First Study Of Taser Use Against Minors: No Significant Harm

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Juveniles are one of the population groups thought by some observers to be “potentially vulnerable” to unexpected significant injury from being Tasered. But the first study of real-world use of conducted electrical weapons on minors concludes that zaps from CEWs “during apprehension of adolescents does not seem to pose unacceptable levels of risk.”

None of the sample pool of young offenders analyzed suffered anything worse than mild injuries, specifically “superficial puncture wounds” from Taser probes and “superficial abrasions and mild lacerations,” most likely from falls or struggles with police.

While 8 percent of the subjects were hospitalized after being shocked, the vast majority of these were psych admissions. “None were related to injuries from CEW use,” the study team reports.

The researchers do state that “continued surveillance” of Taser use against young children and smaller-stature suspects is warranted. But they point out that CEW applications involving such individuals are rare because they usually can be “more easily physically apprehended.”

“The new findings are important,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, “because they document the probable outcome of Tasering teenagers, the juveniles most likely to come into resistant contact with officers. By confirming that there is no special risk involved in shocking adolescent offenders, the study adds one more scientific underscoring to the fact that Tasers are overwhelmingly a safe and effective control device in the law enforcement toolbox.”

FSI was not involved in the study and has no conflict-of-interest relationship with any CEW manufacturer.

The research is detailed in full in the September issue of the medical journal Pediatric Emergency Care in a report titled “Conducted Electrical Weapon (Taser) Use Against Minors”. Click here to access a free abstract.


The study was conducted by three MDs: Drs. Alison Gardner and William Bozeman of the Dept. of Emergency Medicine at Wake Forest University Health Services in Winston-Salem, NC, and Dr. William Hauda II of the Dept. of Emergency Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Falls Church, VA.

“Despite reassuring data” about the general safety of Tasers, the three write, “the effect of CEW use [has not been] well studied in those younger than 18 years.” Concerns have arisen about this “potentially vulnerable population” because of past studies by other researchers on anesthetized pigs, in which some pigs died of cardiac disruptions after CEW application.

Human studies have tended not to reveal adverse CEW-related heart problems in adult subjects. But the relatively small size of the fatally affected pigs (48-156 lbs.) “has led some to have concern regarding the effects of CEW exposure in a lower-weight population such as children and adolescents,” explain the researchers in the current study.

They decided to investigate for the first time the actual—as opposed to hypothetical—outcomes of Taser use on minors in real-world settings.


For their analysis, the doctors tapped the largest independent database of CEW uses in existence, established with National Institute of Justice funding seven years ago and continually updated with detailed reports from a cross-section of cooperating law enforcement agencies across the US. Each report includes results of medical screening for injuries and a use-of-force review after a successful CEW electrical discharge against a criminal suspect.

The researchers culled through 2,026 consecutive reports of CEW use and found 100 (4.93 percent) that involved subjects younger than 18. Their ages ranged from 13-17 and their weight from 110-380 lbs. The average age was 16, the average weight 156 lbs. Ninety-two percent were male.

Thirty per cent were known or suspected to be intoxicated at the time of Tasering, more than half from alcohol and about 20 percent from marijuana. More than 90 different reasons had brought them into contact with police, most often civil disturbance (15 percent), assault (12 percent), and burglary, robbery, or grand larceny (10 percent).

All had been shocked with the world’s most commonly used CEW, a Taser X26, overwhelmingly (79 percent) in probe mode. On average, there was just one discharge per customer in either probe or drive-stun mode. Most often (64 percent of the cases) impact was in the torso, followed by 32 percent in the extremities or buttocks. A small minority of contacts occurred in the back of the neck or scalp.

The researchers sorted their sample according to level of injury: none, mild, moderate, or severe, with “significant” injuries considered to be only those rated as moderate or severe.

In a subtitle of their published report, the team refers to their study as “A Shocking Analysis,” which, it turns out, was more a cute play on words than a description of their findings.


Here’s what they discovered:

  • “There were no cases of significant (moderate or severe musculoskeletal) injuries reported…among the 100 suspects.”
  • Only 20 percent of the adolescents suffered even mild injuries. The majority of these were “superficial puncture wounds that were an expected result of contact with the CEW probes.” Unexpected mild injuries included eight “superficial” abrasions, two minor lacerations, and one nosebleed. “[N]o underlying injuries or long-term [consequences] were noted…. Minor injuries of these types are common after a physical struggle with police” and may have occurred from falling or fighting.
  • About 30 percent of the encounters resulted in ER visits, but only eight subjects were hospitalized. Seventy-five per cent of these “were specifically noted to be for psychiatric reasons…. [N]one were related to injuries from CEW use.”
  • “[T]here were no reported clinical symptoms…that would suggest cardiac dysrhythmia…or alteration in level of consciousness.” The only case in which ER physicians expressed initial concern about a heart-related reaction involved a 6 ft. 3 in., 260 lb. 17-year-old who was physically restrained by officers during his arrest. Ultimately, he was “discharged after evaluation” with no “persistent cardiac effects.”
  • “There were no deaths noted during apprehension or during time in police custody.”

In all, the researchers write, “Based on our results, the data support that CEW use during apprehension of adolescents does not seem to pose unacceptable levels of risk.”


The researchers note one caution about their results. “[A]n important limitation to this study is the stature of our minor suspects. The [average] weight of our suspects was 168 lb., and the mean height was 5 ft. 8 in. tall; this population of minors mirrors the physiology of adolescents and adults more than that of young/small children.” Thus, “Continued surveillance of younger/smaller-stature suspects is warranted.”

That said, the researchers advise that “Decisions and policies about the use of CEWs on juveniles…should be based on scientific study, with regard to demonstrated risks and benefits in the context of available alternative force options.”


In the context of discussing CEW use against juveniles, it’s interesting to recall that the Taser was named after the inventor’s favorite childhood book character, Tom Swift, a young genius who invented a rifle that fired bolts of electricity. The name Taser is an acronym for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electronic Rifle.”

[Note: Another recent Taser study involving Dr. Bozeman was reported in a previous Force Science News Transmission, sent Aug. 23. That report concerned Bozeman’s research into real-world cardiac consequences of CEW exposure. Click here to view it.]

Leave a Reply


  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: support@forcescience.org
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.