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Law enforcement addresses public’s fears about Tasers

POSTED January 22, 2010 11:31 p.m.
Stanislaus County law enforcement agencies worked to address public concerns over the use of less-than-lethal force, especially that of Tasers, at a community forum sponsored by the local NAACP chapter.
Community members took the opportunity to voice their concerns that the decision to use Tasers is made too often and that without knowing a person’s medical history, could be putting their health and life in jeopardy.
The meeting Thursday night at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in Modesto was attended by representatives from Turlock, Modesto and Ceres police departments and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. The law enforcement officials in attendance sought to explain the different less-than-lethal options available to an officer and why the officer may choose one over another.
“What’s reasonable to you here tonight with a set of facts may not be the same as what is reasonable to an officer making a split second decision,” said Modesto Police Interim Chief Mike Harden.
The night’s discussion also delved into the ways officers try to diffuse a situation without using force of any kind.
“No officer out there is looking for an altercation,” Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton said. “If they can diffuse the situation with their voice, then they’re going to go with that option.”
Citing statistics of that practice, Hampton said that last year the Turlock Police Department had about 67,000 calls for service that resulted in approximately 4,500 arrests. Of those arrests, 30 involved the use of force.
Thursday’s meeting grew out of a public outcry over three inmate deaths at Stanislaus County Jail that involved Tasers. None of the deaths have been directly linked to the use of Tasers, according to the autopsy results.
Holly Gibeaut, litigation counsel for Taser International, was in attendance and told the crowd that conductive energy devices, more commonly known as Tasers, have been studied and have not been shown to cause heart murmurs.
“The current stays closer to the body,” Gibeaut said. “It doesn’t go that deep.”
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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