police firing stun guns at suspects instead of firearms and is quick to share studies showing stun guns are often safe. One 2020 study featured on the company's website found that Tasers resulted in fewer injuries than other forms of force including police dogs, batons and physical confrontations.

"We aspire to see SDPD's adoption of TASER 10 deliver on their dedication to reducing gun-related deaths between police and the public, ultimately protecting more lives," said Rick Smith, Axon's CEO and founder.

However, in San Diego County and across the nation, people shot with the weapons have died or been seriously injured.

Amnesty International, a human rights organization, said in 2012 that at least 500 people had died after being shocked by a Taser.

Although medical examiners usually attributed the deaths to other factors, like drug intoxication, Tasers were listed as a contributing factor in a couple dozen cases, the organization said in a 2008 report.

"Some medical experts believe that shocks from taser-type weapons may exacerbate a risk of heart failure in cases where people are agitated or under the influence of drugs, or have underlying health problems," the report read.

Some local cases have resulted in big payouts.

In 2017, the county paid $3 million to settle a lawsuit after a sheriff's deputy repeatedly shot a man with a Taser. The lawsuit claimed the stun gun's use rapidly sent him into a vegetative state, causing organ failure, sepsis and, ultimately, amputation of both his legs and portions of several fingers.

Chula Vista and the insurance carrier for Taser split a $675,000 settlement payout after a woman shot with a Taser in 2001 suffered a miscarriage. Police officers answering a domestic-violence call had fired the barbs into the woman's back as she tried to go into her house.

San Diego police officials said recently that they have no documented case of a Taser killing a person, and they do not track instances in which a person died after a Taser was used.

Officers will start getting outfitted with the new stun gun model this fall.


©2024 The San Diego Union-Tribune.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!