Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Police asking to test Tasers

City Commission to weigh pilot project at Tuesday’s meeting

January 21, 2008


The Lawrence Police Department wants to start a pilot project that could lead to all patrol officers carrying Tasers, a gun-like device that delivers an electric charge.

Project supporters said using Tasers could make it less likely that police officers will have to brandish their firearms.

"In some cases, I think it will allow officers to avoid the use of deadly force," said Scott Miller, a City Hall attorney who has been researching the issue. "That won't be the case in all circumstances because you can't ask a police officer to confront someone who is shooting at them with a firearm to confront that person with a Taser.

"But the research I've seen shows there can be some real positive effects from the deployment of Tasers."

Lawrence police officers want to find out. Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Fellers said the test project would equip three officers per shift with Tasers. In total, the department wants to buy 10 Tasers at a price of about $900 apiece.

Fellers declined to provide many details about whether there were specific incidents that had led to the request, or what scenarios would prompt the use of a Taser. Instead, Fellers said the department was waiting to answer those types of questions until after they had given a presentation to city commissioners.

City commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issue at their weekly meeting Tuesday evening.

A lack of information, though, is the chief concern from Laura Routh, a Lawrence resident who has warned commissioners to proceed cautiously with the department's request.

"The Police Department has a very shoddy record of providing open access to information, in my opinion," said Routh, who has for several years lobbied for the creation of a police oversight board.

Routh said she was wary of whether the Police Department would readily make available records showing how often the weapons were used.

Miller said he wasn't sure what the city's policy would be on compiling and posting reports related to the usage of Tasers. A proposed Taser policy that has been drafted doesn't specifically address the public reporting issue, although it does say officers must immediately report the use of the Taser to their supervisors.

Other provisions in the policy include:

l The weapon will be carried in a holster on the side of the body opposite the officer's handgun.

l Use of the weapon is forbidden unless it is necessary to prevent harm to an officer or another person or to make "a lawful arrest."

l Use on a handcuffed prisoner is forbidden unless the prisoner is actively resisting detention or trying to escape and poses an immediate threat to harm an officer or another person.

Miller said he believes the city's proposed policy takes a conservative approach to the use of Tasers. He said courts in some states have ruled that it is permissible for law enforcement to use the Tasers on people who aren't fighting with police but rather are refusing to obey a police command. Kansas courts, however, have not yet taken up that issue.

Out of an "abundance of caution," Miller said he's suggesting the city restrict the use of Tasers on people who are actively resisting arrest, or to situations where the use of deadly force already is authorized.

Miller is recommending approval of the pilot project, but is warning commissioners that there are risks.

"The use of Tasers isn't without controversy," Miller said.

Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers, unless it is clear that it is a situation requiring the use of deadly force.

Some chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union also have called for a moratorium. But Phil Minkin, president of the Douglas County Chapter, said the local organization hasn't been able to reach a consensus.

"There are good arguments made on both sides," Minkin said.

In its call for a moratorium, Amnesty International cited statistics showing that 150 people since 2001 have died after being struck by Tasers.

"In some cases, Amnesty International believes the use of Tasers has amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture," the organization wrote.

Supporters of Tasers, though, have said many of those deaths can be attributed to factors other than the Taser. Miller said courts generally have upheld the ability of police forces to use the devices, but said the city may very well face litigation if the city has a Taser incident with a negative outcome.


Michael Capra 10 years, 4 months ago

they should try it out on routh at the commision meeting as many times as they can

Michael Capra 10 years, 4 months ago

enforcer then you hold her hand as they shock her ten times that will shut her up

doc1 10 years, 4 months ago

Inforcer. Your an idiot if you believe every cop is the same. The fact is these would save poeple from getting injured when they try to fight the cops. It will keeps cops from getting injured by fighting those guys too. If these were available years ago Sevier would be alive today.

moveforward 10 years, 4 months ago

Tasers make complete sense when combatting aggressiveness towards police or victims. But there are soooo many examples (youtube) showing use when not needed. Verbal abuse is no reason to taser someone.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Tasers were designed and implemented for use in situations where an officer would otherwise end up shooting the suspect. It took police officers all of 5 minutes to discover that they can be used to torment people just like pepper spray. Taser use is listed as a torture device in several countries, including the U.N.

