503 – Use of Conducted Electrical Devices (CED)

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Purpose

To establish procedures and regulations governing the use of conducted electrical devices (CED) as a use of force option. [CALEA Standard 4.1.4]

Policy

It is the policy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) to always attempt to de-escalate and use sound tactics in any situation where force may become necessary.  In the event force becomes unavoidable, deputies shall only use the minimal amount of force necessary to overcome an immediate threat or to effectuate an arrest.

CEDs should not be seen as an all-purpose device that takes place of verbal de-escalation techniques.  CEDs are not harmless, and the potential for injury can be exacerbated by inappropriate use and deployment of the device.

CEDs are deployed as additional law enforcement tools and are not intended to replace firearms or self-defense techniques. They may be used to control dangerous or violent suspects when deadly force does not appear to be justified or necessary; attempts to subdue the suspects by other conventional tactics have been, or will likely be, ineffective in the situation at hand; or there is a reasonable expectation that it will be unsafe for deputies to approach within the contact range of the subject.

Definitions

Accidental Discharge – any time a CED cartridge fires due to mechanical failure of the device or an unintentional discharge by the operator.

Active Aggression – At this level of resistance, the subject poses a risk of immediate danger to the employee, another person, or themselves. This aggression may manifest itself through punching, kicking, striking, or any other action when apparent that the subject has the immediate means to injure an employee, subject, or another person.

Actively Resisting – Behavior that physically counteracts an employee’s attempt to lawfully control, and which creates risk of bodily injury to the employee, subject, or another person.

Anti-felon Identification Tags (AFID) – Small identifying discs expelled from a CED cartridge when probes are discharged.  Each AFID tag contains a serial number unique to the specific cartridge used.  AFID tags are sometimes referred to as Confetti tags.

Application – The actual contact and delivery of electrical impulse to the subject via probe discharge or drive stun.

CED Cycle – a five-second electrical discharge occurring when the CED trigger is pressed and released. The CED will continue to deliver an electrical discharge until the trigger is released.

Completing the Incapacitation Circuit  – When there is not adequate spread between probes attached to a subject, or one probe misses the subject or dislodges, the CED may be used in drive stun mode to temporarily incapacitate the subject.  This allows the electrical pulse to travel between the attached probe(s) and the point where the front of the CED makes contact with the subject.  This tactic is sometimes referred to as a three-point contact.

Conducted Electrical Device (CED) – A device designed to temporarily cause neuromuscular incapacitation by administering an electric shock through fine wires attached to a pair of darts discharged from the device.

Deployment – any activation of the CED resulting in a discharge of the probes or initiation of the device to drive stun the subject. The mere display of a CED or “laser painting” of a subject with the CED’s laser is not a deployment.

Drive Stun – The act of firmly pressing the front of the CED against the subject’s body and “driving” it into them, when the cartridge probes have been deployed or the cartridge has been removed from the end of the device. 

Excited Delirium – a state of extreme mental and physiological excitement, characterized by extreme agitation, hyperthermia, euphoria, hostility, exceptional strength, and endurance without fatigue. [Refer to Department Policy 514 – Excited Delirium]

Exigent Circumstances – circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that prompt and unusual action is necessary to prevent physical injury to self or others.

Fleeing/Evading – An active attempt by a person to avoid apprehension by a law enforcement officer through evasive actions while attempting to leave the scene.

Laser Painting/Red Dotting – placement of the laser/red dot of the device on the subject or ground. This method may achieve compliance with aggressive subjects.

Neuromuscular Incapacitation – The effect of the CED on a subject when, through the application of an electrical pulse, the CED dominates the motor nervous system by temporarily interfering with electrical signals sent to the skeletal muscles by the central nervous system.

Passive Resistance – Physical actions or a lack thereof that passively prevents, or attempts to prevent, the employee’s attempt to control. It is a common tactic of civil disobedience and labor disputes (e.g. a subject who remains in a limp, stiff, or prone position, refuses to comply with simple directions, participates in a sit-in, locks arms in a chain, or blocks an entry way).

Secondary Injury – an injury to the subject occurring due to the use of the CED other than the device itself. i.e. striking head from fall, broken bone, etc.

Sensitive Area – area of the body such as face, eyes, head, throat, chest area (area of the heart), breast, groin, genitals or known pre-existing injury areas.

