Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tasers approved for police force

City Commission unanimous in OK’ing weapon, split on whether oversight board is needed

January 23, 2008


Tasers soon in police hands

Lawrence City Commissioners voted unanimously tonight to allow the police department to move forward with a program to test the use of Tasers. Enlarge video

The Lawrence Police Department will get Tasers for the first time, but the new weapons may spark serious City Commission discussion of a new police oversight board as well.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously approved a pilot project that will allow the police department to buy 10 Tasers, a gun-like device that delivers an electric jolt.

"I think this will help improve citizen safety and officer safety," Mayor Sue Hack said after listening to a police presentation that said Tasers in other communities had reduced the number of injuries to both police officers and suspects.

Police Chief Ron Olin said plans call for the department to buy 10 Tasers - at about $900 each. Three officers on each patrol shift would be equipped with the devices. Olin said it would be "several weeks" before officers would be equipped with the devices because significant training will first occur. He anticipated it would take at least six months for the department to evaluate the success of the test project and report back to city commissioners.

City commissioners also will be evaluating a major proposal of their own. Three of the five city commissioners said they were interested in studying whether the police department could benefit from a new citizens board that would play a role in police oversight.

"I have a lot of confidence in our police department, but I have received more comments about transparency," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said.

Chestnut joined City Commissioners Mike Dever and Boog Highberger in asking staff to look at whether a citizens board could be useful in improving communication between the police and the community, and whether a board would help address concerns some people have about police procedure.

The lone comment commissioners received Tuesday night against the police's Taser proposal was related to whether there was enough oversight in how the force would use the new weapons. David Strano, Lawrence resident, said he was concerned that there was no outside board that could review whether the department was using Tasers or other weapons in a reasonable manner.

Police leaders, though, sought to assure commissioners that police officers faced multiple levels of review. Mike McAtee, chairman of the Lawrence Police Officers Association, said officers faced administrative sanctions, criminal charges and civil lawsuits if they misused their power.

"I'm looking at five people right here," McAtee said to commissioners. "You are elected representatives of this community. We have a citizen review board, and it is sitting right here."

Hack and City Commissioner Mike Amyx agreed. Both said they had concerns about creating a new board that would serve as an oversight board of the police department. Instead, Amyx said residents needed to know they could bring any complaint to the City Commission.

"We'll make sure there is a review of concerns anyone may have," Amyx said.

Other commissioners stopped short of saying they wanted a board that could take actual disciplinary action against the police department. Some oversight boards have that authority, while others simply are responsible for alerting commissioners or other city leaders to potential problems. The city does have a citizens panel - required by state law - to review complaints related to racial profiling. The trio of commissioners said they wanted to study whether the role of that board could be expanded.

On the issue of Tasers, commissioners didn't have much disagreement. Commissioners heard a presentation by Capt. Steve Zarnowiec, who told of recent incidents where police officers had been kicked, punched, and in one case, stabbed with needle-nose pliers. In total, there were at least a half-dozen incidents in 2007 where a Taser likely could have protected the officer.

Commissioners also heard some public support for the Taser plan. Rob Farha, a local bar owner, said he had seen police be extremely responsible with other weapons such as pepper spray. He encouraged commissioners to approve the department's request.

"If this is a tool that can prevent the use of lethal force, let them experiment with the technology," Farha said.


Yabut 10 years, 3 months ago

Anybody have kids in Lawrence junior or senior highs? Just wondering, since several people have brought up issues regarding kids being taught the appropriate way to react when interacting with police, if this is being taught at the six schools by the school resource officers (real police officers working for PD) assigned there.

hornhunter 10 years, 3 months ago

Olin said it would be "several weeks" before officers would be equipped with the devices because significant training will first occur. Does this training include the officers using the Tazers on each other? If not it should, to show them just how much pain they will inflict, and a citizen review board should be present to witness the effects

Michael Capra 10 years, 3 months ago

did you see routh flopping on the floor like a fish when they tazed her it was great,, thanks for showing the comish it was safe your a team player

pace 10 years, 3 months ago

You are correct, it was "Police leaders, though.... Mike McAtee, chairman of the Lawrence Police Officers Association, said officers faced administrative sanctions, criminal charges and civil lawsuits if they misused their power.