I can just imagine how often people will get zapped by officers walking down the street being bored. Don't think that happens? Then you don't know squat.

cowboy 10 years, 4 months ago

From Cattle Today website

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right?

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target.

I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of sho rts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and taser in another.

The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water.

I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as to say, 'don't do it master,' reasoning that a one- second bu rst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad. I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and . . .


I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner , then body slammed us both on the carpet.

I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs?

The cat was standing over me making meowing sounds I had never heard before, licking my face, undoubtedly thinking to herself, 'Do it again, stupid, do it again!'

Note: If you ever feel compelled to 'mug' yourself with a taser, one note of cautio n: there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself!

You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor.

SON-OF-A-... That hurt like **% !!! A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. How did they get up there??? My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I'm still looking for my testicles! I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return!! Still in shock!

P. S. My wife loved the gift, and now regularly threatens me with it!

slickmick 10 years, 4 months ago

Yes, don't taze me either bro! Although I think tazers are good. I can think of a couple people I wouldn't mind tazing.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 4 months ago

Enforcer, every time there's a story about police or judges you speak out against them. I'm curious, do you have a criminal record or background? As the Magical 8 Ball used to say, "Signs point to yes." How many times have you been arrested and what for?

Bladerunner 10 years, 4 months ago

LMAO Cowboy! I remeber getting that in an email a few years ago. Always funny.

Enforcer...Its been said before and I have to say it again. YOU are an idiot.

skinny 10 years, 4 months ago

It's just a matter of time and every Police Dept in the United States will carry a taser. It's just commen sense. Tasers save lifes.

Everybody here already knows the Enforcer does not like the Police. But guess who the first person she'll call if she needs help!

Not a very smart woman!

redfred 10 years, 4 months ago

How many times has DGSO used their Tasers in the last 2 years??

And, Enforcer, how many times a week were the cops at your house when you lived in Baldwin?

Michael Capra 10 years, 4 months ago

Routh come on let the cops use it on you at the meeting just so we all can see you floping around on the floor like a fish.Now thats funny

Yabut 10 years, 4 months ago

As usual, Laura Routh and Kathy Gragg (aka enforcer) don't know what they're talking about. There IS a police advisory board (in fact, has been for over a year now), but they don't call it that. It's called the "Lawrence Citizen Advisory Board". You can find it here, and if you click on the name, it goes right to PD's web site. Unfortunately, there is very little info on it, and you have to open the minutes to find out about them.

Bobbi Walls 10 years, 4 months ago

I have several family members who are police officers as well as friends. I am a also a Criminal Justice major, and I have to say that it's about time that Lawrence start carrying tasers. They are less deadly than a gun, and a better alternative.

doc1 10 years, 4 months ago

Enforcer is crabby old redhead who has obviously had a run in with police. If blondes are dumb then redheads must be irrationale and paranoid. Sounds about right.

Erin Parmelee 10 years, 4 months ago

Haiku: I have been advised "yes" is the answer to your question.

local_guy 10 years, 4 months ago

Dont have a whole lot of knowledge on the subject so dont attack me..all im asking, is if the cops have already admitted to "being scared" of some of the people in Lawrence, regardless of who they are, wouldn't that make them a little more trigger happy knowing they won't kill the person? I dont want to be shot with a taser just because "they're scared of me," regardless of the situation..

fairylight 10 years, 4 months ago

What would you rather see happen in a scenario such as this? College kid has too much to drink, becomes unruly, is kicked out of a bar- stumbles into man on street and a fight ensues. Police come- Dumb kid thinks he can take the cop - or is too drunk to understand the command to get his hand out of his pocket and drop and spread 'em.

