Armed policing

Conducted energy devices (Taser)

Conducted energy devices (CED)

A CED is a less lethal weapon system designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject through use of an electrical current which temporarily interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system and produces a sensation of intense pain.

It is one of a number of tactical options available when dealing with an incident with the potential for conflict.

CEDs will not be routinely used to police public order/public safety events, but may be used as an option to respond to circumstances within the operation. The use of CED ranges from the physical presence of a drawn device through to discharge.


Conducted energy devices are commonly referred to as Taser. However, police forces should recognise that Taser is a brand name and registered trade mark for a CED device.

The CEDs approved and currently available for use by specially trained police officers in the UK are:

  • TASER X26e ® (more commonly referred to as an TASER ® X26™)
  • TASER X2 ®

These CEDs are primarily designed to be laser-sighted and use cartridges attached to a cartridge bay located at the front of the device. When activated the cartridges project a pair of probes attached to insulated wires. This mode of use is termed ‘probe mode’. When the two probes make contact with the subject, the device delivers an electrical discharge that lasts for 5 seconds. This cycle can be stopped, extended or repeated.

In the case of the X26, the 5-second cycle is triggered by momentary pressure on the trigger, however, if pressure is maintained on the trigger the device will discharge until the trigger is released.

In the case of the X2, as configured for the UK, the 5-second cycle is automatically terminated, regardless of whether continuous pressure is maintained on the trigger. Additional action is required from the officer to extend the cycle beyond the default 5-seconds.

CEDs are classified by the National Less Lethal Weapons Working Group as ‘work related equipment’ (in the same way as firearms) and not as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Operating requirements

CEDs are primarily designed to be used in probe mode. To be effective:

  • the CED power source must have sufficient charge
  • the wires connecting the probes to the device must remain intact
  • two probes, two electrodes or a combination of one probe and one electrode are required to make contact with the subject’s body or clothing or:
  • a top and bottom probe from differing cartridges are required to make contact with the subject’s body or clothing (X2 only).


The maximum range of the device is determined by the length of the wires that carry the current and attach the probes to the weapon. For each device it is currently as follows:

  • X26 – 21 feet or 6.4 metres
  • X2 –  25 feet or 7.6 metres.

The effective range at which it is likely that the two barbs will attach themselves to the subject may be a lesser distance.

Stun modes

The X26 device may be used to achieve incapacitation in ‘angled drive stun’ mode with a cartridge fitted. Where justifiable, ‘drive stun’ without a cartridge (or an expended cartridge attached) could be used – but this will not achieve muscular incapacitation.

The X2 may be used to achieve incapacitation in ‘three point contact’ mode (one probe and two contacts). Where justifiable, ‘direct contact’ (‘drive stun’) mode may be used – but this will not achieve muscular incapacitation. With the X2, ‘direct contact’ can be achieved with the cartridges on, off or expended.


The usual reaction of a person exposed to CED discharge in probe mode is loss of some voluntary muscle control accompanied by involuntary muscle contractions. During the discharge the subject may:

  • not be able to control their posture – consider risk of injury from uncontrolled fall
  • experience their legs going rigid, which could be mistaken for kicking out (especially if they are in prone position)
  • convulse, curl up in a ball, spasm, or stiffen (plank)
  • experience intense pain
  • call out or make involuntary vocal noises
  • not be able to respond to verbal commands during the discharge
  • be confused or disorientated after the cycle
  • feel exhausted after cycle
  • ‘freeze’ on the spot.

Loss of posture and resulting falls could result in head injury, either from the subject’s head hitting the ground or from collision with nearby rigid objects (e.g. tables, chairs or walls). This may result in the subject falling to the ground, causing various secondary injuries, or being exposed to other risks.

When used in ‘probe mode’, the device relies on physiological effects other than pain alone to achieve its objective.

Provided both probes attach to the subject’s skin or clothing correctly with sufficient spread, the effects are likely to be instantaneous. The muscle incapacitating effect is only likely to last while the electrical charge is being delivered. The subject may recover immediately afterwards and could continue with their previous behaviour – an incapacitated subject must therefore be controlled quickly and effectively.

The cycle can be repeated or extended if the desired incapacitation does not appear to take effect and the further use of force is justified and proportionate in the circumstances. Officers should review other options as there may be technical or physiological reasons why the device is not working as expected on a particular individual (the National Decision Model should be used).


CEDs should not be stored alongside pyrotechnics, ammunition, specialist munitions or flammable products. Chief officers should ensure that there is provision for storing CEDs as section 5 Firearms Act 1968 prohibited weapons.

In addition, the manufacturer’s storage guidelines should be considered.