Spark Test – The activation of a CED with the cartridge removed resulting in the electrical arcing across the front electrodes for the purpose of checking the functionality of the CED in a controlled environment.

TASER Cartridge – A replaceable vessel that generally contains compressed gas, probes, connecting wires, and confetti (AFID) tags.

Taser Control Unit – a unit assigned to the department for maintaining, issuing, tracking usage, and training employees on the CED.

Authorized Personnel and Training

Only commissioned deputies who have successfully completed an approved course of instruction through the Taser Control Unit on the deployment of the Conducted Electrical Device are authorized to carry and use them. Deputies shall only carry the CED model specific to the training they received. [CALEA Standard 4.3.2]

CED recertification will be conducted by the Firearms Training Unit during  firearms qualifications at the Academy. [CALEA Standard 4.3.3]

Failure of any deputy to complete required CED recertification during his or her respective annual firearms qualification will result in revocation of authorization to carry the device.

Authorized Conducted Electrical Device

Only the CED issued by the HCSO is authorized for individual carry and deployment by HCSO deputies. The use of personally-owned conducted electrical devices or cartridges is prohibited. [CALEA Standard 4.3.1 a]

Deputies shall be required to wear their issued CED when working on duty or off duty in uniform. This does not preclude the deputy from simultaneously wearing other types of less-lethal devices while in uniform if in accordance with departmental policy and the deputy is trained and certified in the use of each additional device. Plainclothes deputies are authorized to carry the CED in a concealed manner so as not to attract unwanted attention.

No changes, alterations or modifications are permitted to the device or the related equipment without departmental approval.

Assignment of Conducted Electrical Devices

Each CED will be issued to a deputy according to his or her assignment.

CED liaisons assigned to each division within the HCSO will track the cartridge assignments and download capabilities of the CEDs for deputies assigned to their respective divisions.

The TASER Control Unit will track and monitor all CEDs issued to personnel and be responsible for all orders and repairs of all CED equipment.

The CED shall be worn opposite of the duty weapon, known as the support side. The CED may also be worn on a load bearing vest but always kept inside a holster specifically designed for that particular CED.  

Any deputy who retires or is reassigned or terminated will immediately surrender his or her assigned CED and cartridges to the TASER Control Unit for reissue.

CED Deployment Procedures

Deputies may use the CED only when circumstances known to or perceived by the individual deputy, at the time, indicate the application of the CED is reasonable to subdue or control: [CALEA Standard 4.1.4]

  1. A person who is actively resisting a deputy’s commands and the deputy reasonably believes the person is creating an immediate, credible threat of physical harm toward himself or herself, the deputy or others.
  2. A person who engages in, or displays the intent to engage in active aggression toward a lawful law enforcement action.
  3. A person expressing the intent and who has immediate and reasonable means to commit suicide or cause serious self-inflicted physical injury.
  4. A person attempting to escape custody of the deputy. Custody means the deputy has Probable Cause to justify an arrest and the subject has been informed they are under arrest. NOTE:  Fleeing/Evading should not be the sole justification for using a CED against a subject.  Deputies should consider the severity of the offense, the subject’s threat level to others, and the risk of serious injury to the subject before deciding to use a CED on a fleeing subject.
  5. A person fleeing apprehension of a deputy known to have committed or wanted for a felony offense.

Before using the CED, the deputy shall, if practical, have a backup or arrest team and verbally warn the subject that the CED will be deployed if the subject does not cease his or her combative behavior and comply with the deputy’s commands.

A deputy will not utilize a TASER and a firearm in their hands at the same time.

Use cover and distance to ensure officer safety whenever possible.

If the subject continues to refuse verbal commands, Red Dotting/Laser Painting can be an effective psychological tool and may result in compliance. Deputies should not red dot a person or animal unless the situation warrants the use of a CED.

Have a second TASER cartridge present or a second CED ready to deploy in case probes miss the target, a malfunction occurs or an air cartridge is defective.

If two or more deputies are involved when a CED is deployed, the deputies shall make every effort to coordinate their actions to avoid miscommunication or jeopardizing their tactical situation. Deputies should not intentionally deploy more than one CED at a time against a subject.

