10 Guidelines for Use
of TASERs in Simulated Training Environments
Chief Trainer for IES
The use of TASER®
conducted energy weapons in law enforcement has increased dramatically over the
last few years. The less-lethal weapons have proven effective in a variety of
situations and their use has been credited with saving many lives; in many
cases if the TASER devices weren't effective the only alternative left to the
officer would have been lethal force. To say that the statistics estimating
saved lives, reductions in injuries and cost savings to agencies resulting from
TASER use is impressive would be a gross understatement.
Thousands of law
enforcement agencies have either begun TASER technology deployment or have
plans to deploy TASER devices with their officers in the very near future.
This, of course, necessitates that officers be trained in the operation and
application of TASER weapons. The question then, becomes how do agencies
provide adequate initial and recurrent training on the TASER system to its
officers? The answer lies in the scenario based training that an agency is
most likely already providing its officers.
The Denver Police
Department recently received negative publicity when one of its officers shot a
knife-wielding subject instead of using a TASER weapon, which was present at
the scene. More recently than that, the ACLU criticized the Denver PDs
excessive use of the TASER weapons. These damned if you do and damned if you
dont messages may leave many officers confused about when to deploy and use
the TASER system on their belts, and more importantly, are very likely to
result in hesitation and an escalation of events.
All officers who carry
TASER devices need to practice with the less-lethal weapons on a regular basis,
as well as demonstrate they understand their agencys policies and procedures
relating to its usethe officer must be able to show the instructor where the
TASER is appropriate, and equally important, where not appropriate. In turn,
instructors must document that this type of training was received and that the
officer demonstrated the appropriate knowledge of the TASER system and its use.
The simulated environment provides the most cost-effective means to achieve
Sgt. Richard Gentry,
supervisor of the Miami Police Department Officer Survival Detail, recently
stated, During 2003, the Miami Police Department made history with not having
one (1) police involved shooting, which is credited to the training and the
less-than lethal weapons we have, such as our OC and TASER weapon. We purchased
two (2) laser TASER weapons that are part of the Range 3000 XP4 Use of Force
Simulator. This addition to our training has been nothing less than a success.
Before running to any
company that produces simulation systems and spending your entire training
budget on TASER systems modified to work with your simulators, there are three
questions that need to be asked:
How closely does the modified TASER weapon
mimic the operation of the actual model of TASER system that your agency
What is the initial cost of the modified
TASER device vs. the cost of training regularly with actual TASER weapons?
What is the potential cost of providing
officers with just the minimum training recommended by the manufacturer?
In addition, the
following 10 guidelines should also be considered:
1. The TASER system that
is used by officers in simulation training should have the look, feel and
functionality of the actual TASER model that is being deployed in the field by
For example, modified
TASER devices should include two lasers at the same 8-degree spread of actual
TASER probes. Without this spread, accuracy cannot be measured when the trainee
fires the TASER weapon on the simulation system.
2. Modified TASER devices
and field-deployed TASER weapons should function on the same power
sourceenabling your agency to use batteries already in inventory to power both
3. The simulation system
should require that both of the infrared (IR) lasers in the modified TASER
device hit within the target zone drawn around the subject before the system
branches to the subject reacting to a hit from the TASER weapon. This
requirement mimics a real TASER weapon in that if only one probe hits the
target, the circuit is not completed and the TASER device is ineffective.
4. If your agency employs
stricter target areas than those recommended by the TASER manufacturer, then
the simulation system also must allow you to change these target areas to accurately
reflect your agencys TASER weapon deployment regulations.
5. The system must allow
for appropriate branching if the trainee misses with the modified TASER device.
In other words, the trainee should be required to reload and re-engage the
subject with the TASER weapon, which means that the modified TASER system
should have a minimum of two cartridges for use on the simulation system.
6. The modified TASER
device should behave like an actual TASER weapon in another respect as well.
