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Archive for Sunday, August 29, 2010

Police find mere threat of using Taser is effective

The Taser Model X26, with the distinctive yellow handle, is carried by 41 Lawrence police officers.

The Taser Model X26, with the distinctive yellow handle, is carried by 41 Lawrence police officers.

August 29, 2010

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In the two and a half years Lawrence police have been carrying bright yellow Tasers, the potentially painful and debilitating shock the devices can unload has become well-recognized by local suspects. And they want no part of it.

Police say carrying Tasers threat enough

About 40 police officers in Lawrence carry the weapons. Enlarge video

“Oh yeah, they know the yellow gun,” said Sgt. Matt Sarna, public affairs sergeant for the Lawrence police.

But the vast majority of the time, the Tasers never leave the holster.

In more than 300,000 police calls since the department got its first Tasers in 2008, the weapons have been used only 17 times. But the deterrent effect — the thought of being shot with the metal rods that seize a body’s muscles — is equally effective, Sarna said. Nearly three times as often — in 41 instances — Lawrence police have drawn a Taser, but didn’t use them.

For Lawrence police, Tasers have been a success, Sarna said. They’re “another tool for our officers to have on their tool belt.” But the hope is for infrequent use.

“It’s not something we teach them to use every time they go out on an incident,” Sarna said. “We always want to see the numbers low.”

The 41 officers — roughly a fourth of the department — who carry the $1,000 Tasers went through training on how to use them, when to use them and what it feels like to be stunned with one. Sarna said being stunned gives officers an idea of what they may potentially be putting a suspect through.

“We do know what it feels like. It hurts,” he said, adding that Tasers are used only when a suspect is actively trying to harm an officer or someone else.

When an officer pulls the trigger, two thin metal rods — which can reach up to 25 feet — shoot out. When they pierce a person’s skin, an electrical shock is administered through cords connected to the device. The Tasers administer a fraction of an amp, which is enough to temporarily disable a person’s muscle control, allowing police to make an arrest. Once the rods attach, officers can give additional jolts every five seconds.

TASER International, the manufacturer, describes the voltage used by Tasers as far less than Christmas tree lights or a wall socket.

But Tasers — used by more than 14,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide — are not without their critics or high-profile, lethal incidents.

In July, a Lansing man died after Leavenworth police used a Taser on him three times. However, preliminary autopsy reports showed the man had cocaine in his system and had an enlarged heart, which may have contributed to his death. Earlier this year, Shawnee County settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $350,000 following the 2008 death of a man stunned by Topeka police.

Amnesty International attributes to Tasers more than 300 deaths worldwide since 2001.

To prevent possible medical problems with Tasers, Sarna said Lawrence police follow strict safety measures. Every time an officer uses a Taser on a suspect, that person is taken to the hospital as a precaution. No serious injuries have resulted since the department began using Tasers, and the positives have far outweighed the negatives in Lawrence, he said.

“It hasn’t proven to be a problem in Lawrence,” Sarna said. “It’s just a perfect example of a less-lethal weapon we can use to stop somebody.”

Comments

somebodynew 4 years, 3 months ago

LJW - better check you facts. Shawnee County did not settle due to TPD tazing a person - - a Shawnee County Deputy was the one who did it. That would be like Douglas County settling a lawsuit because LPD did something.

Maybe another cup of coffee????

shaunepec 4 years, 3 months ago

I just had my second cup. So, I think I'm ready to fix that one.

It was Shawnee County Deputies who tased the man in Topeka, not TPD. I will correct above.

Thanks for the catch.

Shaun Hittle Reporter LJW

ralphralph 4 years, 3 months ago

I believe they determined that he died from being "dogpiled" rather than from the tasing. I think the heart attack that was causing his odd behavior contributed, as did the mental deficiency of the deputies.

Jimo 4 years, 3 months ago

"Tasers are used only when a suspect is actively trying to harm an officer or someone else."

Yet the article itself references the 2008 Topeka case that puts the lie to the above statement - where no office was threatened, where no third party was threatened.

Since this claim doesn't appear to be a direct quote of Sgt. Sarna did the journalist mischaracterize Sarna's claim?

Someone is (pardon the pun) dead wrong here. Please post a follow up to clarify who.

shaunepec 4 years, 3 months ago

Sarna is simply saying that his department is trained only to use them in such circumstances, though clearly other agencies have used them differently.

Shaun Hittle Reporter LJW

Jimo 4 years, 3 months ago

This raises two other questions:

  1. Is the claim that Lawrence has a unique code for taser use while other agencies have a looser code? How so? Is Lawrence dangerously negligent in not deploying tasers or are others dangerously liberal in overusing them? Sounds like an interesting story.

  2. Is the claim limited to training versus use? How does that make sense? What different training would there be for circumstances outside of this narrow allowance? The original question remains: are LPD officers AUTHORIZED to use tasers outside of the two conditions named? For example, would an officer be punished if a taser was used to compel compliance with a demand absent danger to the officer or others? If so, I'd say that was news to everyone in Lawrence.

shaunepec 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't believe Lawrence has a unique code. However, it would be difficult to know which/how many other agencies have a different policy.