Would you rather he was shot or tazed? I vote Taze the idiot so he can live another day to perhaps grow some brains.

Sure, there have been deaths related to being Tazed- as there have been when being held down, restrained- any number of tactic used by LEO. It happens. You choose the less deadly force if given a chance.

Steve Jacob 10 years, 4 months ago

Tasers are a very god idea. Sure you see a rare case on TV of police basically being lazy and use it, but overall they are fine.

werekoala 10 years, 4 months ago

Right now, LPD has billy clubs, pepper spray, and handguns at their disposal.

Does it hurt to get Tazered? Sure. Is getting Tazered dangerous? Only slightly, even if you're old or high on cocaine. It's less dangerous than getting shot, or hit with a billy club.

And mace is not the best choice because it lasts much longer, is dangerous to officers/bystanders in enclosed spaces, and won't stop someone who is really motivated to attack you.

Basically, cops have a hard, un-pretty job to do; and Tazers are a valuable tool that may well prevent death or injury to both cops and criminals.

Are Tazers sometimes misused? Sure, but so are guns, billy clubs, mace, etc. Our job as citizens is to ensure we have a police force that conducts themselves professionally, not just superstitiously ban innovations because of media sensationalism.

Crossfire 10 years, 4 months ago

Tazer discussion on MLK Day... ...anybody see the irony?

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 4 months ago

Tazer discussion on MLK Day: :anybody see the irony? =========== This really isn't a race or equal rights issue.

werekoala 10 years, 4 months ago

"I'm not worried about banning tazers, but why are the police so averse to having public disclosure of the use frequency?"

No idea. I'd be in favor of that, as well as a properly-constructed independent review board (read: no cranks or nutters, enough power to punish egregious misuse, but no Monday-morning-QBing every little incident).

"If we have a police force that can't manage to deal with drunk fratboys fighting at a bar without drawing their weapons, then I would say that tazers are an absolute must-have."

Well, I certainly don't expect a 5'7" 170 lb. policeman to take on a 6'4" 250 lb drunk frat brother in fisticuffs. But the other options are the nightstick, or the mace, both of which have their own disadvantages. More to the point, I don't care how drunk or high you are, I don't expect cops to risk a career-ending injury just because a guy doesn't know when to simmer down.

People somehow have it in their heads that two equally effective options exist: 1) Tazer 2) calmly sharing feelings while singing kum-by-ya.

Reality begs to differ.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Jaywalking- That's a tasing Looking at me- That's a tasing Voting for the wrong person- That's a tasing Talking on a cell phone while driving- You better believe that's a tasing.

akt2 10 years, 4 months ago

If a person is stupid enough to get their ass tasered for their behavior, they deserve it. Doesn't matter what they are on, or how much they have had to drink. If you can't control yourself, then you are forcing someone else to do it for you.

Crossfire 10 years, 4 months ago

Talking about your medical problems on the cell phone in any restaurant...that's a tazing.

I want one too.

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 4 months ago

I've never understood why people think that when they mouth off, attract unwanted attention to themselves, that any enforcement action taken against them is "harassment."

I have to assume that anyone with a grudge toward law enforcement in general has a criminal mind.

Mkh 10 years, 4 months ago

Haiku_Cuckoo (Anonymous) says: "Tazer discussion on MLK Day: :anybody see the irony? =========== This really isn't a race or equal rights issue."

Oh I certainly see the irony, not sure how one could miss it. King stood for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience. Who do you think these Tazers will be used on? Most likely protesters and others practicing civil disobedience will face the wrath of the tazer patrol.

The Global Police State coming home to roost.

Welcome to the Machine.

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 4 months ago

I don't believe the KDHE speaks to any positions on tasers. There is plenty of case law, however, upholding the use of tasers by law enforcement and confirming their use is not a violation of clearly established Constitutional law governing excessive force.

