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September 05, 2003
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GA. Grand Jury Urges Stun Guns for All Officers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gwinnett police officer should carry a stun gun, a Gwinnett grand jury has decided.

The 23-member panel of Gwinnett residents heard several cases about police officers and sheriff''s deputies being forced to wrestle with suspects during an arrest. Police often suffer cuts, bruises, sprains or worse.

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"Officers and deputies who are in the field dealing with violent suspects need immediate access to stun guns, reducing the chance of injuries or deaths," the panel said in a written statement released Thursday.

Police spokesman Dan Huggins said he is not yet sure of the impact the panel''s recommendation could have on getting the department more tasers. The grand jury''s finding is merely an opinion. Police are already considering a wider use of stun guns.

The high-tech weapon can disable a suspect from a distance of up to 21 feet, said Cpl. Bobby Walker, the department''s defensive tactics coordinator.

Walker said the force is still analyzing how often the four test tasers are being used, the circumstances surrounding their use and any injuries suffered by officers or by suspects.

The weapon can subdue a suspect with a probe that sends a 50,000-volt electrical shock, even through clothing. Many of the weapons are programmed to give a 30-second jolt.

But before officers can use them on the streets, they have to learn what it feels like --- firsthand. The departmental policy on tasers is similar to one requiring officers who carry chemical spray to be sprayed in the face.

"There are certainly officers who don''t want to go through that to carry the weapon," Huggins said.

And not every officer who wants to carry a tazer can get one --- even with the test, the corporal said. That''s because the department only has a few on hand.

"They''re still in the early stage of testing them out and seeing how they''re going to be used and how effective they can be for us out here," Huggins said.



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