But for a community review board to work the police would have to be willing to accept the community as some sort of respected partner. They will have find a way to be positive about the community and work with them. I don't know if Olin could bend his mind around that. I certainly prefer a review board than to politicize every complaint or suggestion by going through the City Commissioners meeting, which would have to be an agenda item, through the court system or see if it meets the criteria for criminal charges. Not only are those remedies cumbersome but they seem adversarial. A review board would also work as a conduit for better communications between the police and the community. Community education should be a much higher priority. Very little has been done to explain to the youth in the town what is consider proper conduct if they get stopped. Some of the people who get stopped think they should try and explain or interfere, it is not a good freedom of speech moment. Taser can kill, so can guns and billy clubs but if education can prevent their need then both the police and the person being taken in will be safer.

domino 10 years, 3 months ago

hornhunter - not sure there is anything in the training (state mandated, for example) that requirers using the tazers on each other, but I know of departments where all the officers used it on each other - may have just been the department - not sure - but think it is a good idea.

Eric Neuteboom 10 years, 3 months ago

That is part of the training, hornhunter. A good friend of mine is an officer in KC, and during his taser training they used it on each other to see the effects first hand. Besides being hilarious - as he put it, "you don't know what you'll react like, you just hope it isn't something embarassing" - it builds empathy. I think this is a great step for law enforcement in the Lawrence community.

And thanks to all the men and women of law enforecement who keep us safe.

Michael Stanclift 10 years, 3 months ago

The LKPD already pepper sprays each other during training to be certified to carry it, so I would imagine they would carry that into the Tazers.

I'd rather be Tazered then pepper sprayed any day.

monkeyspunk 10 years, 3 months ago

About flipping time. Did you know a Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy was STABBED because the LPD didn't have tasers to subdue an armed suspect? They had to request a Deputy with a taser and the resulting altercation ended up with a deputy getting stabbed. Luckily he wasn't seriously injured. They should have shot the son of a...

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 3 months ago

I think mandatory remote-controlled concealed carry tasers for everyone would be a better plan. Oh, and powerful RF remotes would be more fun than infrared...a laugh riot, in fact.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 3 months ago

What's the frequency, Kenneth? ...ggggahahahaghaghglalajlljlwekeweheheghthurg...

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 3 months ago

Wow. Idea. Throw the marshmallows and THEN taser! Start carrying graham crackers and chocolate bars, people. "Thank you officer can I have s'mores?"!~)

Janet Lowther 10 years, 3 months ago

While the Taser is supposed to be "Less Lethal" than the officer's standard .40 caliber handgun, it is still a potentially lethal weapon, and should only be used in similar circumstances to the standard handgun, not merely to control a struggling suspect.

pace 10 years, 3 months ago

The Lawrence Police Department should be grateful at the idea of a citizens review board. Anything that would help their communication with the community is way past due. They do hard and dangerous work but better communication with the public would make it less dangerous. The police and the community must work together better than they have. With the tasers should come a commitment to educate in schools and at community events what is a proper response by a citizen, especially someone young. It is not the time to use your freedom of speech or to interfere. There is a boost of community outreach when there is a bond issue or a raise. I don't know the policy, would they try to use taser if someone was armed, I wouldn't think so. Tasers kill,
To just add this to their arsenal with no address to public education or community involvement is wrong. We want it to be effective.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 3 months ago

LPD should give would-be aggressors a choice of the less lethal forms of restraint.

Would you prefer:

  1. pepper spray?
  2. nightstick drubbing?
  3. a bowel-releasing electric shock?

"You have 3 seconds to give me an answer."

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 3 months ago

.......uh.....what was the 2nd choice again?............arrrgghhhhhh!....

webmocker 10 years, 3 months ago

The ballots are in. JJE007's s'mores comment receives today's humor award.

yellowhouse 10 years, 3 months ago

INTERESTING! THe commissioner say the Government officials in Lawrence don't need oversight with a review board.