Russo v. Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036 (6th Cir. 1992)

Ewolski v. City of Brunswick, 287 F.3d 492 (6th Cir. 2003)

Thomas v. Roach, 165 F.3d 137 (2nd Cir. 1999)

Lifton v. City of Vacaville, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 16286 (9th Cir. 2003)

Jolivet v. Cook, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 3950 (10th Cir. 1995)

Hinton v. City of Elwood ('93, KS)

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Tasers are widely abused. Didn't anyone see the video of the police tasing somebody twice when they were in a diabetic coma?

denak 10 years, 4 months ago

Personally, I don't see any reason as to why police officers shouldn't be allowed tasers. They are less deadly and the effects wear off quickly. There is the issue of emotional trauma but still I'm pretty sure most people would rather be "tazed" than shot. So, if I were a cop, I would go for the most effective non-lethal alternative which is what most cops would do. Contrary to what some may believe, most cops loath the idea of shooting someone but it is part of their job and they do it.Given an alternative, I'm sure most would rather use a taser.

However, I do have one concern. I have been told that there is no physical evidence of a taser being used on someone after the fact. If a cop beats the heck out of someone using a billy club, there is physical evidence. If you spray someone with pepper spray, there is evidence. If a cop shoots someone, there is obviously evidence.

I have talked with social workers and they have expressed some concern about the increase in tasers in child abuse because there is no physical proof.

So, there is the potential for abuse simply because of the lack of physical evidence. Who is the police going to believe, the person being arrested or the cop? The person can't point to a bruise and say "look"

That is the only objection I have to the use of tasers but overall, I think they can and should be an effective tool for the police to use.


P.S. Cowboy, I am interested in just how long it took you to fully recover? Provided, of course, that you have found your testicles. And just for the record, I have always been curious just as to how that feels. I know it hurts like *&&^, but I probably would have done the same thing. I'm not really sure what that says about our collective intelligence but no pain, no gain. :)

ToriFreak13 10 years, 4 months ago

trainging someone in the idea that pulling a trigger is NON LETHAL (firing a taser)....after they have been trained and lived every day of their life believing different (firing a gun) very DANGEROUS! why is there a need for more enforcement and less regulation? do the patroling officers of Lawrence have video cameras in their cars yet??? That should be what is on the table....getting our criminals....AND officers on video so that all can be held TRUELY accountable for their actions.

Ragingbear 10 years, 4 months ago

Anyone remember the case in Texas where a Deputy was told to Tase a guy that had climbed up a tree.

The deputy apparently forgot which side he put his Taser, as he grabbed his side arm and shot the guy in the tree.

doc1 10 years, 4 months ago

Smitty, your a retard. Give it a rest, take the tin foil off your head and get off the Olin stuff already.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 4 months ago

I consider myself fortunate to not live among the liberals and idiots in Lawrence. The last thing you need is a bunch of untrained wanna be cops on a citizens review board. If an investigation needs to be made the Sheriff's office, the KBI, the Attorney General, or the FBI can conduct an adequate, unbiased investigation. I see from reading the paper everyday that some citizens are chomping at the bit to review (meddle in the workings of) the police department. You have a very good police chief. I was fortunate to be in a class he taught some years ago on terrorism. Do you know he is an expert on terrorism? He has been there long enough that I am sure he is competent enough to do his job, and do it well. Leave him alone and let him do it. I am also sure he has a means in place whereby a citizen can file a complaint, and that the complaint is adequately investigated. People in Lawrence are always unhappy and arguing about everything. How much of my tax money has been spent in the decades you people have been haggling about completing the trafficway? Or the new streetlights are too bright? Light deters criminals, so you should be happy about the streetlights. You have fought and argued about anything and everything in the 40 years I have lived in Douglas County. I don't think it will ever change. You have a good police department, be happy about it. Thank you, Lynn

texburgh 10 years, 4 months ago

"Use of the weapon is forbidden unless it is necessary to prevent harm to an officer or another person or to make 'a lawful arrest.'"

