Examining the Effectiveness of TASERS® at Gaining Citizen Compliance

Published date01 October 2020
Date01 October 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2020, Vol. 31(8) 1234 –1255
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403419897953
Examining the Effectiveness
of TASERS® at Gaining
Citizen Compliance
Logan J. Somers1, William Terrill1,
Michael T. Rossler2, and Jason R. Ingram3
Since their emergence within the field of policing, the use of conducted energy devices
(CEDs) has produced a great deal of debate. However, few empirically rigorous studies
have shed light on the extent to which CEDs (e.g., TASERs) are actually successful
at gaining citizen compliance. As such, we examine 918 TASER cases collected from
three police agencies to assess effectiveness in relation to citizen compliance. Findings
demonstrate that officers generally classify the TASER as effective, but the level of
effectiveness varies depending on whether it was used in probe or drive-stun mode.
Multivariate regression models also identify a number of significant variables related
to TASER effectiveness, including citizen (e.g., height, weight, gender, impairment)
and officer (e.g., gender) characteristics. We discuss the findings in relation to those
found in prior studies, as well as implications for research, policy, and practice.
police, use of force, TASER, TASER mode, effective, effectiveness
The number of U.S. police agencies authorizing the use of conducted energy devices
(CEDs), primarily TASERs, has increased substantially over the years (Reaves, 2015),
with nearly all departments now permitting their use (Kane & White, 2015). Accordingly,
1Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
2Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA
3Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Logan J. Somers, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, 411 N. Central
Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA.
Email: ljsomers@asu.edu
897953CJPXXX10.1177/0887403419897953Criminal Justice Policy ReviewSomers et al.
Somers et al. 1235
there has been an impressive amount of research across a number of different areas sur-
rounding the weapon. For instance, researchers have examined TASERs with respect
to frequency of use (e.g., Adams & Jennison, 2007; Brandl & Stroshine, 2017), cor-
relates of use (e.g., Brandl & Stroshine, 2017; Gau et al., 2010), continua placement
and policy effects (e.g., Bishopp et al., 2015; Crow & Adrion, 2011), media portrayal
(e.g., Ready et al., 2008; White & Ready, 2009), cognitive impairment (e.g., Dawes
et al., 2014; Kane & White, 2015), and proximate-related deaths (Bozeman et al., 2009;
Zipes, 2012).
In addition, a number of studies have examined TASER effectiveness (e.g., Brandl
& Stroshine, 2017; Kaminski et al., 2013; Lee et al., 2009; Paoline et al., 2012; Terrill
& Paoline, 2012; Thomas et al., 2010; White & Ready, 2007, 2010) Prior work in this
area has varied, however, in terms of what constitutes “effectiveness.” As noted most
recently by Brandl and Stroshine (2017), TASER effectiveness has been conceptual-
ized in a variety of ways, including whether the weapon is associated with fewer offi-
cer and citizen injuries, whether it lessens the need to rely on lethal force, and whether
it generates compliance from resistant citizens. While assessing effectiveness in a mul-
titude of ways may be a strength, the large majority of prior work has focused solely
on injuries and lethal force.
There has been much less attention to perhaps the most straightforward measure of
effectiveness—the extent to which officers themselves indicate whether TASERs were
effective at gaining citizen compliance upon deployment. Moreover, much of the
existing work in this area has relied on data collected from a single agency where only
a fraction of officers were equipped with a TASER, thereby limiting the generalizabil-
ity. This has led to a call for future research to conduct a “multisite analysis of police
agencies that have incorporated the Taser into routine practices” (White & Ready,
2010, p. 97). Finally, prior studies have not delineated between the two distinct modes
of TASER use (e.g., probe and drive stun) and how effectiveness varies between the
Using data collected from a national use of force project, the present study seeks
to add to the body of literature by examining the relationship between TASERs
effectiveness in terms of citizen compliance and the potential correlates of such suc-
cessful (or unsuccessful) TASER deployments. In total, we examine 918 incidents
from three agencies in an attempt to more fully explore effectiveness within the
context of compliance.
Prior Research
The following review focuses on studies that directly relate to TASER effectiveness. It
begins with a brief discussion of the two most common ways that effectiveness has
been conceptualized, which is whether the weapon reduces officer and citizen injuries,
and whether it reduces the need to use lethal force. We then provide a more in-depth
review of the prior literature regarding the way TASER effectiveness has been mea-
sured in relation to its ability to generate citizen compliance (see Brandl & Stroshine,
2017 and Thomas et al., 2010 for further discussion on assessing effectiveness within

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT