Sample Essay on Electronic Stun Devices and Other Less Lethal Weapons


            Non-lethal weapons describe the type of weapons that have been introduced in the law enforcement with the intention to reduce the probability to kill during the use-of-force operations. According to Pauletta (2001: 21), accidental as well as incidental casualties are always reported whenever the law enforcement agents employ force in the attempt to combat unlawful acts. Employment of non-lethal weapons in combat situations however intends to limit the risk of attributing to these casualties in any possible way. Such weapons are particularly employed in situations where lethal force and a huge number of casualties is not desirable as well as in circumstances where policy requirements do not allow for use of conventional force (Paul, 2009: 22). Non-lethal weapons may be employed by a range of law enforcement agents including the conventional military, the police, the UN forces and occupational army to enhance stability activities. Such activities may include channelizing a combat zone, regulating movement of the public and inhibiting public access to protected areas (Rappert, 2003: 50). This paper will establish whether claims stating that non-lethal weapons bring significant benefits to the police and public safety are valid.

The use of Electronic Stun Devices (ESD) and other non-lethal weapons

            The use of ESDs and other non-lethal weapons has become progressively more common among the law enforcement agents as they try to deal with dangerous and combative opponents in the battlefield. According to Bonomo (2007: 33), ESD and non-lethal weapon technologies have assumed an intermediate level that balances between the use of verbal and physical force and lethal firearms. On this note, the use of these technologies has continually been marketed as increasing the police and public safety. This is because the new technology displaces the use of lethal force as well as protects the police officers from directly subduing risky and combative opponents. According to these claims, ESDs and other non-lethal weapons are highly effective compared to other conventional weapons in inflicting pain as well as subduing a combative opponent while instilling minimal physical injuries. Supporters of these claims have also argued that ESDs and other non-lethal devices have significantly been modified by manufacturers to enhance usage by even non-trained individuals without increasing the risk of accidental and incidental casualties (Stephen and Pamela, 2008: 109).

The claims that the use of ESDs and other non-lethal weapons lead to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety are however invalid as there are varying implications proving the growing risk of using these devices in use-of-force combats. Although the Electrical Stun Devices could be safer compared to lethal firearms, scholarly evidence has shown that these devices have the capacity to cause significant implications, which indicates that they do not necessarily increase the police and public safety. An argument by David (2005: 75) classified ESDs and less-lethal weapons as torture devices that can cause death. David realized that although these devices may be intended to dislodge the use of lethal devices like firearms, their deployment over the years has resulted to a huge number of deaths. An inquiry by Robert (2000: 39) further indicated that more than 277 individuals succumbed to death between 2001 and 2007 after being exposed to and ESD devices. According to the inquiry, 80% of these victims were unarmed, which indicates that the device was not only a threat to life but it also interfered with basic power equation, which states that the amount of power used against a target should be proportional to the degree of threat used. This is especially because the ESD devices are often used in instances where firearms among other lethal weapons cannot be justified, which raise the risk of unarmed casualties in the public domain.

The UN Committee has reported that the use of ESDs and certain less-lethal devices can be a form of torture, and as such, they cannot be termed as beneficial devices that contribute to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety. According to this committee, the use of ESDs and other less-lethal devices inflicts severe pain on victims, which increases their degree of suffering and not safety (David, 2005: 97). The use of Stun devices has also been criticized by Amnesty International with the claim that it raises the potential abuse on the victims within the public domain. Although the stun devices may not necessarily cause visible injuries as the normal batons would, Amnesty International has reported that excessive exposure stun belts and electroshock guns culminates to torture. This is because such actions inflict extreme pain on individuals within the public domain, which increases their degree of suffering rather than enhancing safety.

Stephen and Pamela (2008: 119) reviewed various incidents in the attempt to establish the degree of “safety” that could be associated with the use of ESDs and other less-lethal devices. His findings however indicated that these devices attributed to fatal implications, which invalidates that claims stating that these devices contribute to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety. According to Stephen and Pamela (2008: 121), a police officer died in 2003 due to prolonged exposure to a stun device during a training exercise. Although this took place under controlled conditions, medical examinations showed that the device had caused severe injuries that included excessive dizziness and destruction of internal body organs. In 2004, a report in CBS News showed that more than 70 people had died from prolonged exposure to a stun device. In the same year, a police officer that is believed to have been a possible security threat suffered hypoglycemic shock after constant ESD shots (Stephen and Pamela, 2008: 122). Although the man is thought to have been living with a hypoglycemic condition, a medical examiner proved that the ESD device was the root cause for his death. A 56 year old woman died in 2006 after being exposed to extreme Taser shocks. Although the woman’s condition, as she was bound in a wheelchair, may have been blamed for her defenselessness, her death was classified as homicidal because it was caused by an ESD device. Four people further succumbed to death in Canada after being exposed to an ESD shock. The individuals had been captured by police officers for driving in a car that had very loud music. As a way of avoiding arrest, the individuals escaped by foot but the police fired the electrical devices, which saw them succumbing to death after being shocked. These incidents indicate that ESDs and other less-lethal devices do not contribute to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety as promotional statements used to market these products claim (Stephen and Pamela, 2008: 127).

