EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 29, 2007

Tasers gaining popularity with N.H. police

Twenty-one year old Michael Distefano already had one of his wrists handcuffed when he took a swing at the police officer trying to arrest him on shoplifting charges.

Salem police Sgt. James Chase stepped in, drawing his Taser, warning the Londonderry man that the dot of a laser trained on him meant he was about to fire. Distefano continued to yell and swear, but immediately gave up: better to be arrested on shoplifting charges than jolted with nearly 50,000 volts of electricity for a few seconds.

“Later, talking to Sgt. Chase, Mr. Distefano said he had been hit with a Taser before by Massachusetts State Police,” Salem Deputy police Chief William Ganley said. “As soon as he saw it again, that was it.”

The response by Distefano, who pleaded guilty in June to shoplifting clothes from a Salem Kmart, is typical, according to police. People who would usually scuffle or fight with police suddenly have a change of heart when faced with being shocked.

This summer, more and more police departments across Southern New Hampshire are incorporating the use of these electric stun guns.

Last week, Newton police officers began training with Tasers, which will be holstered alongside batons and pepper spray on their utility belts. Londonderry police, who also provide security for Manchester Airport, are buying seven Tasers, which retail for about $1,000 apiece. Windham police are training to use them as well.

Derry, which has 12 Tasers, wants to buy another 10, with the hope of eventually buying enough for all 59 of its officers. Londonderry is following in the footsteps of other area departments like Salem, Pelham and Newton by tapping drug-forfeiture money to help buy the devices. Kingston recently was given 15 Tasers through a private donation.

“A lot of the newer officers have the advantage of new training and new technology — and this is huge,” Ganley said. “With this, I think you’ll see less injury to officers and to suspects as a result.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
New Hampshire

ET Videos