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Although none of the agencies have separate use-of-force policies that specifically address Tasers, all seven agencies include the use of Tasers into their existing policies.
The placement of the Taser on the use-of-force continuums of the agencies varied.10 Specifically, we found that the seven agencies placed the Taser at three different levels on their use-of-force continuums. As shown in table 1, two agencies—the Sacramento Police Department and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department—permit the use of Tasers when a police officer perceives the situation as potentially harmful, as when a subject engages in assaultive behavior that creates a risk of physical injury to another. Impact weapons, such as night sticks and batons, can also be used in these situations. They include, for example, instances in which a subject attacks or threatens to attack an officer by fighting and kicking.
Four other police departments—the Austin Police Department, the Ohio
Highway Patrol, the Phoenix Police Department, and the San Jose Police
Department—allow the use of Tasers at a lower level in the use-of-force
continuum in situations that the officer perceives as volatile.11 This occurs, for example, when a subject is actively resisting arrest but not attacking the officer. The use of chemical sprays12 to subdue the subject is another option in such a situation. Finally, one agency—the Orange County Sheriff’s Department—allows the use of Tasers in situations that an officer perceives as tactical, such as when a subject is “passively resisting” by not responding to the lawful, verbal commands of the officer.