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This question is in the same world as this one: What would the rules for carry and use of weapons be affected by reliable stun guns? stun weapons exist and abide by all the rules listed in the linked question which goes into detail.

My question, how will police policies change with the presence of stun guns, both in the arms of police officers and in the arms of civilians. A few key point I know

  1. Stunning is still painful, and so police can't just stun anyone they want since it's still an assault
  2. Criminals are not afraid of stun guns due to their lack of lethality. There has been complaints of criminals hurting or killing cops armed only with stun guns because they weren't afraid to attack the police since being stunned will not harm them (beyond the pain of waking up). This has lead to some call for cops having lethal weapons as an option.
  3. Regular pistols have a slightly longer effective range then stun guns, putting cops at a slight disadvantage if armed with stun guns vs pistols. However, the accuracy range is lower and about the same, affected more by training in use of weapons then the specific weapon used.
  4. pistols are at least slightly less common, being more strictly regulated, but stun guns are more common with both criminals and civilians
    • Criminals are more likely to fire on cops now since they aren't afraid of getting life in prison for killing a cop, which makes me curious how severe the punishment for trying to stun a cop will be...
    • civilians are a little more prone to deciding to get in on a fire fight with stun guns, mostly to the annoyance and frustration of police officers.

In this world, what will police armaments and regulations look like? Will police officers carry lethal weapons, or only stun ones? When will police officers be allowed to stun a subject, and how will 'wrongful stunning' be handled (since you know cops will be inclined to shoot first ask questions later in a situation that could potentially be lethal armed with a stun gun). How will the police respond to criminals trying to stun them or who does stun a cop?

In short, what interesting effects does presence of stun guns have on how police do their jobs?

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't sound sufficiently different from a modern-day taser to alter police armament and training. If it carries fewer health risks it might be a strong replacement for the taser, but police already have access to "stun guns" today. Your question also seems to assume that police aren't ubiquitously carrying lethal weapons, though that is quite prevalent in many countries today. $\endgroup$ – Avernium Oct 19 '15 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Avernium tasers have far less range, are far less reliable in actually stunning, and are fire once and forget, if you miss your out of luck. A stun gun can fire multiple times from greater range without worrying that it won't go off. Much safer and more reliable to use for defense, plus less likely to kill people. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Oct 19 '15 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have enough for a full answer, but I'd think dashboard and body cameras would become much more prevalent. The bad guys might get away by stunning the cops, but they'll be on camera doing it, so with any luck they'll get caught again soon after. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Oct 19 '15 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen Nonetheless, they are almost the same thing. In fact, tasers fit all the criteria you have mentioned in this question. Maybe your stun weapons have better range, accuracy, reusability than modern tasers, but that is barely relevant. Tasers are lower range than firearms, which you asked for. Criminals are less afraid of tasers, which you asked for. Etc. Looking at modern taser use answers your question. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk May 1 '17 at 21:45
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I see a lot of variations, but the following basic points

  • The society as a whole will be more "stun-happy". If stunning is highly unlikely to kill, but very effective at stopping a threat otherwise, then nobody, whether cop, civilian or criminal, will think twice about pulling the trigger as they do (should?) with a pistol.

  • In response, cops will converge in force on any report of a crime. You will likely see essentially no lone patrolmen, and a return back to two officers in every cruiser, not for the "two against one" approach on the witness stand that cameras and voice recorders now provide but as an active counter to a one-on-one stunfight. In addition, every call will basically be an "all available units" situation to make sure that if the guy has a stunner, he can't get the drop on one or two patrolmen.

  • Similarly to the use of lethal force, laws will evolve to manage the use of stunning and other "incapacitating forces" to try to mitigate the increased willingness of the average person to use a stunner, with the benefit of the doubt given to the guy with the badge in virtually all scenarios. An assault is already a serious felony in most jurisdictions depending on the amount of damage done or the chance the person could have been killed based on the weapon used. Unlawful stunning, though not physically damaging in most cases, might be elevated to the level of an "aggravated assault", typically a "20 to life" major felony, similar to the unlawful, nonlethal use of a handgun. Stunning by a policeman without cause would be handled similarly to accounts of an officer pepper-spraying or tasing without proper cause; less severe repercussions than for shooting without thinking, but officers get sacked for abuse of nonlethal force as well.

