Archive for Monday, January 21, 2008

Presence of weapon influences suspects, officers say

January 21, 2008


Many folks on the street understand what a Taser is.

At least they understand it well enough to know that they don't want to receive a jolt from the weapon.

Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, said the mere presence of the device often is enough to stop a suspect from resisting arrest.

"Once they're told of the Taser, it is pretty immediate that they start complying," Wempe said.

That's one of the prime pieces of information that the Douglas County Sheriff's Department has learned in the nearly two years that the department has equipped officers with Tasers.

But on Friday, the department refused to release one key piece of information about its Taser program: how many times the devices have been used on suspects.

Wempe said it wasn't the department's policy to compile a public report on that information, although each incident sparks a written report to Sheriff's Department leaders.

In 2006, the Sheriff's Department purchased 26 Tasers for use by patrol officers, courtroom security, jail security and warrant officers.

"We obviously don't want to use our weapon, and this is another good tool that our officers have," Wempe said. "It gives them another opportunity to defuse a situation without having to use lethal means."

In addition to Douglas County, the Kansas Highway Patrol, and sheriff's departments in Jefferson, Shawnee and Johnson counties use the devices.

The Sheriff's Department has a written policy on the use of the device. It allows the device to be used when a subject is actively or aggressively resisting a law enforcement officer. But the policy also spells out several situations when Tasers generally should not be used. Those include when the subject is operating a motor vehicle, holding a firearm, handcuffed or is either extremely old or young.

The policy states the device should never be used to lead or prod a subject, to awaken an intoxicated or unconscious subject, or on a person who is noticeably pregnant, unless deadly force is the only other option.

Sheriff's deputies receive annual training with the device, and are shocked by the weapon to gain a sense of perspective about the device.

"They're trained on a yearly basis, and that promotes good judgment by our officers," Wempe said.


booze_buds_03 10 years, 5 months ago

I think you are wrong. A lot of times the suspect knows that the officer is not willing to use deadly force with their gun. However, it is much easier for the officer to use the taser on a suspect, especially when the action is aggressive but not worthy of utilizing his gun. "Peace officers" were and never will be "respected" by the thugs and criminals that they are out there to catch. Give me a break.

skinny 10 years, 5 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!

Ragingbear 10 years, 5 months ago

Anyone else notice that there are two articles of this nature printed in the LJW on MLK's birthday?

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 5 months ago

Anyone else notice that there are two articles of this nature printed in the LJW on MLK's birthday?

I don't see the correlation. Explain.

Benmartz 10 years, 5 months ago

I beleive in the tasers. I work for a sheriff's office in Maryland and they started outfitting all of their deputies with Tasers. The thing people need to understand is that tasers are designed for officer safety. We have been useing them for 3 years now and I can tell you from a civilian stand point the criminals here know about the tasers and they do not resist arrest like they use to before we had them. Another thing that people need to understand is their is a policy in place for a use for a taser and it requires the officer to let people know that they are going to use the taser before they actually use it.

Chris Golledge 10 years, 5 months ago

Get real folks. Imagine you are drunk and stupid in a bar somewhere; so, you don't mind taking and giving a few punches with the cops. It sure isn't worth getting shot, but since you aren't armed, you've a pretty good idea the cops aren't allowed to use deadly force. Ah, there's a tazer; cops are willing to use that to prevent getting kicked/punched/gouged/bitten. You've heard they hurt like hell and you will find yourself quivering on the ground and possibly wearing your own piss. Maybe fighting the cops is no longer a good idea.

I don't expect I'll ever find myself fighting the police, and in honesty, I've never experienced either, but I know I'd rather be tazed than shot.

That's all that the meaning that the article carries. Quit trying to read the Kremlin.

imastinker 10 years, 5 months ago

I didn't see him imply that the police will retaliate.

I think that tasers do save lives. People know that police will not pull their gun unless lives are in danger. They will use the taser to subdue a suspect who is combative or running.

doc1 10 years, 5 months ago

The citizen review board would have to be screened and given polygraph examinations just like the screening process of an officer. The last thing any police review board needs is an irrationale conspiracy theorist judging how things were handled.

By the way I can see how just having them would get easy compliance. I bet the thugs down at last call would put their hands behind their back way before arguing and get put down in a pool of their own pee. It's easier to comply and look gangsta than to lay in your own pee shivering like a little girl.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 5 months ago

"But on Friday, the department refused to release one key piece of information about its Taser program: how many times the devices have been used on suspects."

Why's this? Doesn't the public pay their salaries via our taxes? Yet they refuse to release non sensitive information to those that are paying their salaries.

