To shock or not to shock
A Truckee Police Department request to arm its force with more Tasers could get zapped by the Truckee Town Council on Thursday.The council is set to discuss Tasers, the dart-firing electro-shock devices designed to incapacitate suspects via a 50,000 volt shock, at its Thursday meeting. While Tasers are advertised as a non-lethal use-of-force tool for law enforcement personnel, critics, such as human rights organization Amnesty International, have complained about how Tasers have been used and the possibility that Taser shocks have contributed to a number of deaths throughout the country.Councilwoman Beth Ingalls, for one, is concerned with Truckee police Chief Scott Berry’s request to use $6,000 from $100,000 in Citizens Option for Public Safety (COPS) money from the state to purchase five Tasers. The department currently has two Tasers available to officers.The additional Tasers would allow the department to outfit every patrol vehicle with the devices, Berry said. That would be important, he said, because in a scenario where an officer might want to use a Taser instead of another use-of-force option, such as a night stick or gun, there generally isn’t time to have a Taser brought in from another location.Ingalls expressed concern about the police department’s policy in regard to the use of Tasers and the level of training that Truckee offices receive on the subject.”They have two Tasers already. They’ve used them once in the last two years, and in my opinion if they have more they’ll use them more because they are available,” Ingalls said.Although the devices are a better alternative to shooting somebody, Ingalls said there are many issues surrounding their use, including deaths of suspects that have been shocked.
“I’m just afraid that we don’t have an adequate policy in place or training in place related to excessive force and the use of Tasers in general,” she saidIngalls’ concerns, and those of the other council members, were enough to spur Berry to provide the council with a summary of the department’s current policy on Taser use and training, as well as a number of testimonials from other departments that use the devices and attorneys who have handled Taser-related claims against cities.”I’ve talked to different agencies that have them,” Berry said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’ve talked to attorneys that represent law enforcement agencies regarding these types of cases and a compensation carrier that handles claims against towns, and they support them for the fact that they … reduce injuries to officers and injuries to suspects.”Berry said that Tasers provide officers with a non-lethal tool that may be preferable to wrestling with or using a night stick on a hostile suspect. He also pointed to the department’s established guidelines on Taser use and said that Truckee officers are well trained before they are certified to use the department’s existing Tasers.”I do see that it is a liability for law enforcement … and that’s why we have training and professionalism and more training. We address those issues all the time,” he said, adding, “I don’t anticipate seeing a spike in people being Tased in Truckee,” if the department gets permission to purchase five more of the devices.In addition to the concerns surrounding the use of Tasers and the estimated 74 Taser-related deaths documented by Amnesty International, Ingalls said the issue also comes down to what kind of a police force the citizens of Truckee want to see in town.”The other part is the community character issue,” she said in speaking of Tasers being used by Truckee police officers. “I think that’s important to all of us here. Do we want a police force similar to one in a Bay Area city or do we want a police force like we should have up here?”We don’t have a lot of violent crime or violent criminals…” Ingalls said, adding that “I think that a lot of things in the police budget could be directed more toward public safety … and for the better use of the community rather than just acquiring more weapons.”
Check it outTasers at Town Council meeting Thursday, 6 p.m. at Town Hall.Sidebar:According to the Truckee Police Department’s policy on Taser usage, a Taser may be used:
1. As protection of self or another from assault; or2. To complete an arrest of a hostile or potentially hostile subject and only when necessary.The policy also directs officers to obtain any medical treatment that is necessary for a suspect who has been subjected to a Taser.On the Web:For more information on Tasers check out these sources:• http://www.taser.com – Web site for Taser International, Inc., the company that makes the Taser.• http://www.amnestyusa.org – Web site for Amnesty International. Search “Taser” and read document entitled “Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers”