Taser Use: Report of the Use of Force Working Group of Allegheny County

61 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2009 Last revised: 17 Nov 2010

See all articles by David A. Harris

David A. Harris

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: November 10, 2009


The Use of Force Working Group was convened in October of 2008 to study police use of electronic control devices, better known as Tasers. Allegheny County (Pa.) District Attorney Stephen A Zappala, Jr. appointed the Working Group in the wake of an incident in which a person died following a Taser exposure at the hands of local police officers.

This Report concludes that Tasers can be worthwhile and safe weapons in the police arsenal, but only if they are used consistent with proper policy, training, supervision and accountability. Anything less makes the use of these weapons a risky choice from the point of view of both police officers and the public. The Report discusses the scientific and medical research on Tasers, and sets out the best practices that should appear in any Taser policy. The Report also makes recommendations concerning situations in which Tasers should never be used, and situations in which police should only use these devices with extreme caution. It also contains a first-person description of what it feels like to be shot with a Taser, based on the experience of the Report’s primary author.

Keywords: Tasers, electronic control devices, ECDs, law enforcement, use of force policy, justification, police tactics, police equipment, criminal procedure, excessive force, training, supervision, accountability, safety, risks, Use of Force Continuum

Suggested Citation

Harris, David A., Taser Use: Report of the Use of Force Working Group of Allegheny County (November 10, 2009). University of Pittsburgh Law Review, Vol. 71, p. 719, 2010, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-32, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1503617

David A. Harris (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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