Force Tools - ECD

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 3/19/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: ADM.06.01 a, c, d, e LAST MODIFIED: 2/15/2017 LAST REVIEW: 2/15/2017


One of the force tools issued to deputies is the electronic control device (ECD). When used appropriately, ECDs are beneficial in effectively resolving serious or potentially serious situations. In many cases, their use reduces the need for other more serious force options, and can lower the rates of injuries to deputies and subjects. However, the use of an ECD carries certain risks to both the deputy and the subject. Deputies must understand the limitations, risks, and proper usage of the ECD when a deployment is being considered.

This policy provides guidelines for the carrying and use of ECDs to ensure that citizen, deputy, and suspect safety is maximized.


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to use objectively reasonable force to control or overcome the resistance put forth by individuals who are violent, exhibiting threatening or potentially violent behavior, or physically resisting arrest or detention. ECDs may be used by authorized and trained personnel in accordance with legal parameters and Sheriff’s Office policies.


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:

  • Deputy – All sworn Sheriff’s Office personnel regardless of rank, as well as reserve deputies while acting in their official capacity for the Sheriff’s Office.

  • ECD Coordinator – An ECD instructor designated by the Sheriff or his designee to oversee, assist, and/or manage the instruction, maintenance, and inventory of all ECD related materials.

  • ECD Instructor – A sworn employee who holds a current General Police Instructor certification from NMDPS as well as a current instructor certification for the specific make and model of ECD(s) utilized by the Sheriff’s Office.

  • Electronic Control Device (ECD) – A device designed primarily to discharge electrical charges into a subject, causing involuntary muscle contractions and overriding the subject’s voluntary motor responses.

  • Resistance – Force used by subjects to oppose, defeat, attack, and/or avoid arrest or apprehension.

  • Sensitive Population Groups – Persons who reasonably appear or are known to be, children, elderly, frail or weak, pregnant, suffering from a heart condition, users of a cardiac pacemaker, in a medical or mental crisis, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.



Use of force by deputies is governed by the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy. These two policies are designed to work in conjunction with one another.

ECDs are force tools designed to control a resistant subject and are governed by the same criteria as other force tools and techniques. As with all use of force options, deputies are authorized to deploy force in an objectively reasonable manner to control a situation, effect an arrest, overcome resistance to arrest, or defend themselves or others from harm. Deputies should always balance the severity of the offense, the subject’s threat level to the deputy or others, and the risk of serious injury to the subject before deciding to use an ECD.

While this policy provides guidance for the use of ECDs, certain situations may present exigent circumstances which outweigh the recommendation of a specific provision. Deputies must always be able to articulate the reasons for going beyond the provision of a policy or training.

The ECD is considered a less-lethal tool that should be used as an instrument of need, not of convenience. Because of the endless variations in use of force situations, deputies should not over-rely on the ECD where other alternatives are available. When the intended result is not achieved, deputies should be prepared to consider and exercise alternative force options.

Whenever practical, deputies will utilize commands, warnings and verbal persuasion to gain compliance and allow a reasonable opportunity for compliance before resorting to force. Commands, warnings and verbal persuasion are not required in circumstances where the deputy has to make a split-second decision, or if the deputy reasonably believes that issuing the command or warning would place the safety of the deputy or others in jeopardy.

Due to the unquestionably abrupt and extreme manner in which ECDs seize a person, deputies must always balance its use with the need to apprehend. This includes considering the threat to the deputy, threat to the public and subject, the availability of other force options, and the likely outcome of their use.

ECDs are not a substitute for deadly force. Deputies that choose to use ECDs in a deadly force situation should do so only when such use does not place the deputy or others in greater danger. Generally, this means that deputies should only use ECDs when other deputies are present and prepared to use deadly force should the ECD application be unsuccessful.


The Sheriff’s Office issues TASER® brand ECDs. Deputies are prohibited from carrying or utilizing personally owned ECDs or ECD cartridges of any make or model.

Deputies will be issued two cartridges to allow for a backup in case of cartridge failure or the need for redeployment. Additional cartridges may be issued on an as-needed basis for specific operational goals.

ECD battery power sources will be replaced when the current charge of the battery reaches approximately 20% or less. Only manufacturer-approved battery power sources will be used.

All ECDs and battery power sources are inventoried and issued by the Sheriff’s Office Equipment Technician. Complete unit and battery power source replacements must be authorized by an ECD instructor.

No modifications of any kind will be approved. Repairs will only be conducted by the manufacturer and must be approved by the Sheriff’s Office ECD coordinator.

All sergeants have access and authorization to issue replacement cartridges. Any cartridge issued will be noted in the log book which is kept with the spare cartridges.


