The Law Office of Jennifer Marshall, Esq

Attorney General’s Policy on Stun Guns for the Emotionally Disturbed

On 11/23/09, Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a supplemental use of force policy that allows law enforcement officers the use of electronic stun guns in limited circumstances involving emotionally disturbed individuals. The supplemental policy follows the recommendation of an Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on the use of less-lethal force.

The use of stun guns will only be allowed by trained law enforcement officers who have completed a Police Training Commission-approved course. No officers could carry or use the guns without authorization from his or her department’s chief executive. The number of officers authorized to carry or use the weapons will be determined by the size of the department, from one officer in a municipality with 25,000 or fewer residents to four officers in a municipality with 75,000 or more residents. In addition, officers who are members of SWAT teams, or emergency response units, can be authorized to carry the electronic weapons.

“This is the first time in this state that officers are going to be authorized to carry and use stun guns in any capacity,” Attorney General Milgram said. “Given this important shift in policy, it is prudent to have a limited initial deployment that provides for adequate controls, training and accountability measures so that we can evaluate the use of such devices.” Noting that stun guns can be potentially deadly weapons, the policy states that the use of conducted energy devices in limited situations may allow police officers to resolve confrontations without escalating to a level where deadly force is required, and reduce the risk of injuries to persons subject to arrest, the arresting law enforcement officers, and innocent by-standers.

Possession of stun guns will remain prohibited except for trained law enforcement officers. The State Police, in consultation with the Division of Criminal Justice, will be responsible for developing a list of specifications of stun guns that may be deployed by police in New Jersey. The Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy provides that deadly force may only be used when an officer reasonably believes that such action is immediately necessary to protect an officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

The supplemental policy states that under certain circumstances stun guns may be appropriate weapons for law enforcement officers to use against an emotionally disturbed person, which is defined as a person who appears to be mentally ill or temporarily deranged and is conducting himself or herself in a manner that a police officer reasonably believes is likely to result in serious bodily injury to himself or herself, the officer, or others.
Call us today for more information on this policy.