Gee. "A lawful arrest" warrants use of a taser. I don't have a problem with the first part but when you say "or to make a lawful arrest" it kind of opens things up. A cop can pretty much use the taser any time under this open ended permission. And since too many of our small town officers want to be the Elliot Stabler of Lawrence, I don't think we want to open this too far.

Michael Capra 10 years, 4 months ago

jaded and routh should go to the meeting tonite and get the crap shocked out of you...come on help the police out

jaded 10 years, 4 months ago

Not every cop is the same. Some, maybe even most are doing a good job. But, there are a few cops on the LPD that are cowards and bullies. They use pepper spray in a minute. They are "scared". They should be scared. When you beat someone down on the streets just because, and they do, you should be scared. Tazers are just another tool for these bullies.

I am so sick of people poo pooing the people on these pages because they are speaking out. People need to pay attention. It is happening. And no, I have never been arrested. No, they have not beat me down. And yes, I know of several young men that were beat down. Pepper sprayed in the face and beaten. They were drug down to the police station thrown in jail only to be released and charges dropped.

Of course these young men have been in trouble with the law at one time or another. I guess in the eyes of the people on this site. If you have been in trouble with the law you are fair game for the cops in this town. No one will believe you. No one cares therefore very few of them will persue legal measures. At one time the Lawrence Journal World did some investigating on the subject and wanted someone I know to pass out cards to other young men that had been beaten. Some came forward, some told there stories but as usual, they had records. Who is going to believe them.

Hope none of you have teenage sons in this town. Hope none of them hangs out with anyone who has been in some kind of trouble. You may change your mind when it is your son, nephew or oh my god YOU!

Jason Bowers-Chaika 10 years, 4 months ago

Just for discussion's sake, what would the charge be if a citizen uses a taser on another citizen? What if it was in the act of robbery or other crime? What if a citizen used a taser on a LEO?

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 4 months ago

Other provisions in the policy include: l The weapon will be carried in a holster on the side of the body opposite the officer's handgun.

HALT!! .......or I'll Taze you!!!............BANG....oops.....

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 4 months ago

...the alternative is shoot to kill, Windlass.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 4 months ago

Tazers are a step down from a .40 caliber handgun, Windlass, so I think your analogy has to go the other way.

If an officer is confronted with a physically larger and stronger person and that person is perhaps not thinking clearly for whatever reason and violently inclined, officers are saying they want an alternative other than simply shooting that person with a handgun.

Makes sense to me.

Now, if we have a rash of old ladies tazered during routine traffice stops, I may change my mind. Especially if I'm one of them.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 4 months ago

It's just about being prepared.

W.C. Fields said it best, "always carry a small flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake."

denak 10 years, 4 months ago

"Just for discussion's sake, what would the charge be if a citizen uses a taser on another citizen? What if it was in the act of robbery or other crime? What if a citizen used a taser on a LEO?"

I'm going to take a stab at this although anyone with a legal degree might be able to expand more on it.

I think if the person used it during a crime, it would add an aggravated charge. Instead of just simple battery it would become aggravated battery. Usually if a weapon is used during a crime, then the charges leveled against someone is greater because the harm is greater.

I am wondering though, and any lawyers feel free to step in here, if a rapist used a taser during a rape, could he also charged with false imprisonment given how a taser immobalizes the victim.


pace 10 years, 4 months ago

I would support taser if the lpd had a better record on communicating. If more young people received education on what to do if stopped by the police, it is not the time to explain or use their freedom of speech. It should be taught in schools and at community gatherings. Taser can kill. The culture of our current police department is not one of communicating with the community, nor considering the community as a partner. If they adopt tasers they should also adopt a community review board. They have committed some resources to community outreach but that is usually used when there are bond issues coming up. To reduce incidents requires education of both the police in better communication skills and the community in understanding the department's policy on correct response to incidents.

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