Police chiefs group urges caution with use of stun guns - East Valley Tribune: Business

Police chiefs group urges caution with use of stun guns

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Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005 5:34 am | Updated: 8:01 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A report from the International Association of Police Chiefs is suggesting officers use caution when firing the Taser stun gun.

The report is part of a review the association, based in Alexandria, Va., is preparing to release in about 10 days to its 20,000 members following reports that the weapons may be linked to some deaths.

"The first part of our review will encourage police departments to examine the protocol and procedures for using the stun guns, but we’re not calling for a moratorium," said Wendy Balazik, information officer for the association.

"The next phase is a report about a study the association expects to begin with the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the Department of Justice, into the deaths of those held in custody by police," Balazik said.

The reports are expected to be distributed to police chiefs at the group’s Web site at www.theiacp.org, Balazik said.

"We haven’t heard officially about the IAPC’s report, but we’ll be on the lookout for it," said Lt. Joe Ruet, public information officer for the Gilbert Police Department.

Gilbert Police Chief John Brewer is a member of the association.

It is the first time a national law enforcement association has called for a review of the stun gun made by Scottsdale-based Taser International and distributed to more than 100 police departments in Arizona and nearly all law enforcement agencies in the Valley.

The electrically-charged Taser stun gun is being used by an estimated one-fifth of the nation’s law enforcement agencies as well as military and private agencies.

Tom Smith, president of Taser, responded to the association’s pending reports by defending his company’s weapon.

"There was no scientific or medical evidence to suggest that these are dangerous devices," Smith said. "I believe this is the safest option for the use of force by police officers."

The police chiefs group and Justice Department study will examine more than 80 deaths to determine the real or potential risks involved with using the Taser stun gun, according to the association.

About a dozen deaths have been linked by coroners to the stun gun, citing the weapon as the cause or being a contributing factor or saying it could not be ruled out as a cause of death. As a result, several lawsuits have been filed against law enforcement agencies.

Last week, the Chicago police chief halted the distribution of 100 additional Taser stun guns to officers until it completes an investigation into its use to restrain two people, including a 54-year-old man who later died.

Meanwhile, Taser stock values have seesawed in recent weeks following critical reports as well as announcements of major sales totalling $675,000 to the El Paso, Texas, police force, the Pima County Sheriff ’s Office and police in Singapore.

Shares of Taser closed Wednesday at $14.48, down 20 cents from its opening of $14.68.

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