Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Can Electric Weapons Be Made Safer?

Using Science to Improve Modern Policing

Police can immobilize suspects with electronic devices such as tasers and stun guns instead of using traditional physical force. While this reduces the risks from violent conflict, it introduces the risks from electrical shocks to the suspect. Exponent electrical engineers and biomechanical experts quantified the shocks from various scenarios to provide data for safety improvements.

The Challenge

As policing policies come under increased scrutiny, law enforcement and military agencies rely on electronic weapons to limit contact with suspects and minimize physical force. Electronic weapons such as stun cuffs, riot shields, tasers, and stun belts typically operate at high voltages, high frequencies, and low currents to stimulate and immobilize the musculoskeletal system.

Despite the intended benefits, the technology has not gone without scrutiny. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission receives regular inquiries concerning these devices. To understand the impact and physiological effects on apprehended suspects, Exponent was commissioned to analyze a variety of electronic weapons, electronic controls and restraining devices made by multiple manufacturers.

Exponent's Multidisciplinary Solution

Employing a collaborative investigative process, Exponent's electrical engineers, biomedical engineers, and medical laboratory scientists analyzed multiple brands and types of electronic weapons to determine the outputs of an ERD load and the resulting effects on the recipient.

By reconstructing a variety of scenarios used in real pursuits, Exponent also helped to refine the method of accurately determining the output power delivered to a load. Using devices made by different manufactures, Exponent was able to measure the accuracy of darts fired. Through a series of tests, Exponent also evaluated whether muscular contractions elicited by the electrical stimuli would be harmful to the suspect.

Exponent's Impact

Exponent's scientific consulting has helped shape regulatory standards in manufacturing, as well as provide meaningful data for law enforcement. Through data-driven insights, manufacturers and law enforcement agencies have become more aware of the load outputs and subsequent effects to those on whom the device is used.