Mich. Officers Find Tasers Stunningly Effective
By Rex Hall Jr., The Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Dan Weston
compares it to grabbing an electric stock fence.
That''s what it was like for Weston when he was shot recently
with one of his department''s new X-26 tasers, sending 50,000
volts through his body. The voluntary exercise was part of the
training public safety officers have gone through to be able to
use the new tool on the streets.
The department purchased 13 tasers last month, and 10 are
being used daily by officers on patrol. The Kalamazoo County
Sheriff''s Department also uses X-26 tasers. It purchased 25
tasers last year, and every sheriff''s deputy on the road carries
Weston said tasers, which were legalized in December 2002 for
law enforcement use, are another tool for police on the "use of
"It''s much safer for the person that is fighting the police
officer because it does not inflict residual injury, whereas the
blunt-force to the knee or elbows or collarbone of a night stick
does," Weston said. "They are both means of pain compliance, but
the taser does not have residual effect. When it''s over, it''s
Law enforcement officials agree that the taser has been a
Weston recounted two recent cases in which officers used
tasers to subdue men who both had guns and weren''t responding to
the commands of police.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff Mike Anderson said that since last
January, his deputies have deployed tasers 27 times.
The X-26 taser is comparable in size to a handgun and weighs
less than a pound. When fired, it emits two probes which release
50,000 volts into a point of contact.
The probes from the taser can reach a distance of up to 21
feet and release the 50,000-volt jolt for five seconds,
according to Taser International, Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz.,
While the taser releases a significant amount of voltage, it
is not known to cause any permanent nerve or muscle damage to
individuals hit by them, police said.
Anderson said the taser offers police a less-lethal
alternative during volatile situations and, at the same time,
allows them to immediately gain control.
"Safety of our officers is a critical issue and when there''s
a piece of safety equipment like this available, waiting to
procure that equipment just doesn''t make good sense," Anderson
said. "We feel this is a critical piece of equipment, much like
an officer''s firearm. It would obviously eliminate the need for
escalating the use of force to bring the situation under
Anderson said all sheriff''s deputies who carry a taser were
required to be shot with one during their training. KDPS
officers were given a choice whether to be hit with the taser.
"They call it the longest five seconds of their life,"
Anderson said of the officers who went through taser training at
the sheriff''s department. "It is extreme pain, there''s no
question about it. No one would want to get hit by it a second
Since tasers were legalized in Michigan in December 2002,
nearly 100 law enforcement agencies in the state have began
using them, said Jeff Kirkpatrick, director of operations for
Kirkpatrick said the growth in popularity of tasers is not
confined to Michigan. He said nearly 4,500 police departments
across the nation are now using tasers.
"What''s happening is the taser is the most significant tool
to change the way that law enforcement operates to come along in
the last 30 years," he said.
Kirkpatrick, who works as court officer in Jackson, worked
with state officials to draft a bill to legalize tasers in
Michigan. Former Gov. John Engler signed the legislation into
law shortly before leaving office.
"The taser is not a magic bullet," said Kirkpatrick, whose
company is the sole distributor of tasers in Michigan. "It''s
just another tool in the tool box. It gives officers the
distance to effectively control suspects. It gives them another
Kalamazoo Township Police have not begun using tasers, but
Chief Tim Bourgeois said the department is considering adding
"We''ve done research on them and it appears that they would
offer an officer another option," Bourgeois said. "However, I
would stress that they are not a cure-all or a substitute for
Taser International reported fourth quarter net income of
$2.8 million in 2003, up from $67,500 for that period the year
before, according to the Business Journal of Phoenix.
Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle said the company
receives about 170 new requests for taser equipment monthly from
police departments across the nation. He said the company has
seen some of its biggest sales growth in Michigan.
"It''s just taken off like a rocket," Tuttle said. "The demand
has shot through the roof."