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EDITORIAL: Tasers

The Weston Police Department should have Tasers in every police vehicle.

A Taser (an acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) is a handheld electroshock device that uses an electrical current to disrupt the voluntary control of muscles. When a person is “shot” with a Taser, a jolt of electricity temporary stuns and immobilizes him.

The department currently has three of these stun guns, one each for the day, evening, and midnight shifts. A few officers have been trained to use them, but those who need them do not necessarily have them in the cruiser when they are called to a scene.

Last Friday, July 13, was indeed an unlucky day for a Bridgeport man apprehended by police on Newtown Turnpike; he had to be Tasered not once but twice (and this was after he had been hit with pepper spray and several officers tried to restrain him) before he was subdued enough to take into custody. But things likely would have been much, much worse — possibly fatal — if a Taser wasn’t available and a gun had to be used.

As it happened, it wasn’t Weston Police who were able to Taser this man. It was neighboring Redding Police, who had been called in to help.

The suspect was extremely aggressive, crashing his car into a police cruiser, punching out the window of another, and thrashing and kicking at officers who were trying to calm him. The situation was so dangerous to officers, the use of a Taser likely saved this man’s life. It’s a shame the Weston Police were not trained nor equipped properly to do the right thing.

In early 2011, the Weston Police asked for Tasers to be included in its budget, but the Police Commission declined, saying the $15,000 or so to buy 14 Tasers was too much. The police chief approached the Weston Gun Club to see if it would donate the money to buy the stun guns, but it, too, declined, saying the chief said Tasers were too controversial.

Tasers themselves have changed since the days of Rodney King and the well-publicized “shocking” misuse of these deterrents by some police officers. Shocks from the newer stun guns now last just five seconds, and the guns record every jolt administered, forcing accountability. Police have said that just the presence of a Taser — without even having to use it — is often enough to calm an otherwise aggressive individual.

The Police Commission has approved a policy for responsible Taser use within the Weston Police Department and it approved training officers in their use. Last week’s roadside incident proves now it’s time to train and equip all of the town’s officers with this deterrent.

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