TASER Technology and Police Officers’ Understanding and Use of Force [2018]

Today, the TASER is a ubiquitous less‐than‐lethal force technology lauded for its ability to curb police officers’ use of excessive and lethal force. Although less injurious than other weapons, concerns exist that the TASER can still be misused by police officers. This article uses ethnographic observations and unstructured interviews across three urban police departments to describe how the TASER affects officers’ understanding and use of force in beneficial and unintended ways. I find that officers understand and use the TASER as a device that can enhance safety for themselves and suspects, including in cases where the TASER is used in lieu of lethal force that officers believe would have been justified. Despite these benefits, understanding of the TASER as a safety‐enhancing technology also influences the use of excessive force via TASER by young, inexperienced officers, ultimately contributing to the very problem TASERs were intended to ameliorate.

Michael Sierra‐Arévalo
Law & Society Review, 27 December 2018