Va. chief wants more TASERs

Related Story: Answers to questions about the safety of electronic weapons

By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot

DARE COUNTY, Va. — Taser stun guns have been a helpful law enforcement tool for the Dare County Sheriff's Office, with the non lethal weapons used to stun troublesome people without injury, Sheriff Rodney Midgett says.

"We have some, but we want to get more," Midgett said. "Ideally, I would like each officer to have one."

But with 35 to 40 patrol officers in the 64-person department, Midgett said, "that's not going to happen in the near future."

The Sheriff's Office has applied to the Governor's Crime Commission for a $10,465 matching grant to purchase 13 more. The county would pay 25 percent - $2,616 - with the rest coming from federal funds. They cost $805 apiece, with holsters.

Five Taser guns currently are available to supervisors at the Dare County Detention Center, the three Sheriff's Office districts and the narcotics unit. Not including the detention center, the sheriff said, they have been used 21 times: two times in 2004;\ 10 times in 2005; six times in 2006; and three times in 2007.

Police typically would have one on hand to employ in high-risk entries or issuance of search warrants, or when suspects are resisting arrest, Midgett said. They also are used to subdue disruptive inmates or in dangerous situations with mentally ill individuals.

"We use it when people are showing aggression toward our officers or when there's a high potential for assaulting an officer," he said.

Information from the county detention center was not immediately available, but Midgett said he knows a Taser gun has been used there "a very few times."

Taser guns fire small probes that transmit surges of electrical current at suspects to incapacitate them.

The Taser manufacturer says on its Web site that the electrical current is a minimal amount. When the technology is used properly, it is "generally safe and effective," the site said.

The weapon gained notoriety in September after video of a man shot with one in Florida was viewed widely on the Internet.

His plea, "Don't Tase me, bro" has been turned into a youth culture punch line.

Midgett says he is not aware of any person being injured by a Taser gun used by the sheriff's office.

"Our officers are trained on the proper way to use them," the sheriff said.

Police in Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo also have the non lethal weapons ; they do not in Southern Shores. Information was not available Wednesday from the Kitty Hawk Police Department.

The Sheriff's Office this month also has applied to the Governor's Crime Commission for a $12,498 grant to pay officers' overtime costs in efforts to reduce drug operations and drug-related crime in the county. Dare County would be responsible for $3,125 of it.

There were 393 arrests for drug violations in the county in 2007, Midgett said.

Midgett said the competitive grant, available to jurisdictions with populations of 75,000 or less, was not awarded to the county last year, although it had qualified for it each of the previous three years .

The grant would cover the additional overtime costs involved in such activities as when officers saturate areas suspected of drug activity, go door-to-door on "knock and talks" and check on parole and probation violators.

The sheriff said he expects to know the status of the grants by early May.

Copyright 2008 The Virginian-Pilot
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