A new study on Tasers carried out by Drexel University and Arizona State University, funded by the US Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice, is troubling. The study involved participants being subjected to 50,000-volt Taser shocks and then tested for cognitive impairment.

The tests showed ‘short-term declines in cognitive functioning comparable to dementia’.

The researchers said the study raised ‘serious questions about the ability of police suspects to understand their rights at the point of arrest’. It stated that ‘Taser exposure caused statistically significant reductions in verbal learning and memory. The effects lasted, on average, less than one hour’.  

Other side-effects included difficulty in concentrating, increased levels of anxiety, emotional debilitation and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Professor White from Arizona’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and one of the report’s authors, said: ‘Tasers are a great alternative to deadly force. When used in lieu of firearms, Tasers can save lives. But using a Taser is not without risk. Although they are considered safe when used on healthy people, people have died from being tased. They should be treated as a dangerous weapon.’

The report raises concerns about the rights of the accused/suspect protected by law, the use of force by police and the effects of Tasers on the human body. UK statistics show that, year on year, the use of Tasers has increased.

Moreover, there is a campaign by senior police officers, police and crime commissioners, and police unions for every officer in the UK to be armed with a Taser – a campaign which I hope is aware of this latest research.

Alastair Logan, Law Society Human Rights Committee