For instance, if the subject in the scenario is prone, the modified TASER
device and the simulation system must require that the student rotate the TASER
weapon 90 degrees in order to get a good hit (grip towards the feet). Since
this is required in a real world application of the TASER weapon against a
prone subject, the TASER device used in simulation must behave in the same way.
7. Modified TASER devices
must be cost effective. Law enforcement agencies around the nation are all
grappling with limited budgets and trainers must be able to show that they can
do more training for less money. While it is important to always follow the
manufactures guidelines on the number of live cartridges that should be fired
by an officer, the expense of these cartridges may limit any additional
training that the officer could receive. Additional training results in lower
liability; this has been proven repeatedly.
8. The modified TASER
device and the simulation system must provide regular training with realistic
scenarios that employ a variety of force options, including the TASER weapon.
The scenarios cannot be simple shoot/dont shoot as they relate to the TASER
system as these scenarios may give officers the false belief that the TASER
technology is the correct force option for all encounters. The scenarios must
also allow for other training objectives, as they relate to the TASER device,
to be accomplished. Reloading, transitions to and from the TASER weapon and
approach are just a few examples.
9. The realism of the
modified TASER device is useless if it cumbersome or costly to use. For
example, the modified TASER system as well as the extra cartridges should fit
into the officers actual TASER holster and cartridge carrier on their
utility/equipment belt. This requires the trainee to draw, deploy and, if
necessary, transition from the TASER weapon to another use of force
10. The modified TASER
device should come with more than one (modified laser) cartridge to allow for
reloads during the scenario. The
possibility of missing a moving target with at least one probe is very
real. Therefore, the student must have
the ability to reload the modified TASER system if necessary.
When these conditions are
met, the officer receives regular and effective training on the use of the
TASER weapon at a substantially reduced cost. For example, the Houston, TX PD
has approximately 5,000 officers. The cost for a real TASER weapon cartridge is
approximately $15.00. This means it would cost approximately $150,000.00 per
year for each Houston PD officer to perform the recommended actual TASER weapon
cartridge firings each year (that is a cost of more than six patrol cars!). The
cost of actual TASER training would make it nearly impossible for officers to
supplement their training by firing the TASER weapons in any repeated training
However, if trainers
equip their simulation system with a modified TASER device, these officers
could continue to train with the TASER weapon in a realistic environment
(assuming the above conditions have been met).
Since officers will be
firing these modified TASER devices in judgmental use-of-force scenarios,
trainers can document that their trainees have a clear understanding of the
agencys policy relating to TASER weapon deployment. And, equally important,
that they can deploy the TASER system against a life size, realistic and moving
target in real time.
recertification training could also be performed on the simulator resulting in
an even greater cost saving for the agency. For example, TASER International,
Inc. has made its User Certification course available on the Range 3000 XP4
simulation system, complete with lecture, testing and practical exercises. It
should be clear to all trainers that without continuous, recurrent and
recertification training, your agency may open itself up to lawsuits based on
the failure to adequately train its officers. With TASER technology use
becoming more and more prevalent, liability issues are sure to follow.
Stated simply, if your
agency carries a TASER energy weapon on the street, trainers should have the
TASER system in their simulation environment as well. Failure to offer this as
an option in simulation training may result in adverse training for your
New equipment, no matter
how effective, is useless unless the operator completely understands its
function, application, and the related procedures and policies. Simulation
training with the TASER devices can effectively educate officers in all of
these areas and will likely result in officers using the TASER weapon in the
most tactically effective, cost-effective manner in order to protect citizens,
officers and suspects.
About the Author
Brown has more than ten years of experience in training federal, state and
municipal law enforcement agencies on judgmental use of force in simulated
environments as well as in live fire environments. Brown has also trained
Taiwan, and several agencies
Europe. He holds instructor ratings for various use
of force applications such as Baton, Firearm, Chemical Agents, Taser, etc. Brown is a member of the National Tactical
Officers Association, the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms
Instructors, the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, as well as on
the technical advisory board of the
Center. Brown is the Chief
Trainer for IES Interactive Training, manufacturers of the MILO Training &
Presentation System. Brown can be reached at