Cops want Tasers in their holsters
May 23, 2007
Dave Edmunds has experienced the pain, a ‘7’ on a 1 to 10 scale, he says.
Edmunds, the Summit County sheriff, as part of a training exercise to show deputies how to use Taser guns, received a shot in his back about two years ago.
"It hurt only when the electricity was being introduced to my body," Edmunds says, recalling the weapon was pulsing the electricity for, at most, five seconds.
The Sheriff’s Office, long seen as better equipped than the Park City Police Department, arms its patrol deputies and jail and court security officers with the Tasers. The office owns between 40 and 50 of the weapons.
The Police Department, though, saying Tasers could be useful in many situations, has asked that money for them be earmarked when the Park City Council approves the next budget, scheduled in June.
"Would Council like to see a demonstration," Mayor Dana Williams recently quipped when department brass approached the elected officials with the request.
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Phil Kirk, the Police Department lieutenant who oversees the patrol division, says he wants funding, $28,800, to purchase 18 Tasers over two years, the period of City Hall’s budget cycle. The department has none.
Local lawmen say Tasers provide officers a different method to subdue a violent person. The Police Department now has few options although officers are regularly summoned to handle unruly people, typically on the Main Street nightclub circuit.
"If he decides to get combative, now we have another tool to render him immobilized versus having to use a greater amount of physical force," Kirk says.
The Taser model the Police Department wants delivers 50,000 volts of electricity through two wires with barbs at the ends. The officer would shoot a person, with a range of 35 feet, and then deliver the electricity through the wires. The electricity would incapacitate the person.
According to the Taser corporate Web site, the model the police are considering, known as the X26, hinders the "sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system."
If the budget earmark is approved, Chief Lloyd Evans says he anticipates training with the Tasers will start by Nov. 1 and they will be issued to qualified officers before the busy ski season. He says selected officers will qualify to carry the Tasers.
Promotional material from Taser shows the X26 model is outfitted with an audio video recording device, with the capability of recording 90 minutes at a speed of 10 frames per second.
The Taser request represents what has been an aggressive program in the last two years to better arm police officers. Previously, the department bought shotguns and semi automatic rifles, greatly expanding the police arsenal.
The purchases followed a controversial nonscientific 2004 survey, conducted by the local Fraternal Order of Police, which found nearly half of the officers surveyed strongly or slightly agreed that they were not adequately equipped to perform their duties. Survey comments showed some were worried about the police weapons. At least one person, anonymously, mentioned the lack of Tasers.
"Cars are unsecured, no long guns, no tasers, etc. We do not even come close to meeting the industry standard and I don’t think anyone really cares," one person wrote in the survey.
Park City police officers, though, rarely use force and Evans says, in 2006, about 12 such cases were recorded. In those, he says, officers used pepper spray, nightsticks or physical force. In as many as eight of those cases, an officer could have used a Taser instead, according to Evans.
"It’s a split-second decision, what level of force to use," he says.
At the Sheriff’s Office, Mike Bergin, a deputy who handles the Tasers, says he has not had to use the weapon but deputies are more confident when they have them on their belt.
"It allows us not to have to go hands-on if we don’t need to," he says, describing the conflicts between deputies and suspects before the Tasers arrived. "Somebody’s going to get hurt. We’re going to get hurt or the suspect’s going to get hurt."