Police Officers to be Outfitted with Stun Guns
By Candice Combs, The Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
At 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 240 pounds, Chattanooga Police Officer Steve Campbell was confident his physical stature would make it hard for anyone or anything to take him down.
That was until 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser stun gun dropped him to his knees, rendering him helpless.
"I couldn''t have stood up if I wanted to," he said.
Police Chief Steve Parks said soon most Chattanooga Police Department officers will carry the electrical device. It''s battery powered, looks like a handgun and can keep dangerous situations from escalating into violence, he said.
"It''s not the answer to all things," Chief Parks said. "There are times when the Taser can bridge the gap so officers do not have to use deadly force. We do not want people to die in our custody."
Since 1981, 36 people have died in police custody in Hamilton County, according to police and sheriff''s department records.
Cleveland, Tenn., officers have used stun guns at least three times since November, and in all three instances, the suspects were taken into custody unharmed.
"We feel like three lives have been saved due to the fact we have Tasers," said George Campbell, spokesman for the Cleveland Police Department.
In one instance, a man was sitting in a grocery store parking lot with a gun to his head, Officer George Campbell said.
"He kept saying he was going to kill himself," he said. "We got to his car, shot him with the Taser, and he dropped the weapon."
There are about 60 M26 Taser weapons circulating in the Chattanooga Police Department, and officials are trying to get more, according to Capt. Mike Williams, head of training for the police department. At $399 each, the weapons are worth the cost if they save lives, he said, and they can help cut down on lawsuits and insurance costs.
From Feb. 4 until May 21, each Chattanooga officer must undergo a three-hour training course with the new technology, according to Kevin Kincer, an instructor with the department''s training academy.
The lightweight stun gun shoots two dart-like hooks into a suspect, then uses low-amperage power to shut down a person''s central nervous system, making it impossible for that person to use their muscles.
It can be deployed from up to 21 feet away, and does not have to penetrate the skin, he said. About 3,000 police departments nationwide carry the device and use it in conjunction with pepper spray and other alternatives to guns, Officer Kincer said.
"It can be used when a person is violent, or resisting arrest," he said. "After verbal commands have failed, this is the next step."
Other than two small puncture wounds in the skin, the stun gun does not harm a person''s body, he said.
Every officer who will carry the Taser stun gun must "ride the buffalo," or get a 5-second shock to show the device works. The experience, according to Officer Steve Campbell, is one he never wants to have again.
"That was the longest 5 seconds of my life," he said. "I''ve got absolute confidence it works."