SPOKANE (AP) - The Spokane Police Department will
begin using electronic stun guns called Tasers to try
to cut down on injuries stemming from methamphetamine
arrests, Chief Roger Bragdon says.
Seattle police already use the devices, designed to
subdue violent suspects with less-than-lethal
A sharp increase in methamphetamine abuse and
suspects willing to duke it out with officers prompted
the department's Taser order, Bragdon said Monday.
"One of the symptoms of methamphetamine use is
violence," Bragdon told reporters. "We wanted to find
ways to reduce injuries to officers and to reduce
injuries to the people who are fighting us."
The department averages at least one such fight a
About 1,000 departments nationwide use the devices,
which can shoot two barbed lines that deliver a 50,000
volt charge, temporarily incapacitating a person,
Detective Randy Lesser, who heads the department's
SWAT team, said the department has ordered 40 of the
devices, which cost about $400 apiece. Eventually, all
130 patrol officers will carry them, Bragdon said.
The department is drawing up policies for when the
Tasers can be used, the chief said.
Unlike earlier models, the stun guns are equipped
with a computer chip that allows them to be downloaded
to tell when and how many times they were used. The
feature protects officers from abuse accusations, he
Charges which shoot the Taser darts - effective up
to 21 feet - are serialized, so investigators can
determine which officer fired the weapon, Lesser
The department also is studying where the devices,
which look and weigh about the same as an officer's
service weapon, will be worn, Bragdon said. Seattle
officers wear them in holsters below their service
The Tasers deliver a five-second jolt that
interrupts signals from the brain to the muscles,
preventing a person from being able to physically
resist, Lesser said.
Officers who use the Taser will always be backed by
an officer able to use a handgun, Bragdon said.
The weapons would not have prevented a rash of
officer-involved shootings the department experienced
in the past year, Bragdon said. "In all of those, the
suspects already were shooting at us."
Part of the cost of the Tasers will come from
federal money earmarked for efforts to fight the
spread of methamphetamine, Bragdon said. The Spokane
department is on track to bust more than 200 meth labs
this year, he said.