Data logging system

CEDs have an internal data logging system which, depending on the model, records various parameters of use. This can be summarised as follows:

Using specific proprietary software, the relevant data can be downloaded to a computer via the dataport – see dataport auditing.

Issue and possession

A specially trained officer (STO) is a police officer who has been selected, trained, accredited and authorised by their chief officer to carry a CED operationally.

Officers will carry out appropriate function checks in accordance with their training whenever the weapon is issued, to ensure that the device is working correctly.

CEDs are classified as ‘prohibited weapons’ by virtue of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. Police officers, while acting in their capacity as such, are exempt from the requirements of the legislation and do not need any additional legal authority to possess CEDs.

Other agencies may require a section 5 authority from the Home Office.

Holsters and carriage systems

CEDs should be carried in a holster, clip, or carriage system. Police forces or agencies should evaluate such systems and ensure they are fit for purpose for the role undertaken. Holsters and carriage systems used by the police service should be suitable for the task and the environment in which the CED is being carried. The holster should:

  • provide protection for the CED
  • provide security for the CED
  • enable the wearer to easily access the CED.

When a CED is to be carried in a holster, it is important that any retention mechanisms, and lanyards (where issued), are fitted properly and are in working order.

Uniformed users

CEDs for uniform overt use are yellow in colour and will be carried only on the wearer’s weak side to avoid any confusion over the choice of weapon, and to avoid any public misconception of the nature of the type of weapon being carried.

In other countries, confusion over weapon selection in a dynamic situation has led to death and serious injury from mistaken use of conventional firearms.

Covert carriage (eg, surveillance or protection duties)

CEDs will be carried in a clip, holster or carriage system, in accordance with the user’s training, so as to avoid any confusion over the selection and use of lethal and less lethal weapons. CEDs may be other colours commensurate with covert carriage.


The term ‘deployed’ means that an officer has been tasked to an incident (by a supervisor trained in the use of the National Decision Model (NDM)).

The CED may be deployed and used as one of a number of tactical options only after application of the NDM. It should be readily available, and once deployed, normal supervision practices will apply.

It is not practicable or possible to provide a definitive list of circumstances where a CED would be appropriate. The information and intelligence informing the decision to deploy an officer with a CED is significantly lower than that required to inform its use. A direction to deploy an officer with a CED to an incident should not be seen as an instruction to use the device, this remains a decision for the individual officer for which they remain accountable.


The use of a CED ranges from the physical presence of a drawn CED through to discharge

The term ‘use’ includes any of the following actions carried out in an operational setting:

  • drawing the device in circumstances where any person could reasonably perceive the action as a use of force
  • sparking of the device, commonly known as ‘arcing’
  • aiming the device or placing the laser sight red dot onto a subject
  • firing a device so that the probes are discharged at a subject or animal
  • application and discharge of a CED in both angled and drive stun modes
  • discharged in any other operational circumstances, including an unintentional discharge.

The carriage of a CED does not, in itself, constitute a use of force. But when a CED is ‘used’ the officer in possession is both legally and organisationally accountable.

The discharge of a CED is intended to mitigate the threat by temporarily incapacitating the individual, not solely to inflict severe pain or unnecessary suffering on another in the performance or purported performance of official duties (see ECHR Article 3).

The duration of the initial discharge and any subsequent discharge must be proportionate, lawful, accountable and absolutely necessary (PLAN).

Incidents where subjects are already contained or restrained may be subject to closer scrutiny or interest. Any medical risk may be increased the longer or more often the device is discharged.

Verbal warning and contact

On first verbal contact, officers should normally:

  • identify themselves as police officers and state that they are equipped with a CED
  • clarify who it is they are seeking to communicate with
  • communicate in a clear and appropriate manner.

Where weapons are fitted with torches or laser sights, officers should consider the effects of their use during any confrontation.

Oral and visual warning to the subject

Where circumstances permit, officers should provide the subject with a clear warning of their intention to use a CED.

They should give sufficient time for the warning to be heeded, unless to do so would unduly place any person at risk, or would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances of the incident.

Visual deterrents

In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to provide a visual display of the sparking effect of the CED (‘arcing’), which may have a deterrent effect. Unlike the X2, the X26 must be temporarily unloaded to facilitate this.

The visual effect of the laser sight being directed at an individual may also have a deterrent effect. Officers should be aware that pointing or arcing a CED at an individual may represent a use of force.

Communicating the use of CEDs to other people present

In order to consider the safety of other people, officers should communicate that they are using a CED by clearly stating ‘Taser, Taser’, indicating that it is being discharged. However, there may be specific reasons why this warning may be clearly inappropriate or unnecessary in the circumstances.