According to Sgt. Sarna, officers are not authorized to use tasers outside of their policy. And so far, the department hasn't ahd any problems with usage, he said.

shaunepec 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't believe Lawrence has a unique code. However, it would be difficult to know which/how many other agencies have a different policy.

According to Sgt. Sarna, officers are not authorized to use tasers outside of their policy. And so far, the department hasn't ahd any problems with usage, he said.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 3 months ago

By looking at the context, it seems clear that Sarna is talking about the LPD. He didn't say "...over in Topeka, they've never used a taser when a suspect isn't actively trying to harm an officer or someone else."

pizzapete 4 years, 3 months ago

If the mere threat of being shot or electrocuted is so effective why don't we threaten 'em with having their hands cut off or eye's poked out as well.

Glenn Reed 4 years, 3 months ago

When a threat is tested, but not followed up on, the threat loses it's value.

If you're suggesting that police should make threats they cannot follow up on, you are wrong.

If you're stating that removing one's hand or eye is a good way to get a suspect to comply, you are wrong.

If you're stating that the removal of one's hand or eye is somehow comparable to being hit with a taser (or a bullet, as you mentioned, but the article was about a taser), you are wrong.

Generally speaking, there's a certain amount of psychotic rants in the comments, but I can't even find a starting point for your little note.

pizzapete 4 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like you found a starting point to me?

Flap Doodle 4 years, 3 months ago

Bring out your dead (horses)! Bring out your dead (horses)!

femmefatale 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank you lg40, that christmas tree thing sounded suspect to me.

NotASquishHead 4 years, 3 months ago

lg40, once again you are trying to put a negative spin on a great job by LPD. The key here is amps, not volts, as the amps are what hurt.

Christmas tree light - 0.041 for one C7/C9 bulb or 4.17 amps for a string of 100. Wall socket - Approx 16 amps on average TASER X26 - 0.0021 amps

booyalab 4 years, 3 months ago

The police officer did say volts, but he must have been talking about amps. A lot of people get them confused. The volts in a stun gun are what cause it to make the initial contact with the skin, amperage is what makes you collapse.

NotASquishHead 4 years, 3 months ago

If you look it says, "TASER International, the manufacturer, describes the voltage used by Tasers as far less than Christmas tree lights or a wall socket."

With that said, I assume it wasn't said by the officer, but was found and misquoted by the reporter.

Anyway, I think we all understand that a Taser is much better than Mr. Bullet.

lawrencenerd 4 years, 3 months ago

This isn't even news. It is just blatant PR for the LPD.

shaunepec 4 years, 3 months ago

This article started with a question based on the recent Leavenworth case where a man died following a taser death.

How often does the LPD use them? No one outside the LPD really knew the answer to that question, and I think knowing the answer provides some sort of check on taser usage here.

But the numbers show the LPD uses them very infrequently. Had the numbers showed otherwise, the article would have taken a very different turn.

Shaun Hittle LJW Reporter

lawrencenerd 4 years, 3 months ago

Defend it however you want. It still isn't news. All it basically says is the cops have tasers and people are afraid of being tased. It then explains what a taser is. Most people are aware of what a taser is. Not news.

pace 4 years, 3 months ago

We need a Citizens Review Board. The gap between fact and PR is growing every day.

BallHawk 4 years, 3 months ago

There is an error in the terms used...it appears they start talking of "amperage" the correct term reference for this article and switch to "voltage" the incorrect term. Proofreading wins again!!

equalaccessprivacy 4 years, 3 months ago

What an informative article. I stand with Amnesty International on this issue, but it's interesting to see the taser picture and hear how they work.

Yes, a Citizen's Review Board. The ethics of the Powers that Be in Lawrence are beyond nonexistent.

mr_right_wing 4 years, 3 months ago

EVERYONE is better off if it comes down to taser vs. gun vs. physical contact with a taser being used.

There is no perfect defense against someone who is not going to listen and/or obey.

Thank you law enforcement for the job you do protecting and serving.

SuperJustdan 4 years, 3 months ago

Love the taser gun sure beats the Glock .

Glenn Reed 4 years, 3 months ago

I still don't get why a law enforcement officer packing a taser is still such a controversial topic.

The absolutely least complicated way of looking at the subject is...

Handgun: Lethal weapon. (Even if properly trained in use). Taser: Less-lethal weapon. (Even if NOT properly trained in use).

booyalab 4 years, 3 months ago

The taser is a dream come true for humane law enforcement. You couldn't IMAGINE a better device unless your goal was keeping ruffians happy, over keeping the peace. Bring out...the comfy chair!

purplesage 4 years, 3 months ago

Are there any studies as to whether the taser increases the willingness of law enforcement to us a violent means to settle a situation? And whether tasing people makes shooting them any easier?

A taser is not as lethal as a gun, but it is, in the right circumstance deadly force.

GUMnNUTS 4 years, 3 months ago

Ahh, don't we all miss the days of being beaten repeatedly with the nightstick?

monkeyspunk 4 years, 3 months ago

I think all these Taser haters would prefer we go back to those days.

Kris_H 4 years, 3 months ago

No thanks on that "enhancement," LOL!

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