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Though more than 2 million U.S. citizens have been Tased by police, little was known about how — or for how long — the 50,000-volt shock affects the brain.
A study by Drexel University’s Robert Kane, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Criminology and Justice Studies, in collaboration with researchers at Arizona State University, revealed that the burst of electricity from a stun gun can temporarily impair a person’s ability to remember and process information. In the randomized control trial funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice — the first major randomized trial completed outside the purview of Taser International — a quarter of each Taser group of healthy, young adults had the cognitive functioning of a 79-year-old adult after receiving a five-second shock. The exposure also significantly affected participants’ stress levels and ability to concentrate.
“There are plenty of people in prison who were Tased and then immediately questioned,” says Kane. “Were they intellectually capable of giving ‘knowing’ and ‘valid’ waivers of their Miranda rights before being subjected to a police interrogation?”
The researchers are suggesting a public dialogue about how to best use Tasers while protecting individuals’ due process rights, ensuring their decision-making abilities, and maintaining police officers’ safety.