Risk factors

There are a number of factors which may influence the operational use of CEDs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • head injuries from unsupported falls
  • repeated and/or prolonged application of discharge
  • avoidance of sensitive areas (primarily head, neck or genitalia)
  • pre-existing medical conditions
  • positional asphyxia
  • subjects already restrained
  • acute behavioural disturbance
  • vulnerable people
  • children and people of small stature
  • flammable material (eg, petrol, CS irritant spray)
  • explosive environments (eg, petrol vapour, propane, natural gas).

These risk factors have been identified from operational experience, medical evaluation and the manufacturer’s guidance.

Scenario based training in the use of CEDs is conducted in a way that emphasises the precautions and considerations relevant to the risk factors above.

Multi-agency arrangements

Sometimes a chief officer agrees to assist another law enforcement agency or other public service agency with an operation that is within their force area, and the appropriate command decision to deploy CED is given.

In these circumstances everyone involved must understand who is in command of each part of the operation. Command protocols may be a useful means of clarifying this.

Close coordination and detailed planning between organisations is fundamental and should normally be agreed at strategic command (gold) level or its equivalent level of management in the organisation concerned.


In any situation where a CED is discharged, appropriate post-use procedures should be implemented depending on the nature of the injury or harm caused. Every use will warrant, where possible, consideration of minimum standard forensic retrieval.


Removal of probes

Probes which have penetrated the skin should normally be removed by a medical professional either at the scene, at a hospital or in the custody suite. This is principally because of the:

  • requirement for infection control
  • potential for additional trauma to the skin and superficial tissues of the subject
  • risk of additional trauma to underlying tissues, organs or body cavities from probes that have penetrated deeply
  • risk of self-injury.

In the best interests and wellbeing of the subject, or in the event of operational necessity, police officers trained in probe removal, minimum standards of forensic recovery and the associated risks, may carry out this procedure. Probes in particularly vulnerable areas (eg, the eyes, head, neck or genitalia) should always be removed by medical professionals only, ideally in a hospital setting. If the officer considers there to be any additional risks associated with the removal of a probe, the matter should be referred to a medical professional.

Immediate referral to hospital

If an officer believes that a person on whom CED discharge has been applied has a cardiac pacemaker, vagus nerve stimulator or other electronic implanted device, immediate referral should be made to hospital.

Similarly, if the subject is found to have any other pre-existing medical condition that could be considered to increase their risk of a serious adverse medical event, immediate referral to a hospital should be considered.

Medical assessment

All arrested persons who have been subjected to CED discharge must be examined by a forensic medical examiner (FME) as soon as practicable after arrival at the custody suite.

CED information leaflets

At the earliest opportunity following arrival at the custody suite, a detainee who has been subjected to a CED discharge should be given an appropriate information leaflet describing the CED, its mode of operation and effects. This leaflet should be fully explained.

The following leaflets are available:

The Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine (2013) Taser: Clinical Effects and Management of Those Subjected to Taser Discharge guidance provides additional advice to those subjected to discharge as well as information for GPs and hospital clinicians to use as appropriate.

Evidential collection of equipment

Forces should consider the availability of evidence collection equipment, including cameras/body worn video and appropriate packaging.

Once the probes have been removed, they must be secured as evidence and any injury or damage noted. Probes removed from the body should be considered as biohazards. Suitable evidential containers need to be readily available for the removed probes, which must then be examined to ensure they are complete. Incomplete probes may indicate that part of the probe has remained in the subject. Medical professionals should be advised if this is the case.

It is recommended that forces have an appropriate ‘post use pack’ readily available, that contains the above items for evidential recovery, along with PPE (gloves) and antiseptic wipes for probe removal, an aide memoir in relation to post use (including the evaluation checklist below) and CED information leaflets.

Data auditing

The CEDs internal data logging system means the details of all activations can be downloaded to a computer. CEDs should be data downloaded at least every eight weeks. At that time a full function check should also be carried out.

Downloaded data needs to be retained in such a manner to provide a secure and credible audit trail of the activations from each CED. The information should be reviewed to allow for fault analysis and timely indications of improper or unaccounted use.

Protection is provided to officers who use the CED and to those on whom it is used, as the data is recorded by the device on each occasion that it is discharged.

Use of force reporting

Police forces formally record all uses of force and submit data in accordance with the Home Office Annual Data Requirement (ADR). This requires every officer to locally record all required information whenever they use force. This includes all CED use.

A use of force form should be completed as soon as practicable on every occasion where a CED is used. Forms should be submitted as indicated on the form.

The CED single point of contact (SPOC) is responsible for reviewing Taser use.

Evaluation checklist

Post incident referral

Forces must refer all cases that meet the mandatory referral criteria for post incident investigations to the Independent Investigative Authority (IIA), Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) or Police Investigations Review Commission (PIRC) as appropriate, for assessment and post-incident investigation.

