CED stands for ‘conducted energy device’. CEDs are commonly referred to as Taser. However, it should be recognised that TASER® is a brand name and registered trade mark for one brand of 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.
How do CEDs work?
CEDs have cartridges which are designed to fire wires and probes towards a person. If these probes connect with the individual’s skin or clothing, the wires allow the flow of electrical current into the body. This current activates nerves under the skin which then cause muscles to contract.
When this happens, the contractions produced by the CED override a person’s ability to make voluntary movements and therefore should be sufficient enough to render an individual incapable of continuing their violent behaviour. This muscular incapacitation only continues for as long as the CED discharge is applied.
The passage of electrical current is also very painful, and this may also contribute to the incapacitation effect.
When were CEDs introduced into the UK?
In 2004, following a trial in five forces, the Home Secretary authorised the use of CEDs for all forces as a less lethal option for police operations involving the deployment of authorised firearms officers (AFOs) in England and Wales. The model authorised was the Taser X26.
In July 2007 authorised police firearms officers were allowed to use CEDs in a greater set of circumstances. These officers were now able to deploy CEDs in operations or incidents where the use of firearms is not authorised, but where they are facing violence or threats of violence where they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.
Also announced in July 2007 was the trial in 10 police forces of CED deployment to non-firearms officers facing similar violence or threats of violence. These officers are referred to as Specially Trained Officers, or STOs.
The 12-month trial commenced on 1 September 2007 and finished on 31 August 2008. It took place in the following forces: Avon & Somerset, Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire.
Following the success of the trial, from 1 December 2008, CED use was extended to STOs.
Following comprehensive assessments by an independent medical committee, government scientists and the police, the Home Secretary authorised the use of the TASER X2 in 2017 and subsequently the Taser 7 in 2020.
Are police officers the only users of CEDs in the UK?
In addition to the police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the National Crime Agency also have personnel who are authorised to use CEDs.
There are also authorised CED users in the police forces of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. All these authorised CED users are trained and accredited to deploy with CEDs in the same way, leading to a consistent approach across the UK and Crown Dependencies.
This consistency is also ensured by the NPCC Less Lethal Weapons Working Group supported by the NPCC LLW Administration.