Police hope new stun guns reduce use of force
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(ST. LOUIS, Mo.) -- Armed and dangerous felons, folks who disturb the peace and other miscreants are in for a real shock.
Philadelphia police officers now have high-tech Taser stun guns, with 50,000 volts of paralyzing power, for difficult arrests to help cut down on the use of deadly force or gunfire.
Commanders are learning how to use the Model 26 Tasers, which can shoot two probes up to 21 feet, disabling a suspect and decreasing the risk of injury to police officers.
Police SWAT experts already have several on the streets. And within a couple of weeks, another 65 guns should be available throughout the department, two in each police district, police say.
The stun guns could also help defuse situations like last July's shooting of a mentally ill man who wielded a chair at Amtrak police or the violent arrest a month later of carjacking suspect Thomas Jones that was videotaped and flashed around the world.
"It will assist us in (catching) a violent predator without serious injury," police spokeswoman Lt. Susan Slawson said. "Our job, whether it is a victim or a suspect, is to save lives."
For police on the street, routine calls often require snap decisions. That's where Tasers can be used to prevent suspects from resisting arrest or escaping, or to protect officers and others from injury, especially someone who might be suicidal.
But the Tasers may not be used to disperse a crowd, prevent free speech or assembly, or to gain information, officers say.
Tasers work by sending an electrical current through a person, incapacitating him or her temporarily, according to police.
Experts say Tasers can also cause stiff muscles, muscle spasms, dizziness and short-term memory loss.
Taser International, the company that manufactures the guns, says the weapons are nonlethal and work by simply overriding the human nervous system with a current that does not damage organs or tissue.
Police in Mobile, Ala.; Bellevue, Wash.; Medford, Ore.; and Akron, Ohio, are using Tasers. In Cincinnati, police have been using Tasers for four years and are debating whether to buy an additional 700.
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