It is commendable that the Police Department pursued private funding for the purchase of Tasers — electronic stun guns — for its officers, and even more commendable that some private citizens have stepped up to make the requested donations. But it is wrong that the department and the town’s citizens should be asked to do so.
The Board of Selectmen should have approved a request for an $11,000 supplemental appropriation for the Tasers when the Police Commission asked for one at the beginning of the month. The fact it did not do so and instead felt it more appropriate to ask for private donations to fund the Tasers is shocking.
The Police Department has made a strong case for the necessity and the advantages of having all officers equipped with these relatively inexpensive weapons that can quickly de-escalate potentially violent situations; that case includes real-life examples of effective Taser usage and the fact that the Police Academy now requires all new officers to have and to be trained on Tasers.
Weston police will be safer and more effective if Tasers are standard issue for them. Weston residents will be safer if their police force is equipped with Tasers. If the safety of the town’s officers and residents is at stake, shouldn’t the town — the taxpayers — pay for that?
The process of looking into whether Tasers are a good idea for Weston has been a deliberate one, not a rash or reactionary one as was suggested at the Sept. 6 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. Police Chief John Troxell originally brought forward the idea more than a year ago — and at that time, the Police Commission said no because there was no Taser use policy in place.
And so, the department and the commission developed a policy. They debated it, tweaked it, and eventually approved it. Included in that policy are procedures that will track all Taser usage and protocols to ensure they are not misused. And let’s be honest: The “controversial nature” of Tasers has to do with their misuse by a small number of individuals, not their proper use by the vast majority of thoughtful, well-trained law enforcement officials.
Are Tasers dangerous? Yes. That is part of what makes them effective crime-fighting tools. But their benefits outweigh their risks, especially when they are in the hands of Weston’s professional police officers.
It is not a surprise that some residents came forward so quickly to help when presented with the facts. It is a surprise the selectmen did not. When asked to accept the gift of the Taser donations, the Board of Selectmen should respectfully decline to accept them and then should immediately vote to pay for this vital piece of safety equipment using a supplemental appropriation from the town’s general fund.