I can understand refusal to talk about cases if it would jeopardize solving the case.

I don't get it.

If the public wants to know this information, for whatever reason, then it should be released.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 5 months ago

While the Taser may be a "less lethal" weapon than the officer's side arm, it is none-the-less a potentially lethal weapon. Indeed only a minority of gunshot victims die from their wounds, but Taser victims die even though it is not intended as a deadly weapon.

The standards for discharging a Taser should be identical to those for using their regular side arm.

oldvet 10 years, 5 months ago

"The standards for discharging a Taser should be identical to those for using their regular side arm."

So, if the officer believes that his life, or the life of another person, is in danger... why would he/she ever bother to go for the Taser? That situation would be a justifiable shooting with a lot less bodily-harm danger to the officer.

A ridiculous standard for allowing the use of the Taser...

Chris Golledge 10 years, 5 months ago

"Indeed only a minority of gunshot victims die from their wounds, but Taser victims die even though it is not intended as a deadly weapon."

True, but a) for every thousand people who are shot, how many die versus how many people die for every thousand who are tased? and b) considering that anyone might have HIV, how many of us really expect police officers to be willing to exchange blood or saliva with a perp over a brawl or domestic conflict? That's a pretty low chance of infection, but it's not one that I, for one, would eagerly take.

There is a trade-off there, but in any case, the fact remains, based on the interviewed officer, that many trouble-makers settle down when they realize they are in danger of being tased. But, if someone is too stupid/drunk to realize that resisting to the point of causing the police to resort to weapons, then whether it is a taser or a gun is probably beyond them. If it comes to that a taser is still a better option.

"That's an awfully well-reasoned line of thought for someone who you are suggesting is drunk or high."

Well, yes, maybe. Some loose physical competence first; some loose mental competence first (with or without the use of chemicals). I know there are those who get drunk or high and think they're superman, but if that's the case, and they are making themselves dangerous to others beyond the officer's ability to control without using a weapon, then getting shocked is still better than getting shot.

On the other thread, sure, there's a record every time an officer uses their firearm; I can't see any reason for the recording of taser use to be different. The rules regarding their use should be different, but, yeah, why treat the recording/reporting of it any different than a firearm?

What about batons/clubs? Is their use recorded? I'm sure there are a few people who've died that way as well.

Whatever the weapon, there just has to be a balance between what harm will happen if the police don't gain control over someone versus what harm may happen through their use of force. It'd be a mistake to ban the use of a tool that offers something in between a baton and a gun.

Chris Golledge 10 years, 5 months ago

One last thing before I get back to work. Going back to this line from the article:

"But on Friday, the department refused to release one key piece of information about its Taser program: how many times the devices have been used on suspects."

So, this is Monday, the interview was done on Friday. I wonder if the reporter asked for this information before Friday. Is it the case that Wempe was telling the reporter that the information would not be available to the public ever, under any circumstances, or simply that the information was not readily available at the time and Wempe gave a pat answer? My guess is that it's in the records and under the right circumstances, records for closed cased could be disclosed, it's just that the department doesn't filter all incident reports and keep a running total. Paraphrasing my guess on the meaning of Wempe's answer: "I don't have that information on hand and you'll have to go to some trouble or come back later to get it." If I were a reported peeved at not getting everything I wanted (because there is a filing deadline), I would be tempted to call my request 'refused' rather than use softer language.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 5 months ago

Before Tazers we had collapsible batons, pepper spray and stun guns. The stun gun works like a Tazer, but you have to push it against a suspect, not stand back 20' and shoot him/her. The pepper spray really works, at least it did on me, the only problem is wind. I was never whacked with an ASP collapsible baton but I expect that would get my attention, too. Less than lethal weaponry is improving, and I am glad. I expect today's peace officers are as well. No one wants to shoot someone. There are lots of emotional consequences to doing so. You have to be prepared to take a life, but no one wants to have to do it. So the better less than lethal gets, the better for peace officers. What does it matter how many times it has been used? We trust these officers to carry a firearm, we should trust that they use discretion and care in making a decision to use a Tazer. Thank you, Lynn

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 5 months ago

P.S. Just so you know my position, I am very pro law enforcement. I see no need for a citizen review board. If there is a need for an impartial investigation, trained investigators from a different local agency, the KBI or FBI do it quite well. Thank you, Lynn

BlackVelvet 10 years, 5 months ago

To all those who want to second guess the police... put on a uniform and do their job for 6 months. And then report back on things. I'd bet a bundle your outlook would change.

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