Methods: To explore this issue, the authors carried out a pilot study with 21 police recruits who received a TASER exposure as part of their training at the San Bernardino County (CA) Training Center. Each recruit was given a battery of cognitive tests 3–4 h before TASER exposure, within 5 min after exposure, and again 24 h after exposure.
Objectives: Despite its widespread adoption by more than two-thirds of police departments in the US, there has not been a single study examining the effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning. This inquiry is important for two reasons. First, research has consistently documented cognitive deficits following exposure to electricity (the TASER is an electrical device). Second, questions have emerged regarding whether TASER exposure impairs suspects’ ability to understand and waive their Miranda rights.
Results: Recruits experienced statistically significant reductions in several measures of cognitive functioning following TASER exposure. However, all recruits had returned to their baseline levels of functioning within 24 h. Learning effects were documented in several of the cognitive tests.
Conclusions: The questions driving this study involve serious issues including constitutionally protected rights of the accused, use of force by police, and previously unexamined effects of the TASER on the human body. The pilot study represents a critical first step in exploring the effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning. Moreover, the results provided the authors with important information that will guide their larger study, a randomized controlled trial where healthy human volunteers will be randomly assigned to four groups, two of which receive a TASER exposure.
- Electrical injury
- Miranda waiver
- Police use of force
ASJC Scopus subject areas