When the CED is going to be deployed and when reasonable, the user should announce, “TASER! TASER!” This will provide other deputies with a warning that the CED is about to be deployed and give notification to the subject of imminent discharge.

Use preferred target areas. The preferred areas are below the neck area for back shots and the lower center mass below the chest for front shots. The preferred target areas increase dart-to-heart distance and reduce cardiac risks. Back shots are preferable to front shots when practicable.

Only one completed conducted electrical device circuit shall be intentionally used on a subject unless:

  1. Temporary neuromuscular incapacitation is not achieved, or
  2. The subject is reasonably perceived to continue to be an immediate threat of serious injury, or
  3. The use of deadly force may reasonably be avoided, or
  4. Other exigent circumstances justify the use of simultaneous multiple completed circuits.

If the subject runs after deployment, or rolls, deputies must also run and move with the subject to prevent CED wires from breaking.

Handcuff the subject as soon as safely possible. Immediately upon restraining the subject and in order to assist with breathing, deputies shall position the subject in an upright seated position if possible or on his or her side. As soon as it is tactically safe to do so, check the subject’s vital signs (pulse and breathing) to determine any medical difficulties.  Do not allow the subject to be placed in a prone position after restraining as it could result in possible allegations of positional asphyxia. Deputies shall monitor the subject until releasing them to the Joint Processing Center (JPC) or medical personnel. Note: Deputies should be aware that there is a higher risk of sudden death in subjects under the influence of drugs and/or exhibiting symptoms associated with excited delirium.

Deputies should avoid attempting to control continued resistance or exertion by pinning the subject to the ground or against a solid object, using their body weight.  If body weight is needed to secure the subject, deputies should place their knee on the shoulder area of the subject. Placement of body weight on the subject’s back or stomach while in the prone position may cause positional asphyxia. NOTE: Kneeling or placement of body weight to the head and/or neck area of the subject is strictly prohibited unless deadly force is justified.

When a deputy deploys a CED on a subject, the deputy should use the CED for one standard cycle (five seconds) and then evaluate the situation to determine if subsequent cycles are necessary. Any subsequent applications should be independently justifiable, and the risks should be weighed against other force options.   If the deputy is unable to gain and maintain control of the subject after two cycles, deputies should consider other appropriate force options to respond to the threat level presented, including the assistance of backup deputies to physically restrain the subject.

Deputies should consider that exposure to the CED for longer than 15 seconds (whether due to multiple applications or continuous cycling) may increase the risk of death or serious injury to the subject and should be avoided. If more than three (3) cycles are required to control the suspect and prevent an escalation in the use of force, deputies are reminded that the risk of death significantly increases. Each Taser application must be objectively reasonable and individually justified.

If a combative subject disarms the CED from a deputy who is alone and threatens or attempts to use the CED against the deputy, the deputy must defend himself or herself or take actions to avoid becoming incapacitated and risking the possibility that the subject could gain control of the deputy’s firearm. However, if multiple deputies are present, a subject’s attack with a CED against one deputy should not in and of itself cause a deadly-force response by other deputies. The deputy should evaluate the totality of the circumstances.

Restricted Use of Conducted Electrical Device

Unless exigent circumstances exist, deputies shall not use a CED in the situations listed below;

  1. The CED should not be deployed near flammable liquids and fumes. CEDs can ignite gasoline or other flammables. If a person is near or suspected to have been sprayed or doused with any type of flammable substances, including OC spray, a deputy shall not deploy a CED to subdue the person. The deputy shall be required to use another less-lethal method to subdue the person under these circumstances.  [CALEA Standard 4.1.4]
  2. For the dispersal of protestors/demonstrators who are exercising their Constitutional Rights of Free Speech or Assembly and are non-compliant by passively resisting deputy’s commands, the CED SHALL NOT BE USED to overcome the passive resistance.  Deputies will contact a supervisor and if necessary, additional deputies will be used to overcome the resistance.
  3. A CED shall not be used simply to protect property from destruction or damage.
  4. Passive resistance, or only non-compliance with verbal commands, does not justify the use of the CED.
  5. A CED shall not be used on a handcuffed or otherwise restrained person absent overtly assaultive behavior that cannot be reasonably dealt with by any other less intrusive action.
  6. A CED shall not be used to awaken unconscious or intoxicated individuals.
  7. A CED shall not be used to “escort” individuals.
  8. A CED shall not be used to elicit information.
  9. Deputies shall not intentionally display the CED or red dot a subject as a practical joke, in the eyes, or as a form of harassment.
  10. A CED shall not be used when the location would lead a deputy to reasonably conclude that the subject will sustain serious injury or death as a result of the deployment of the CED.  Examples include, but are not limited to: slanted rooftops, ledges of tall structures, or deep water.
  11. In addition, the CED shall not be deployed against a subject who is in control of a vehicle in motion (e.g. automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles, and scooters).
  12. A CED shall not be used against visibly pregnant women, elderly persons, young children, or visibly frail persons, except where lethal force would be permitted, or where the deputy has reasonable cause to believe there is an imminent risk of serious physical injury. Deputies shall determine the reasonableness of CED use based upon all circumstances, including the subject’s age, size, physical condition, and the feasibility of lesser force options. Deputies shall be trained in the increased risks that CEDs may present to the above-listed vulnerable populations.

