Grass Valley police turn to Tasers
Grass Valley police officers will soon have another option in their arsenal of weapons, and it’s a bit shocking.
The department bought two Tasers, and several officers have already undergone a 40-hour training course, Capt. Greg Hart said. The rest of the department’s 19 sworn officers will be trained with the shock-delivering devices in the next two months.
“We have done quite a bit of research,” Hart said. “Based on the number of agencies using them and significant amount of evidence on how effective Tasers are, we felt we needed them.”
The dart-firing Tasers are intended to incapacitate suspects with a 50,000-volt shock for a five-second period – just enough time, police say, to get a belligerent person in handcuffs or to halt his escape.
The weapons are promoted as a non-lethal tool for law enforcement, but critics have complained about how they have been used across the nation and the possibility that shocks have contributed to a number of deaths nationwide.
According to Amnesty International, 74 deaths have been linked to Taser use. Taser International, the Arizona-based company that makes Tasers, said that no deaths have been directly linked to the weapons.
Plans are in the works to eventually outfit either each Grass Valley officer or each patrol vehicle with a Taser.
“Our hope is to have them immediately available when the officers need them,” Hart said
The Tasers will not replace other defensive weapons the department uses, such as batons and pepper spray.
“It is another use-of-force option we will have available,” Hart said.
Although Tasers send a 50,000 volt into a person, the strength of the electric current is much lower, at 0.004 amps.
“It’s not a torture device, but you will feel it,” Hart said.
The current disrupts communication between the suspect’s brain and his or her muscle system. During the five seconds the current is live, the suspect has no control of his or her body, Grass Valley Detective Doug Hren said.
Hren, who had the Taser tested on him, said there are no side effects after the current is stopped.
Tasers can be used two ways: With or without the darts. Without, it may be used to hold down a perpetrator in close proximity. When a dart cartridge is inserted into the end of the Taser, compressed nitrogen shoots the two darts forward at 180 feet-per-second.
The darts are the size of pen caps, with short needle at one end. They do not need to pierce skin to have an effect.
The X-26 model that Grass Valley officers will be using comes in a plastic composite holster that attaches to the officer’s belt. It has a digital display that shows the seconds remaining in the charge, and a laser sight shows were the top dart will hit. The lower dart drops about two feet.
Several people interviewed by The Union in Grass Valley Tuesday said they did not mind the department using the new weapons.
“If it gives police an opportunity to keep us safe, it is a good thing,” Grass Valley resident Gail Sullivan said.
Nevada County residents Tom and Judy Rousseau, also said they approve of Tasers more than other use-of-force weapons.
“They are preferable to using force with another weapon,” Tom Rousseau said. “Sometimes you would probably need a Taser to catch someone, where if you used a gun, you could kill them.”
Hart said that while Tasers are not accident-proof, they are effective.
“They are not risk-free, like any other weapons we have,” Hart said. “The baton has risks – it requires very close proximity between the officer and the offender. The injuries that might be sustained are longer-lasting. The use of pepper spray has risks. It risks exposure to other officers or bystanders.
“There are no magic bullets out there,” he said. “There is no weapon that is risk-free but I think with a good policy, proper training and accountability, the risks can be greatly reduced.”
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