Safety

Security officer use of Tasers questioned

Hospital Safety Insider, March 31, 2016

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An appellate court opinion governing the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers after the death of a man outside a North Carolina hospital is likely to affect the actions of hospitals in at least five states already considering the use of the weapon for their own officers. The ruling, issued January 11 by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, centers around an April 23, 2011 incident at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

In that case, 43-year-old Ronald Armstrong, a man with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, was apparently being evaluated after admitting himself in the middle of an episode during which he was off medication and poking holes in his leg "to let the air out."

Officers surrounded the man, who at this point had wrapped his arms and legs around a stop sign post at a nearby intersection but was otherwise calm, while they waited for a doctor to sign "involuntary commitment papers" that would have required them to take him into custody.

After the order was signed, with a checked box indicating that Armstrong was "dangerous to himself," officers attempted to remove him from the stop sign. Armstrong resisted several times, and after repeated warnings officers used a Taser five times before handcuffing and taking him into custody.

Tasers are weapons that use darts to incapacitate assailants' neuromuscular systems via a non-lethal electrical charge, and can be set to different levels of shock. The use of the weapon is still controversial. Some question whether Tasers should be used in healthcare settings; they can cause cardiac death in someone with heart problems as was apparently the issue with Armstrong, and federal regulations place some restrictions on their use in healthcare. Still, they are considered by many in healthcare law enforcement to be better than batons or other forms of defensive tactical weapons, especially when their officers are up against knives, razors, and other weapons that get smuggled into hospitals.

This is an excerpt from the monthly healthcare safety resource Briefings on Hospital Safety. Subscribers can read the rest of the article here. Non-subscribers can find out more about the journal, its benefits, and how to subscribe by clicking here.
 



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