In an effort to reduce “weapon confusion”, all ECDs will be carried in an issued holster on the support side of the duty belt (opposite the duty handgun). This provision does not restrict a deputy from making a cross draw or transitioning the ECD from the support hand to the strong hand after drawing.

Deputies not assigned to uniformed patrol may utilize other methods to carry the device as long as it is consistent with agency training and approved by a supervisor. SWAT Team members, while engaged in SWAT Team duties, are permitted to carry an ECD in a location not specified in this policy as long as the method of carry is deemed safe by the SWAT Team commander.

ECDs will be carried fully armed and in safe mode, prepared for immediate use.

Spare cartridge(s) will be stored and carried in a manner consistent with training. All cartridges will be replaced following the manufacturer's expiration requirements or if damaged.

All deputies issued an ECD will conduct a pre-shift, full-cycle “spark test” and cartridge inspection to ensure that the device is functioning properly and the cartridges are undamaged. The spark test must run for the duration of a full cycle (five seconds). Problems noted with the device or cartridge(s) will be immediately reported to the deputy’s supervisor and an ECD instructor.

Deputies are not authorized to carry agency-issued ECDs while off-duty. When not on-duty, ECDs should be properly stored to avoid unintentional or malicious possession and/or accidents.


The preferred target zone is:

  • Front: arms, legs, and lower torso (below the chest).
  • Back: all areas below the bottom of the neck.

Areas to avoid targeting include the head, neck, upper torso, and genitals. Absent exigent circumstances justifying the use of deadly force, these areas should never be intentionally targeted.


At times, simply covering a subject with the ECD laser may prove effective at gaining compliance. When utilizing this approach, deputies should aim at the preferred target zone only. Pursuant to the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Review & Reporting Policy, simply aiming the laser at a preferred target zone is not a reportable use of force. However, if the ECD is “sparked” or aimed at a location on the body other than the preferred target zone, a use of force report must be completed.

Prior to deploying an ECD, a warning of the imminent use of force, and an opportunity to comply, should be given to the subject. This is not required in situations where a warning or opportunity to comply would place the safety of the deputy or others in jeopardy. (In either case, deputies should document their action(s), the subject’s reaction(s), or the circumstances at hand which made a warning or opportunity to comply a safety risk.)

To avoid confusion, an announcement should be made to other deputies on scene and prior to deployment that an ECD is going to be utilized. Deputies should not intentionally use more than one ECD at a time against a subject.

The ECD is most effective at overcoming resistance and gaining control when used in the “probe mode.” This is the preferred deployment technique.

The device should be aimed at the preferred target zone on the subject, fired, and cycled in a manner consistent with training.

Upon deploying the device against a person, the deputy will energize the subject no longer than reasonable to overcome resistance and bring the subject under control. After the first five second cycle, the situation should be evaluated to determine if subsequent cycles are necessary.

In determining the need for additional energy cycles, deputies should be aware that an energized subject may not be able to respond to commands during or immediately following exposure. Each application or cycle to a subject must be independently reasonable.

To minimize the number of cycles needed to gain control, the subject should be secured as soon as practical. To achieve this, deputies are encouraged to cuff or gain physical control during a cycle. In the event an ECD is deployed by a lone deputy, he or she is not expected to go hands on until other law enforcement arrive on scene or the situation is deemed safe.

If the ECD malfunctions, or the subject does not respond in the anticipated manner (based on training and experience), deputies should be prepared to transition to an alternate force option.

While the probe mode is the preferred method of deployment, the ECD may be used for limited close-range and self-defense purposes in the "contact" mode. When the device is used in “contact” mode it is primarily a pain compliance tool and is generally less effective than a probe deployment with a spread of 12 inches or more. The goal of contact mode is to supplement probe mode in completing the incapacitation circuit (as described below) or as a countermeasure to gain separation between the deputy and the subject so other force options can be considered.

An alternative method of close-range deployment involves firing the ECD in probe mode at close range and then applying the ECD in “contact” mode to an alternate part of the body. This creates a probe spread effect between the impact location of the probes and the point where the ECD is placed in contact with the subject’s body, resulting in an increased probability of subject control as compared to the standard "contact" mode. When the ECD is used in this manner, it is potentially as effective at subject control as a conventional probe deployment.

Deployment of an ECD on a nonviolent misdemeanant who is neither fleeing nor actively resisting arrest is prohibited. Furthermore, excluding circumstances that justify the risk, an ECD may not be used:

  • On a handcuffed or secured prisoner, absent overtly assaultive, self-destructive, or violently resistive behavior that cannot be safely controlled by other readily available means.
  • In any environment where a deputy believes that a flammable or explosive material is present, including but not limited to gasoline, natural gas, propane, or OC spray with a combustible propellant. (The Sheriff’s Office only issues non-flammable OC spray that has tested safe for use with an ECD. Deputies must exercise caution when working with another agency as their OC spray may not be held to the same standard.)
  • In any situation where the deputy has a reasonable belief that the subject might fall resulting in death or great bodily harm.
  • Against a subject in physical control of a vehicle in motion.