  • The police will clamor, loudly, for a countermeasure to stunning, much as they have Kevlar vests as a defense against most small-caliber weapons. With any criminal more likely than not to pull the trigger, and insufficient total police force to allow a decisive advantage in numbers at every encounter, a stunning countermeasure will be high on the list. Could be as simple as an encrypted radio transmission that disables civilian stunners in range of police enforcement activity, which would prevent the 90th percentile or better of officer stunnings. It could be some direct defense against the stunner's technology, whatever that is. Whatever it is, most civilians would be prohibited by law (with varying degrees of effectiveness) from either possessing the countermeasure or a weapon that can defeat it, much like firearms today, thus reducing the likelihood of a policeman's stunner being ineffective against a suspect or the suspect's stunner working on the policeman.

  • Cops will keep their firearms even if most civilian ownership or use of firearms against a human is outlawed. Stunners may work 99% of the time, but that 1% is when cops get killed. That's why police have the firearm in the first place even though many veteran officers can count the number of times they drew their duty pistol with the intention of using it on the fingers of one hand. The pistol (and larger weapons in their cruiser) form the upper levels of a "force continuum" allowing the officer to respond with the appropriate level of force to a situation; a belligerent unarmed baddie doesn't necessarily require lethal force to subdue. The stunner will likely take the place of the taser and pepper spray on a policeman's belt; the billyclub/nightstick, pistol, handcuffs and of course the radio will remain, along with police training in unarmed takedowns.

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  • $\begingroup$ Really good answer. Though I hadn't realized they had done away with the two officer per car approach. Thick plastic vests can partially protect against stunner fire by avoiding direct absorbing the blast, but the officer will still feel the effect of being close to the radius of the blast, either briefly incapacitated or simply left numb and woozy depending on stunner power. I imagine this can be built into Kevlar vests to get a two for one protection, but the vests would restrict movement a little more and still multiple shots or blast to limbs can incapacitate. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Oct 19 '15 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on the jurisdiction; your average traffic cop rarely has a passenger unless he's training someone or giving a ridealong, though as you get deeper into the city it becomes more and more common to have two per car. As is always the case, the officer can call for backup at any time, and if there's a second car in the vicinity not involved with an event, he'll often pull up behind the first one just as a matter of course. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 19 '15 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ @dsollen - As far as countermeasures go, if a thick plastic vest will mitigate the stunner's effects, the police will definitely be wearing them, especially this universe's version of SWAT. The problem is, if it's just a thick plastic shell, the police will likely see improvised stunner armor. Besides Kevlar, bulletproof layers are heavy (one reason Kevlar was developed), so you don't see as many attempts at homemade bulletproofing, but something like a shield from a trash can lid on one arm might prove very effective at keeping the blast of the stunner away from the body. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 19 '15 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ A galvanized one, yes, but those are fairly anachronistic; for the last twenty years the actual "trash cans" where I've lived have been something in this vein (images.lowes.com/product/converted/723105/723105200037lg.jpg), designed for use with a compatible hydraulic unloader on the garbage truck. Take the lid off one of those, add arm and handholds with some foam, and I reckon it'd do the trick for a while against a stunner you're describing that fires a packet delivering some combination of electrical and concussive charge. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Oct 19 '15 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I guess we'd have to ask what sort of materials would effectively block your hypothetical stun guns. If it's some kind of electric charge, a piece of plastic covered in rubber would make an effective shield. Whatever would work, it might or might not be something easily jury-rigged from common household items. But professional criminals and terrorists would surely find ways to make it. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 19 '15 at 20:42
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The big one would be is there a body armor that can protect an officer from a stun blast, and how much will it affect their duties? Cop pull you over at the side of the road? Stun them. Tagging a wall when the cops show up? Stun them. Unlike hand guns, there won't be any ballistics matching one gun to a specific crime.

