With nearly every item under the sun, short of the kitchen sink and an anti-aircraft gun, strapped snuggly around their waists, officers today should be safer than ever before, right?
But are they indeed safer than officers of days gone by?
Does carrying a combined array of deadly and less than lethal weaponry truly protect them from harm? After all, electoshock weapons such as Tasers and/or similar devices are powerful enough to bring even the largest person to the ground, transforming the resisting behemoths into jerking and twitching lumps of screaming and squealing human flesh.
Or, is it possible that the mere sight of those electrically-charged weapons is enough to send someone into a rage? And I’m not speaking of a person who’s typically prone to fight the police for fun or sport. Yes, there are many people out there who enjoy fighting police officers. To them, doing so is a hobby much like collecting stamps or butterflies is to others.
Instead, I speak of the average Joe or Jane who’s typically a non-violent person who, upon seeing one of those nearly fluorescent yellow shock devices, is sent into a tornado-like whirlwind of punches, kicks, and other fits of anger.
A joint study conducted by London police officers and criminologists at the University of Cambridge found that, electroshock weapons such as Tasers can actually trigger what’s been called the “weapons effect,” a psychological issue that causes aggressive behavior and actions when someone simply sees such a device. This is especially true when the weapon is in the possession of law enforcement officers, including when they’re safely stored in a holster/case attached to the officers’ belts. Aiming one at someone is not necessarily the catalyst that prompts the attack(s).
The weapons effect is not a new finding. Not at all. It’s been around for four decades or so, prior to the onset of Taser use by officers. However, it seems that the number of assaults against officers has increased with the presence of Tasers and similar weaponry.
Triggered by Tasers
The University of Cambridge study states that assaults occur more often when Tasers are present than any other type of weapon.
And, the study found that as a result of the violence toward them, Taser-carrying officers were more likely to use force to bring those situations under control, and to protect themselves from physical harm.
In fact, the study found that in nearly 6,000 incidents that occurred between June 2016 and June 2017, London officers who carried Tasers were 48% more likely to use some type of force than an equal number of officers who did not carry the weapon. For comparison, 400 officers were armed with Tasers and 400 were not.
To put these numbers in perspective, though, from the almost 6,000 incidents, officers were assaulted a “grand total” of only 9 times. Six of those assaults were against Taser-carrying officers compared to 3 assaults against officers who did not possess a Taser.
Of the total number of use of force cases, the 48%, only 9 officers drew their Tasers from its holster. And, of the 9, only 2 applied shock to a suspect.
U.S. Officers Assaulted While On Duty
In the year 2017, 12,198 U.S. law enforcement agencies (not all) reported that 60,211 officers were assaulted while performing their duties or, 0.1 per 100 sworn officers. These numbers reflect 596,604 officers providing service to more than 269.6 million people. Of the 60,211 officers who were assaulted, 17,476 sustained injuries. (FBI stats).
The Cambridge/London study, while interesting and perhaps a bit eye-opening, suggests the solution to the problem is simply to conceal the Taser. Make it difficult to see. After all, many are made of a vivid yellow material that brings to mind a large, ripe lemon hanging from an officer’s duty belt.
The weapon, strategically placed among the other tools of the trade—baton, handcuffs, OC spray, flashlight, sidearm and spare magazines, glove pouch, cellphone holder, belt keepers, etc.—stands out like a flashing neon light.
The eyes are immediately drawn to it, sitting there in all its brightness in the cross-draw position opposite the lethal sidearm. It’s like standing before someone who has spinach caught in their teeth, or with their pants unzipped. The eyes are immediately drawn to that particular spot.
Concealing weapons, though, makes access to them difficult for officers, especially when quick reaction time is vital.
Maybe a color that stands out less could be the solution to less aggression. Something like …
As opposed to …
Or … a Blue, Blue Taser.