But with widespread testing now complete on the devices, many local police chiefs now feel that not having them is almost a liability.
“There was a little bit of trepidation over reports of in-custody deaths,” said Pelham police Chief Joseph Roark, whose department began using Tasers three years ago. “Most of that has been ruled out and determined to be from other causes.
“We’ve had several successful deployments of Tasers, and we’ve remained complaint free,” he said. Just the sight of them, encourages aggressive people to think twice, he added.
“There’s no question that there’s an aspect of it being a psychological and visible deterrent,” Roark said. “They see that blue dot, and even if they’re extremely agitated or intoxicated, it clears their cloudy state.”
Sandown police Chief Joe Gordon, who trained with different types of batons during his years as an officer, also believes Tasers are a safer way to subdue unruly suspects. In fact, his officers no longer carry batons, just Tasers and pepper spray along with their firearms.
Knowing when to use them
Strict protocols outline when officers can use Tasers in confrontational situations, Gordon said.
“It’s not something we use loosely on somebody,” he said.
All local departments have policies on “use of force,” which detail when officers can use defensive weapons such as pepper spray, batons, and now Tasers. Officers go through about six hours of training and regular refresher courses.
Burke and other chiefs said there are few instances when Tasers are actually fired.
When hooked up to a computer, the gun allows police administrators to easily trace when and how often a Taser is used. When it is fired, the gun expels bits of confetti that show the serial number of a gun.
“It shows who fired a Taser,” Roark said. “That way, you don’t have a group of officers in a situation where one says, ‘I wasn’t the one who fired it.’ If one is obtained illegally, then it can be traced once it’s used.”