The Commissioners say they can handle the complaints.

Then why is no one stepped up to handle our complaints of misconduct? I have the letter from the City posted on larryville.

They told us they cannot investigate our complaints because it was an ongoing investigation.

So if they tazer someone who wants to file a complaint they wont be able to investigate the compalint because the tazered person is under investigation.


nikibow 10 years, 3 months ago

This idea that tasers are the answer to a more civil approach to police work is ridiculous, controversial, and widely accepted on murky data. There is no accountability on behalf of the law enforcement entities nor the taser companies. It is apparent that law enforcement has exsisting crippling issues such as exhonerating a Kansas City police officer because the discretion he used, or lack there of, when forcing a pregnant woman onto her stomach was not clearly prohibited in police manuals. Tasers have been found to have an increased risk of death with individuals under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not to mention a variety of common ailments and defects. It is easy to imagine that the majority of situations that have police officers employing their tasers would involve an individual that is drunk or on drugs. Even proper training could not account for a miscalculated shot or dosage. A taser should be defined as lethal force and if an officer is in that position, the situation should also warrant the drawing of their gun. My Step Father was killed by tasers employed by a police department in Southwest Kansas because the approximately six officers at the scene were to lazy to subdue him by force. Ban tasers now!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 3 months ago

The idea of a citizen's review board is incredibly stupid. You have an excellent police department. You have an excellent chief. He has been running the department for many years. He doesn't need a bunch of non-law enforcement people trying to run his department. If an investigation needs to be done there are numerous trained people to do it in other agencies. The Sheriff, the KBI, the Attorney General, etc. All are more than capable of doing a non-agency investigation, should it be required. Much more so than a bunch of untrained, possibly biased, citizens. Thank you, Lynn

texburgh 10 years, 3 months ago

ONe more step down the road to disaster. Now there are tasers - something police too often believe are non-lethal and so are too quick to use. Remember the first article on this - use when there is danger to an officer or other to "to make a lawful arrest." Anytime for any reason. Drunk college kid? Taser. Homeless guy? Taser.

Police hesitate to use guns because they are lethal. That hesitation protects both the officer and the suspect. There will be a lot less hesitation with the "non-lethal" taser.

And to do this without a citizen review board is criminal. The commission is NOT a citizen review board. Shame on Hack and Amyx. Dever, Chestnut and Highberger are right - let's get a citizen review board up before we provide still more weaponry. If we want to be big city, act like a big city - establish a review board.

And yes, Hack needs to go. No concerns about citizen imput on taxes; no concerns about citizen input on police actions.

Yabut 10 years, 3 months ago

Windlass: You've obviously never taken a class from the man (Olin). You should do your homework before posting such ignorant comments.

pace 10 years, 3 months ago

I just keep thinking on Olin statement that Olin would prefer people suing the police over having a citizens review board just seems stupid. If the review board stopped just one suit or helped the community work with the police or encourages the police department to use communication more effectively as a tool that would be a win win, Losing a lawsuit would suck, heck even being in a law suit sucks.

Yabut 10 years, 3 months ago

Pace: I couldn't find any comment like that in the article. Was this something he said at the commission meeting, or what?

lounger 10 years, 3 months ago

This is a bad Idea. Dont forget they tased an elderly lady in kansas city last year and then she died of heart falure. This is not a suprise at all. People dont want to discuss and nagatiate anymore they just want to use force. The G.W. Bully mentality has spread!!

nekansan 10 years, 3 months ago

"Dont forget they tased an elderly lady in Kansas city last year and then she died of heart falure."

Please provide a link to article or news report of a woman that died following a tasing in KC. I think this is inaccurate information. I remember a report of an older woman who was tased, but she was not injured. The bottom line is people need to follow the instruction of law enforcement. Tasers are an excellent tool to protect the officers while providing for something much less dangerous than a nightclub or firearm.

lounger 10 years, 2 months ago

If tasers are to be used then EVERY ONE of the cops that carry one should be tased with thier lovely little zapper at least once a week so they remember the love they are spreading with these little shockers...

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