The Tempe City Council is scheduled today to consider the purchase of 152 Taser stun guns for about $150,000 to replace older models being used in a pilot program.
The move comes in the wake of questions about the nonlethal weapons — and training — following the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy in Mesa by officers when they said two Tasers were ineffective.
Tempe Police Chief Ralph Tranter, like other police officials interviewed in the past about Tasers, defended use of the weapon while acknowledging its limitations.
"The Taser is a tool," Tranter said. "It’s not going to work effectively each time it’s deployed. We’ve had several effective deployments."
Officers in Tempe purchased 33 Tasers last year as a test project, according to a staff report presented to the City Council. The purchase will be for a newer, more streamlined model, Tranter said.
Tranter said the weapon provides another step officers can take before resorting to deadly force. "People will be prevented from being hurt," he said.
The Taser fires two barbed prongs that carry an electric current capable of overriding the central nervous system to incapacitate a person, police Sgt. Dan Masters said.
The weapon will be demonstrated at 3:30 p.m. today at Tempe City Hall, 31 E. Fifth St. The council is scheduled at 7 p.m. to vote on the purchase, which would use a police department grant.
Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley has said that two Tasers fired at 15-year-old Mario Madrigal Jr. on Aug. 25 missed and officers shot and killed him when he kept advancing toward them with a knife.
The boy’s parents have maintained the Tasers worked and that the boy was incapacitated when he was shot.
On Sept. 6, Mesa officers shot a stun gun at Mary Ann Minchew, 23, when she charged at them holding a spike-handled knife. She was shot and killed when the stun gun failed to stop her, and police have not yet released a report.