Police Use of Force

Project Dates: 
2011-present

TaserA major focus on the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety has been its focus on police use of force. This initiative has been lead by Michael D. White, Associate Director of the CVPCS, and an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU.  Since 2005, Dr. White has been examining police use of the TASER. This work began in New York City when NYPD Deputy Commissioner James Fyfe asked White to teach a data analysis course to NYPD officers on his staff, and provided manual TASER use reports as a data source. Since that time, Dr. White has become a leading expert on police use of the TASER and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the topic. Much of this work has been completed with his colleague, Dr. Justin Ready. Their work has examined a variety of issues including descriptive studies of lethal and nonlethal incidents, predictors of device effectiveness, and officer perceptions of the device. Their most recent paper involves an incident-level profile of nearly 400 cases where a suspect died following exposure to a TASER device (what they call TASER-proximate deaths), using a combination of media data and medical examiner reports.

In October 2011, White, Ready and colleague, Dr. Robert Kane, received a $408,377 grant from the National Institute of Justice to explore the effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning. The three-year study involves a randomized controlled trial whereby study participants will be randomly assigned to one of four conditions: 1) Baseline, no physical exertion, no TASER; 2) Treatment 1, physical exertion only (intended to mimic suspect resistance); 3) Treatment 2, TASER only; 4) Treatment 3, physical exertion and TASER (n=25 for each condition). The study will be carried out at a public health clinic, and each participant will complete a battery of cognitive instruments at a preliminary screening stage; immediately before treatment exposure; immediately after completion of their treatment condition; one week later; and six months later. The research team will assess participants’ scores both within and across groups over time to assess change in cognitive functioning (e.g., repeated measures design). The overall goal of the study is to determine whether the TASER device produces any deficits in cognitive functioning, and if so, whether those deficits reach a threshold that poses problems for valid waivers of Miranda rights.

News Links:
Article in Yahoo! News on 10/14/2014 - Taser's 50,000-Volt Jolt Can Mess Up Your Brain

Research Staff

Michael D. White, Ph.D.
Justin Ready, Ph.D.
Robert Kane, Ph.D.

For additional reading on Dr. White's work related to police use of force see the manuscripts below.