All police forces and police and crime commissioners have a responsibility to monitor use of CED, together with the nature and volume of complaints received and, where necessary, to take appropriate action. The national arrangements for referral of CED use and complaints is set out as follows:

England and Wales

English and Welsh police forces are not required to refer all non-mandatory CED related complaints to the IOPC (see criteria for mandatory referral). However, following high-profile CED cases, or where there are exceptional circumstances, forces should strongly consider referring the matter to the IIA voluntarily.

Cases that should be considered for voluntary referral include those where a CED is used:

  • in confined spaces (such as custody suites)
  • in drive-stun mode
  • on young people (under 18)
  • on people with mental health problems or who are otherwise vulnerable.

The IOPC have stated that the police use of CED is an area of considerable public interest and concern and that they and other IIA organisations will continue to monitor and maintain oversight of its use, and share learning arising from any cases that they are involved with.

Northern Ireland

All occasions in which a CED is discharged in Northern Ireland should be is referred to PONI for independent investigation. This includes when barbs are discharged from the weapon, and also when the CED is pressed against the body of a suspect while in its arcing mode.

The PONI should also be routinely informed about occasions in which CED are drawn and aimed, when the red laser targeting dot is used, and where arcing is used without the delivery of an electric shock. However, the PONI will not normally investigate these incidents, unless they deem it to be within the public interest to do so.


All occasions in which a CED is discharged (not pointed or red dotted) in Scotland should be referred to the relevant professional standards department (PSD) and then PIRC, who will review and then consider if investigation is required.

Monitoring and oversight of CED use

The operational use of CED is monitored by:

  • National Less Lethal Weapons Working Group (NLLW WG)
  • Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST)
  • Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons (SACMILL).

Operational use is reviewed at regular intervals by the College of Policing on behalf of the NLLW WG to ensure that emerging issues are properly reflected in training and operational guidance.

Representatives of SACMILL, CAST and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) contribute to the process.


All forces and agencies must appoint a CED single point of contact (SPOC) to receive and evaluate all CED evaluation forms prior to them being submitted relevant parties as indicated on the form. Where SPOCs identify operational learning, that may be of value to others, contact should be made with the College of Policing in order that it may be disseminated and/or influence training curriculum where appropriate.

This CED SPOC acts as the conduit between the force and the NLLW WG via the National Less lethal weapons secretariat.

The CED SPOC is required to clarify any information on the form and disseminate any updates and learning to staff in their own force.

Post-use function checks

Checks that the CED is operating to the manufacturer’s specification can be conducted by CAST if there is, or is suspected to be:

  • a technical fault
  • unexpected injury
  • the requirement for referral to the IIA
  • a high-profile case.

These checks may additionally be requested at a force’s or agency’s discretion.

Note: if the above is required, the CED must be delivered to the CAST as an evidential item because CEDs are section 5 Firearms Act 1968 weapons — in the case of the X26, the battery should remain in the device.

Forces are advised to make early contact with CAST to clarify what is required.


All CED users need to have an appreciation of the physical and psychological effects of these devices. All CED users will receive full training and assessment in accordance with the relevant CED training curriculum.

Where local good practice has been identified, or where enhancements to (or issues with) CED training have been identified, this should be communicated to the College of Policing so that good practice identified at a local level may be assessed and, where appropriate, cascaded nationally.

Both the X26 and X2 are subject to specific modules of learning. Training records and the authorisation of officers to carry CEDs should clearly identify which device(s) they are authorised and competent to carry.

The minimum contact time for initial training is 18 hours. There will follow a minimum 6 hours per annum of refresher training. Annual refresher packages are strictly controlled to ensure that users and commanders receive the relevant updates and training. Officers can be authorised for no longer than 12 months from the date of their last period of CED training.

Individuals will not be subject to the effects of CEDs during training.


Forces should have procedures in relation to the maintenance and inspection of CEDs and cartridges. This should be documented in a standard operating procedure (SOP) that articulates:

  • Regular routine maintenance and inspection regimes by a competent technician. This can ordinarily take place in tandem with routine downloading (see dataport auditing).
  • Quarantining and labelling of CEDs, cartridges and batteries which are:
    • faulty or suspected to be faulty (including those identified during routine testing by users),
    • damaged,
    • subject to significant impact (e.g. dropped or involved in a road traffic collision),
    • have been immersed in water/liquid
    • contaminated with bodily fluids or other biohazards
    • where there is any doubt as to whether device/cartridge/battery is serviceable
  • Inspection, testing and repair of devices, subject to quarantine, by a competent technician
  • Destruction, withdrawal, replacement under warranty, or confinement to non-operational use of devices that are unserviceable
  • Auditable records of the above.

Further advice and support can be obtained from CAST in relation to CEDs serviceability.

Page last accessed 23 September 2020