Unlike pepper spray, which can impair vision or breathing for nearly 45 minutes, people who are stunned recover within seconds, police said. A 5-second burst of voltage temporarily disrupts the nervous system. Many officers now using Tasers endure the shock themselves as they undergo training so they will understand the effects of the gun.
In departments with only a few officers, such as Chester and Newton, chiefs say officers feel more secure when they have to respond to calls or make arrests alone.
“In talking to the officers, I think they feel a lot more comfortable with using these than hitting someone with a baton, especially if you hit them in the wrong place,” Chester’s interim police Chief William Burke said.
Newton police Chief Larry Streeter, a former chief in Salisbury, Mass., said Tasers are now becoming a standard in policing.
“I’ve had the benefit of sitting back and watching other departments do the R&D; on it,” Streeter said. “It’s proven to be a good law enforcement tool.
“If a department doesn’t have this, they could really expose themselves to potential liability,” he added.
The case against Tasers
But not every department believes the tool is a must for law enforcement.
Plaistow Deputy police Chief Kathleen Jones said her department has, for now, ruled out buying Tasers because pepper spray is effective enough for the calls its officers respond to.
“We did look into it,” she said. “Our defensive tactics instructor took the training and is satisfied with the pepper spray that we use.”
When law enforcement around the country first began buying Tasers a few years ago, area police were hesitant to adopt them, especially in light of suspicions that they could harm people. A main critic of Taser use, the American Civil Liberties Union, has questioned whether the electric guns are truly safe, citing instances when people, especially those with heart problems or who are high on drugs, died days after being struck by a Taser.