Recently in San Diego, harbor police were dispatched to a call reporting that a man from a party cruise went overboard and needed to be rescued from the water. When the officers arrived and began to help the man out of the water, he started fighting. During the fight, the man was able to disarm one of the officers and obtain the officer's TASER. The man struck the officer with the TASER and then tried to take the officer's firearm. A backup officer shot and killed the man.
In an effort to research how many officers have been disarmed of their TASER, I contacted TASER International public relations manager Hilary Gibeaut. I asked her if she had any information on officers that have had their TASER taken away from them by combative suspects. Gibeaut provided me with several news articles documenting incidents where a suspect has taken a TASER away from an officer.
The information from Gibeaut confirmed that in the past few years there have been numerous incidents where suspects have grabbed the arresting officer's TASER and used or attempted to use the TASER against the officer. In some of these cases, the officers needed to use deadly force to subdue the combative suspects. Gibeaut told me that TASER does not teach weapon retention tactics. She said TASER leaves that up to the defensive tactics instructor at the agency that purchases the TASER.
Unfortunately, many agencies have given officers little or no training on how to defend the TASER from a weapon takeaway. Equally lacking is training on how to safely deploy the TASER while defending the firearm. This lack of training is putting officers in danger and creating potential liability issues for agencies nationwide. New defensive tactics and weapon retention techniques must be developed to specifically address this reality. With this information in mind, let's take a look at one weapon retention technique many officers have been taught in the past.
Old Techniques Don't Address TASER Defense
A commonly used two-handed weapon retention technique has saved many officers' lives. But by defending the firearm alone, it gives the suspect an open avenue to take the TASER from the officer's duty belt. If the suspect fires the TASER first, the officer might not get the chance to defend himself with his handgun. Given this reality, law enforcement trainers need to rethink some of the weapon retention techniques currently being taught.
In a desire to increase officer safety, I have developed a simple system for teaching officers how to defend not only their TASER, but all of the weapons systems on their duty belts.
By using your arms to push and to create a defensive wedge, you can circle to the suspect's back to keep him away from your firearm and your TASER. With this technique, you can create the distance you need to deploy the TASER. It is important to note that you should not drop both hands when you draw your TASER from your belt. This detail will increase officer safety.
The advantage of this technique is that it sets up a TASER application to the suspect's back. An application to the suspect's back ensures the suspect will not be hit in the eyes or throat with the barbed TASER darts. When hit in the back with TASER darts, there is a greater incapacitating effect due to the large muscles located there.
TASERs Require More Time
Most agencies require officers to carry the TASER on the opposite side of the handgun on the officer's duty belt. This is logical because there have been cases where officers who carried TASERs on the same side as their handguns accidentally drew their handguns instead of the TASERs and fired. However, offside carry adds precious seconds to the time it takes the officer to draw and accurately shoot the TASER.
After testing several different holsters and experimenting with different ways of drawing the TASER, I have found it takes the average officer approximately twice as long to draw and fire a TASER device as it does to draw and fire a firearm. In training, the length of time it takes to draw the TASER must be addressed.