Research by Bonomo (2007: 89) showed that ESDs and other less-lethal weapons impair breathing and respiratory health, which adds to prove indicating that these devices do not attribute to unmitigated benefits to police and the public safety. According to this research, prolonged exposure to ESD devices that mainly include the Taser can culminate to respiratory health risks that can ultimately be fatal. Taser International also found out that prolonged exposure to taser among other ESD devices can lead to cases of hallucination, which is likely to cause death. Research by Pauletta (2001: 117) has also shown that the use of ESDs and other less-lethal devices can lead to cardiac arrests, which further invalidates claims that the devices offer unmitigated benefits to police and public safety. According to Shaun (2006: 130), manufacturers have issued warnings to law enforcement agents pertaining to how they should use the so called less-lethal devices on their targets. According to these guidelines, the law enforcement agents should aim to shoot below the chest area as direct shots to the chest can lead to cardiac arrests. Shaun further found out that these warnings had been derived from new medical research, which indicated that the ESD shots near the chest area interfered with the heart rhythm. Evidence from these scholars thus indicate that claims stating that the use of ESDs and other less-lethal weapons contribute to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety are invalid.

The invalidity of such claims can as well be proven through the use of broken window policing theory. According to this theory, the presence of police officers within a given neighborhood is not enough to curb vandalism as the community is required to give a hand in preventing crime. This is because people are bound to take initiative in protecting an area within which they may have invested, and as such, the area would be safer and free from crime if they feel a sense of ownership. The fact that cases of vandalism among other forms of crime are still rampant in our communities indicates that people do not feel any sense of ownership hence the reason as to why they do not seem to care about the level of damage caused by crime (Paul 2009: 52). While this symbolizes a high degree of unrepaired broken windows, it indicates that societies are highly vulnerable to military attacks since they do not have any defense against the prevailing situation. Lack of defense explains the fact that individuals are exposed to severe implications resulting from the various weapons used by the military officers irrespective of whether they are lethal or non-lethal. On this note, the use of ESDs and other less lethal devices would not result to unmitigated benefits to police and public safety (Bonomo 2007: 45).

A major problem associated with the use of ESDs and other less-lethal weapons is that it increases the use of force in situations where less violent options would be adopted. According to Shaun (2006: 118), the current military guidelines allow ESD devices to be employed even in situations where the opponent does not have any weapon, which limits the opportunity for police officers to reason with the involved opponent. This may in return expose innocent individuals to the negative implications associated with these devices.

Another problem associated with the use of ESDs and other less-lethal devices is that there has been an increase in legal implications pertaining to various ‘less-lethal’ weapons, which has seen them being termed as illegal. Electroshocks have for example been banned in Germany particularly when those possessing them do not have an official seal indicating that their weapons would not attribute to any health-related risk. While there are no such seals that have been issued to devices currently prevailing in the market, traders owning them can only keep them in stock but cannot use or sell them (Paul, 2009: 191). Conversely, electroshocks that can cause impact over a given distance have completely been outlawed in the country. This is because such weapons are bound to cause potential harm to a huge population if used within the public domain.

The use of ESDs and other less-lethal weapons has also attributed to constant demands for advanced training, which create challenges for the law enforcement agents. As explained by Shaun (2006: 122), police officers prior to the introduction of the new technology weapons were only cautioned by the Police Chief about being careful when using force against a civilian. The introduction of new technological devices has however opened an avenue for more detailed policies intended to remove ambiguity pertaining to an officer’s decision to use force. This has demanded that police officers would obtain advanced training to acquire important skills on how they can employ force against the public population. As a result, the law enforcement agents have found themselves depleting their limited resources to pay for expensive training programs.

Another problem related to the use of ESDs and other less-lethal devices is that they have increasingly been used on school children (Pauletta, 2001: 116). The claim that Tasers are safe when used on anybody weighing at least 60 pounds has increased cases of law enforcement agents patrolling schools to use these devices to instill discipline on children. A survey conducted by Rappert, 2003: 129) showed parents of a five-year-old pupil in Miami filed a law suit against the law enforcement agents for firing an ESD device on their child. The law enforcement agents defended their actions by claiming that the boy had threatened to hurt his leg with a broken piece of glass and that using a Taser was the only way he could be stopped from hurting himself. In another instance, police officers were sued for firing a Taser at an eleven-year-old pupil that had been accused of skipping school. It is however obvious that such actions were not justified since the police officers would have reasoned with the children rather than shocking them with ESD devices. Supporters of this new development claim that Tasers can be effective in handling deviant and non-cooperative pupils. This is however problematic as it can risk children’s welfare as they can succumb to implications that include death, difficulties in breathing, internal body injuries and cardiac arrest (Bonomo, 2007: 99).


The use of ESDs and other less lethal devices has increasingly been common in military operations particularly those intended to reduce the number of accidental and incidental casualties. These devices have particularly been beneficial to police officers by limiting their direct encounter with dangerous combatants and to the public by reducing the use of lethal weapons. The claims that ESDs and other less lethal weapons bring unmitigated benefits to police and public safety are however invalid. This is because such weapons attribute to death, respiratory problems and risks of cardiac arrests. The weapons have equally been associated with the potential increase in the use of force even in circumstances where non-violent alternatives would have been employed.











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