When practicable, avoid using a CED on a person in the following circumstances unless the situation justifies an increased risk:

  1. Is on an elevated or unstable surface (e.g., tree, roof, ladder, ledge, balcony, porch, bridge or stair);
  2. Could fall and suffer serious injury to the head or other area;
  3. Could fall on a sharp object or surface (e.g., holding a knife, falling on glass);
  4. Is less able to catch or protect self in a fall (e.g., restrained or handcuffed);
  5. Has known impaired reflexes (e.g., from alcohol, drugs, or certain medications);
  6. Is running or moving under momentum;
  7. Is operating or riding any mode of transportation (e.g., vehicle, bus, bicycle, motorcycle, or train), conveyance (e.g., escalator, moving walkway, elevator, skateboard, rollerblades), or machinery: or
  8. Is located in water, mud, or marsh environment if the ability to move is restricted.

The CED is not authorized within the housing area of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Jail Facility.

Post-Deployment Procedures

A deputy using a CED on a subject will ensure a supervisor is notified immediately after deployment. A supervisor shall respond to the scene of any incident where a deputy (on or off-duty) deploys a CED on a subject. [CALEA Standard 4.1.5]

Persons who have been subjected to the CED shall be treated as follows:

  1. Deputies shall use the two-finger method for removing the probes. Since the probes may have blood on them (biohazard), deputies shall wear protective gloves when handling them. The wires shall be wound around the cartridge. The used probes will be placed in the spent cartridge container. The probes, cartridge, and a few of the anti-felon identification confetti (AFID) discs shall be placed into evidence.
  2. Deputies shall not remove the probes if the probes are located in sensitive areas. If probes cannot be removed because of an unusual penetration or a hit to the sensitive areas, the subject shall be transported by emergency medical services (EMS) to an appropriate health care facility. [CALEA Standard 4.1.5]
  3. The deputy shall request emergency medical personnel to examine the subject on all full cartridge deployments that make contact (application) with the subject. Deputies or emergency medical personnel will apply a bandage or other appropriate medical treatment to the puncture site. All medical attention related to drive stuns will be treated on a case-by-case basis. [CALEA Standard 4.1.5]
  4. Deputies must be aware that one easily overlooked aspect of injury in using a CED on a person is that of falling from a standing position. An examination with particular emphasis on secondary injuries should be performed by emergency medical personnel if they are on scene. Otherwise, the examination should be performed by the on-scene supervisor. [CALEA Standard 4.1.5]
  5. Deputies shall complete a Law report following each CED deployment. If applicable, an Arrest report shall be completed in addition to the Law report.
  6. When booking the subject into the Joint Processing Center, the transporting deputy shall inform the intake deputy that a CED was deployed on the person.
  7. If the incident was not a use of force, but rather an accidental discharge, the deputy shall send the case number associated with his or her incident to the Taser Control Unit at [email protected] no later than 24 hours following the incident.
  8. Failure to comply with the documentation and notification requirements of this policy may result in disciplinary action.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Respond to scenes where the CED was deployed by a deputy.

Summon emergency medical personnel to administer emergency medical care if not already done.

Investigate and document each incident where a CED was deployed (including accidental discharges), and review the use of force report and the deputy’s Law and Arrest report.