Deputies should be aware of situations where the use of an ECD increases the risk of injury or death to a subject. While ECD deployment is not prohibited in these situations, its use is limited to those exceptional circumstances where the potential benefit of using the device reasonably outweighs the risks. These situations include:

  • On a sensitive population group;
  • On an elevated position or platform;
  • When the subject is running or under momentum;
  • When the subject is in water, mud, or muck (drowning risk);
  • Striking an area outside the preferred target zone; and
  • Extended, repeated, or continuous discharges.

Repeated applications and/or continuous cycling of an ECD may increase the risk of death or great bodily harm and is prohibited unless such action is objectively reasonable.

Deputies are explicitly prohibited from using an ECD in any of the following manners:

  • As a form of punishment;
  • As a prod or escort device;
  • To awaken or motivate unconscious, impaired, or intoxicated individuals;
  • For horseplay, unauthorized demonstrations, or experimental exposures; or
  • For any illegal purpose, such as coercion in an interview.

In the event a subject is armed with an ECD and attacks or threatens to attack a deputy who is alone, the deputy must defend him or herself to avoid becoming incapacitated and risking the possibility that the subject could gain control of their firearm. However, if multiple deputies are present, a subject’s attack with an ECD against one deputy should not, in and of itself, cause a deadly-force response by other deputies.

The use of an ECD against an aggressive animal is permitted but must be justified, articulated, and reported in an incident report.


Once a scene is determined to be safe, deputies will evaluate any subject(s) who has been exposed to an ECD.

Medical assistance will be immediately summoned for patient evaluation and/or transportation to the emergency room if any of the following situations occur:

  • Repeated or multiple applications.
  • A cycling time that exceeds 15 seconds in duration (consecutive or cumulative).
  • Simultaneous applications by more than one ECD.
  • The subject has exhibited signs of “excited delirium,” prior to or during the ECD exposure.
  • Probes have penetrated a non-preferred strike zone.
  • The subject requests medical attention, or there is an obvious need for medical attention.
  • The deputy has difficulty removing the probes.
  • The subject does not appear to recover in a reasonable period of time after being exposed (as determined by the deputy following training guidelines).
  • The subject is part of a sensitive population group.

If it is determined that medical assistance is not needed, probes may be removed by a deputy following procedures outlined in training. Because ECD probes are a biohazard risk, deputies should utilize bio-protective gloves and caution when removing and handling them.

Photographs of the contact area(s) (for both probe and contact mode) should be taken after any probes are removed. All photos will be included in the use of force review.

In the event death or great bodily harm occurs as a direct or indirect result of an ECD, all cartridge(s), wire leads, probes, and the majority of AFIDs (marked confetti) must be collected and secured as evidence. In these cases, the probes and cartridge(s) will be treated as a biohazard and submitted to evidence following the proper procedures.


The use of an ECD is considered a Type 2 use of force by the Sheriff’s Office. Pursuant to the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy, a supervisor will be notified without delay of any incident involving a Type 2 use of force. Once notified, supervisors will immediately respond to the scene and begin a force review which will be investigated and documented pursuant to the Use of Force Review & Reporting Policy.

Data from an ECD will be downloaded after each deployment(s), for both probe and contact modes. Data should also be downloaded if the ECD is deployed and a malfunction occurs. If possible, this download should be completed prior to any other deployments and/or spark tests. The data will be included in the use-of-force review.

TRAINING (ADM.06.01 (A) & (C))

No deputy is authorized to carry or use an ECD without successfully completing the mandated training, demonstrating proficiency, and receiving end-user certification by an ECD instructor. Demonstrating proficiency includes successfully loading/unloading and knowing when and how to deploy their issued model of ECD. For initial training, deputies must also demonstrate the proper removal of probes which are imbedded in a subject’s skin.

Each certified user must maintain their certification by attending annual training which consists of demonstrating proficiency (probe removal is not necessary for maintenance training), legal/ equipment updates, and all Sheriff’s Office policies related to the use of ECDs. Proficiency demonstrations will be alternated year-to-year between live cartridge deployments and simulator scenario training. All training must be specific to the make and model of ECD issued.

The Sheriff’s Office does not require voluntary exposure as part of any ECD training program.


  1. 2011 Electronic Control Weapon Guidelines – PERF
  2. SJCSO Policy OPER-304.00 – Use of Force
  3. TASER® Handheld CEW Warnings, Instructions, and Information: Law Enforcement – March 1, 2013
  4. SJCSO Policy OPER-305.00 “Use of Force Review & Reporting”