U.S. law enforcement praise TASER despite safety concerns


By BETSY VERECKEY
Associated Press Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky.- Law enforcement officers from around the country Wednesday praised Tasers as a non-lethal tool for stopping suspects, but emphasized the need for training before use of the 50,000-volt stun guns.

The Taser, which stuns a person using electrical current, is helping to reduce incidents where police have to use deadly force, said Lt. David Ogden, who heads the training division of the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando, Fla.

"We've also had a substantial decrease in officer- and suspect-related injuries on arrest situations," said Ogden, who spoke to about 100 law enforcement officials at the National Sheriffs Association's annual conference, which ended Wednesday.

Critics argue not enough is known about Tasers, and cite deaths following their use. According to Amnesty International, there were 103 Taser-related deaths in the United States and Canada between June 2001 and March 2005.

Arizona-based Taser International says studies show the weapons are safe.

Attorney Bruce Bogan, who has represented several law enforcement agencies in Taser-related cases in Florida, said there is confusion regarding when to use the instrument _ now carried by officers in more than 7,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies.

"You have to set up a policy of when it's appropriate to use a Taser, and you need to train your officers as to when it's appropriate to use a Taser," he said.

Louisville police began using Tasers last year after civil-rights activists complained about a string of fatal shootings by police.

"I think it will make a difference if the police officers are held accountable for their actions," said the Rev. Louis Coleman, head of the Justice Resource Center. "But it's going to take monitoring. If put in the wrong hands, it could be used as a bad weapon too."

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