NOTE: Accidental discharges may or may not require use of force reports depending on the circumstances. However, all CED deployments of any kind (except those during sanctioned training) require the generation of a Law report.

Approve each CED-related Law Report and complete a Blue Team.  Ensure that a copy of the Law Report and Blue Team are forwarded to the appropriate chain of command.  When submitting the Blue Team, ensure that the Taser Control Unit is selected as one of the recipients.

Supervisors will ensure that photographs are taken of the probe penetration sites and any secondary injuries. All photographs will be submitted as evidence.

NOTE: If the probe locations are in sensitive areas, photographs shall be taken by a crime scene technician or deputy of the same gender.

The designated supervisor in each division shall download the CED and attach the download document to the use of force report. In addition, the CED download should be saved in the CED computer program download file.

If a HCSO employee deploys a CED and subsequently the subject is transported to a medical facility, the employee’s immediate supervisor shall notify the on-call OIG / IAD investigator of the incident through Watch Command. This notification shall be made if the subject is transported to a medical facility regardless of whether the required transport is made as a direct result of the CED deployment or as a result of some secondary source.

Any CED that is involved in a use of force incident where there is hospitalization, serious bodily injury, death, or suspected wrongful conduct or use shall be taken immediately and given to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) / Internal Affairs Division (IAD) and / or Homicide Division for download and investigation of the incident. The CED shall remain in the possession of the designated investigative unit until the case is resolved or that division authorizes its release back to service. Notification of having transferred possession of the equipment to an investigative unit shall immediately be made to the TASER Control Unit so it can be reflected in the master CED inventory.  A replacement CED may be issued to the deputy if one is available.

Care of Conducted Electrical Device

Deputies shall conduct a spark test/check, and clean the TASER at the beginning of each shift to ensure the CED will function properly.  A spark test is an equipment check conducted outside of public view to ensure the CED is operable.  It is conducted by removing the cartridge, test firing the device and observing the electrical arc.  This spark test does not require the completion of any report. [CALEA Standard 4.3.1 d]

Deputies shall conduct a daily visual inspection of their CED.  Any deputy with a defective or damaged CED or any part thereof, shall notify a CED liaison immediately. Deputies are expected to keep the device clean, removing dirt and debris that may accumulate on the CED and the holster.[CALEA Standard 4.3.1 d]

CED liaisons shall conduct routine inspections to ensure the batteries of their own and their deputies’ CEDs are properly charged.. When conducting an inspection of the CED system, regardless if a test discharge is conducted, the inspecting supervisor shall remove the probe cartridge prior to conducting the inspection. If the battery percentage registers 20% or less, a new battery will be issued to the deputy. The TASER Control Unit shall issue the batteries and the  old battery shall be used as a “trainer” until it registers 2% or less, at which point it will be discarded.

The CED liaison shall take possession of defective or damaged CEDs or parts thereof and retain possession of them until they can be returned to the TASER Control Unit to have the equipment repaired or replaced. [CALEA Standard 4.3.1 d]

The CED is programmed to give a five-second discharge. The probes should not be touched during this time, as anyone coming in contact with the probes will also receive the same electrical discharge. Deputies should avoid stepping on or tripping over the CED wires.

Deputies should keep their hands away from the front of the CED at all times.

Always replace the issued Taser cartridges by their expiration date. Outdated cartridges will only be used for training purposes.

Use of Conducted Electrical Device on Animals

The full effect of the CED on animals is not yet known. Animals have shown the ability to recover quickly from the effects of CEDs. If a CED is utilized on an animal, the deputy should be prepared to act quickly after it is deployed, as it may have a more temporary or diminished disabling effect. [CALEA Standard 4.1.4]

The use of the CED on any animal will not require a use of force report. However, a Law Report shall be completed, and supervisor notification shall be made immediately upon deployment. A supervisor shall respond to the scene.

References

Department Policy #240 – Dress Code

Department Policy #402 – Significant Incident Notification

Department Policy #501 – Use of Force

Department Policy #502 – Less Lethal Impact and Restraining Devices

Department Policy #501 – Excited Delirium

Patrol SOP #501 – Patrol Bureau Inventory and Training Section

CJC SOP #307 – Use of Force

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

September 9, 2010              December 22, 2020

September 23, 2010

April 26, 2012

November 21, 2014

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