KU on-campus police to begin carrying Tasers this semester

KU Office of Public Safety patrol vehicle, pictured June 2016

University of Kansas police officers will soon have a new tool in their arsenal.

KU Police Chief Chris Keary said all 31 officers in his department would begin carrying conducted-electrical weapons — also known by the popular brand name Taser — by the end of the spring semester. Keary said CEWs provide a safe option for officers in situations where “lethal use of force is not appropriate or necessary,” he wrote in an email to the Journal-World.

“The recent shooting at Georgia Tech … is an example of when the use of a CEW may have been reasonable and effective, but the officers did not have that option,” Keary said, referring to an incident last fall in which campus police fatally shot a student who was later identified as the 911 caller, sparking anger and unrest at the university’s Atlanta campus.

“Such situations do not happen very often, but having the right tool when, and if, they do happen is critical,” Keary said.

Most campus police departments in the Big 12 and the Kansas Board of Regents system already carry CEWs, he said, as do most law enforcement agencies in the area. Keary said the practice is common among Lawrence police, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers.

“It seems to have become the standard for law enforcement, and I would not be surprised to hear that some people assumed we already are carrying them,” he added.

In addition to handguns, KU police are outfitted with pepper spray and batons, and have access to rifles, Keary said.

The KU Public Safety Office consulted with several campus entities before purchasing the CEWs, Keary said, including KU administrators and representatives from Student Senate, Multicultural Student Government, University Senate and Faculty Senate. All were in favor of the move, Keary said.

“It provides them (KU police) an option other than exercising the force of a gun,” KU Student Body President Mady Womack said. “So, that’s why we support the decision.”

Between the CEWs, holsters, cartridges, batteries, training supplies, related equipment and software, and the extended warranty that comes with the weapons, the total cost associated with the new Tasers comes in at nearly $67,700. Keary said KU Public Safety is footing the bill with funds from its budget, and has already purchased the CEWs using an existing state contract.

Each of KU Public Safety’s 31 officers will receive eight hours of training before being allowed to carry a Taser. Keary said the implementation will be a “gradual process,” with the first round of training to begin shortly. He expects all officers to be trained and armed with a CEW by the end of the spring semester.