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March 29, 2004
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Non-Lethal Weapons to be An Option Soon for Police

By David Callender, The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

Could Madison police have avoided fatally shooting Gregory Velasquez if they''d had non-lethal weapons available?

Possibly, says one top police official.

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Madison police have begun examining the use of non-lethal weapons - such as beanbag rounds that sting and Tasers that give off electric shocks - instead of firearms in some standoffs.

Some officers are already armed with shotguns that can be used to fire beanbag rounds, and one such officer arrived at the Red Caboose just after Velasquez had been shot.

The problem with the beanbags, according to police, is that officers must have time to retrieve them from their cars before they can be used.

But the Taser, which can be worn as a standard sidearm along with an officer''s pistol, would provide more flexibility, said Capt. Cheri Maples, who heads the department''s training and personnel unit.

"If these officers had been equipped with Tasers, that certainly would have been an option," she said in an interview.

Unfortunately, at the time of the Red Caboose incident, "we had just got our Tasers in, and they haven''t even been distributed yet. We''ve had the training, but there aren''t enough of them for every single officer."

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