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Human Effects Advisory Panel Report of Findings: Sticky Shocker Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 1999
68 pages
This federally funded study assessed the effects to humans of the Sticky Shocker device used by law enforcement in subduing an individual.
The Human Effects Advisory Panel received federal funds to address six questions regarding the Sticky Shocker’s human effects. The Sticky Shocker device is utilized by law enforcement attempting to subdue an individual (typically adult males under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both). The device produces two physical effects, blunt impact and electrical insult. The following summarizes the Panel’s findings and recommendations: Under Task 1, the Panel was asked to address the adverse, irreversible, health effects that might occur if used by law enforcement officers. The Panel found that the Sticky Shocker blunt impact could cause commotio cordis, which will cause death. It could also cause serious injuries, similar to those caused by sports projectiles such as a baseball. The electrical insult could cause acidosis, which can also lead to death. The device has the probability of causing skin burns. Insufficient data exists on assessing the general population. It was recommended that data be collected from representative population groups to determine probabilities for a wider population. Under Task 2, the Panel considered what additional testing would be required to ensure the Sticky Shocker did not cause irreversible adverse health effects. The Panel felt that before human effects can be predicted, the device’s performance must be predicted. Performance data is considered insufficient. The data is needed to measure energy transfer from the projectile to the body (both kinetic and electrical energy). Where there is some general data on the human effects of the Sticky Shocker, they are not complete and may not accurately relate to the device. Under Task 3, the Panel considered modifications to enhance the Sticky Shocker’s safety and effective use. The Panel’s primary focus was reducing blunt impact. The Panel proposed using an energy absorbing mechanism to lessen the projectile’s impact. It was also proposed that lowering the projectile’s weight or the velocity might reduce the blunt impact. Under Task 4, the Panel considered other information needed for safe human testing in a field evaluation. It was determined that testing must comply with Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 46. The regulations are intended to ensure the safety and protect the privacy of human subjects. Under Task 5, the Panel considered what laboratory-based human testing might be required before using the device as a less-than-lethal weapon. The Panel emphasized that human testing should be part of an integrated process. The Panel referred back to Task 2 and noted that human testing is only one data source and limited. The Panel recommended data be collected from living cell testing, gelatin clay testing, cadaver testing, biochemical surrogate testing, and live animal testing. Under Task 6, the Panel considered the Sticky Shocker’s field evaluation readiness based on its similarity and safer electrical characteristics as stun guns and Tasers. The Panel saw this as dependent upon the Federal agency’s expectations. It has not been scientifically proven that the Sticky Shocker and Taser cause similar effects. In addition, the Taser has not been adequately studied and there are performance differences between the two devices. If an unknown degree of risk is accepted, the device could be ready for field evaluation. Figures, references, appendix

Date Published: July 1, 1999