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Law Enforcement Use of Non-Lethal Weapons Focus of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Study

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Injuries produced by law enforcement use of so-called non-lethal weapons will be the focus of a study at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center funded by a $104,071 grant from the National Institute of Justice.

The largest study of its kind, the multicenter trial will record the number and severity of injuries produced by law enforcement officers using non-lethal weapon such as Tasers®, rubber bullets, and bean bag projectiles.

Tasers and similar devices deliver a series of painful shocks meant to temporarily incapacitate violent and mentally disturbed suspects. Bean bags and other kinetic impact projectiles are fired from shotguns or specialized launchers and are designed to inflict pain and bruising without permanent injury. Both classes of weapons have been adopted by many police departments in the United States and are primarily used to help subdue violent subjects without having to resort to deadly force such as firearms. However, there are concerns that the weapons may produce serious injuries or deaths in some cases.

Wake Forest Baptist is the lead site and William P. Bozeman, M.D., associate research director and assistant professor of emergency medicine, is the principal investigator in the study, which is scheduled to begin early this year. As many as 12 qualifying law-enforcement agencies across the nation that utilize less-lethal weapons will participate as study sites. Bozeman prefers to use the term “less lethal” to “non lethal” when describing these weapons because there have been cases of deaths related to their use.

A physician at each study site will review each less-lethal weapon use and record the severity of the injuries and the type of non-lethal weapon used in each case based on the use of force report and medical records generated by each use. “This injury epidemiology study will document the injuries sustained by 750 to 900 patients around the country,” said Bozeman. “This is the first independent study of its kind to rate the safety of less-lethal weapons.”

“This study promises to give us the best information yet on these weapons and the injuries they cause.”

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Media Contacts: Jim Steele, jsteele@wfubmc.edu, Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, or Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, at 336-716-4587.

About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,298 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.


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