Without any simple effective body armor, most police will interact with confronting the public behind a shield. At least in any situation where they might be attacked. A lot more people would be willing to render a threat unconscious than to kill or severely wound them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wearing of thick plastics can limit the effect of a stun, since it will dissipate the blast without conducting it to the body. However, the officer will still feel the stun, depending on the strength of the stunner it could knock them out for a short time, possible mere seconds, or simply leave them numb and groggy. However, the plastics must be thick which limits their usefulness for everyday cops. Effective armor won't be worn routinely due to the harm to freedom of movement, and a a few blasts, or blasts hitting undefended areas, still will incapacitate officers. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Oct 19 '15 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ Aren't there methods that can be taken to protect against this? severe punishment for stunning a cop, systems to ensure even if you shoot the cop your still be hunted down and caught (for instance cops report the license plate of everyone pulled over for traffic violations and record the encounter via camera, so if their shot just knock on the door of the owner of the car and see if the cop recognizes them; then place severe punishments on them for resisting arrest and stunning ... I agree this will be more common, but what do the cops do to avoid the problem? $\endgroup$ – dsollen Oct 19 '15 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen yes, if you are driving your car it would be a very bad idea but if you have not yet been properly identified, it is an easy way to prevent it too. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Oct 19 '15 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see any reason why criminals would do this any more than they do with mace or tasers. The stun gun described is somewhat more effective, but the consequences of failure are the same -- that cop is going to take you DOWN. And assaulting an officer is already punished pretty strongly, so, having these available is not much change, realistically speaking. $\endgroup$ – Patches Oct 19 '15 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ rereading this and realized I forgot to thank you for pointing out the lack of balistics to link gun to bullet. This is a good point and could affect a number of interesting situations, such as planed murders starting by stunning someone and then killing them with a harder to trace item, even a knife would be harder to identify. It would be interesting to think about the implications of such. Hmm, I think stun guns may keep some sort of log of when and where they were shot that only a cop could access, that seems a doable restriction even in modern era and something citizens may accept. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Nov 12 '15 at 19:59
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We've already got a lot of practical experience with these questions given the existence of tasers. Yes, taser don't meet your requirement of "almost the same range as a handgun", but otherwise they bring up most of the same issues.

In one sense, you're asking "what social conventions would develop", and that can be very hard to answer. What I think is sane and rational and the obvious route for society to take, someone else might consider unacceptable. Consider the existing debate over gun control. Or any of dozens of other social issues. My point being: It's not enough to say, This would obviously work. You have to consider all the different political factions, etc, and how they might all view any proposal.

To my mind, the legal restrictions on the use of a stun gun should depend on just how much harm it actually causes the person you shoot. If shooting someone with a stun gun causes horrible agonizing pain even though it doesn't kill him, and leaves him incapacitated for hours, I definitely would not accept the idea that either civilians or the police should be allowed to shoot anyone "just to be safe". On the other hand, if it knocked you down and incapacitated you for 30 seconds but caused no real pain or harm, well, I still wouldn't say that you should be allowed to go around shooting anyone who looked at you funny, but I'd say the penalties for an unjustified shooting should be relatively minor.

Oh, and realistically: Are the stun guns 100% guaranteed to do no permanent damage? What about if the person you stun has a heart condition or a neurological problem? What if you stun an old lady and she falls and breaks her hip? Etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you are being too modest about how well modern taser use answers the question. Really, the answer is "Go to a different stack exchange and ask how taser use already has had the affect you are asking about." The only part of this that makes it a world-building question is basically just that OP's stunners work a little better than modern tasers: longer range (but still less than firearms), faster re-use, etc. But the core question is mostly the same and is already answered by history. "Look at tasers, they bring up most of the same issues." is the best answer, +1. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk May 1 '17 at 21:50

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