Despite continued controversy over the use of stun guns by police officers, one of the nation’s largest law enforcement departments is increasing the number of Tasers purchased and distributed within that agency’s ranks.
In a press statement, officials from the Chicago Police Department announced that they are expanding its Taser program which includes stun gun-equipped squad cars for all patrol officers.
While proponents of the Taser-brand stun gun applaud this latest decision, anti-police groups and activists are speaking out against these alternatives to firearms or impact weapons such as side-handled police batons.
Activists point to the death of a man last week after he was Tasered by Chicago police officers. During that incident, a Riverdale man who resisted arrest and was suspected of drug possession died in a hospital after being Tasered by police. That death is still being investigated
The Chicago PD is purchasing at least 400 additional Tasers, and will increase the number of training sessions for officers on how to use the controversial weapon.
According to Police Superintendent Jody Weis, who made the announcement in a press
conference yesterday, officers will be trained to comply with use of force guidelines stresses the prohibition targeting suspects’ chests with the electrically-charged weapons.
Experts on use of Tasers say that the weapon — if used properly — is less deadly than impact weapons such as sidearms and batons, a/k/a “night sticks.”
This particular model temporarily incapacitates a subject with a 50,000-volt shock. While many legal and medical experts believe Tasers and other stun guns are safe, human rights groups such as Amnesty International question the safety and status as a non-lethal weapon.
Amnesty International claims that more than 350 people in the U.S. have died since June 2001 after being Tasered by cops.
Chicago police ‘brass” suspended the use of Tasers by police officers in 2005 following the death of a man and a subsequent lawsuit against the city. The suit was filed after a teen suffered cardiac arrest after being stunned. The case was settled out of court despite the boy being left brain damaged.
Taser is the brand name of an electronic immobilization device, or EID, that fires two darts attached to wires. The device delivers a 50,000-volt charge, incapacitating an individual long enough for troopers to take the person into custody without causing permanent harm to the individual.
In 2006, the Pennsylvania State Police began a two-year study of the possible use of stun guns or “electronic immobilization devices” (EID) and initiated a pilot program by providing Tasers to 18 officers statewide.
Based on results of that program, the law enforcement agency began training and equipping 3,000 troopers with the Taser X26 model devices made by Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona. The Tasers, which cost $899 each, were purchased primarily with asset forfeiture funds.
‘Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). Write to him at mailto:COPmagazine@aol.com’