Non-lethal force order of the day at CCSD
|The red dot shows the spot. Chief deputy Guy Adams from the Carbon County Sheriff's Department demonstrates the siting capability of one of the new taser guns the department has purchased for each cruiser. The new weapon is designed to keep officers safe and reduce the chance of having to use lethal force on dangerous suspects.|
The use of deadly force is something that most police forces would rather not think about. An officer involved in a shooting incident brings not only the problems of investigation into the incident, but pain to everyone involved.
Sometimes police officers are in situations where an individual is a danger to others and himself, but the use of a gun in the situation brings great criticism. For instance, a man is threatening people and officers with a knife, yet he is far enough away that he offers no immediate threat. However if he charges officers or anyone else he could kill someone. Not long ago police personnel had only one real choice, to shoot to kill.
In the last few years, however, more and more research and development has been done on non-lethal weapons for situations just like this. Some of the near present solutions were devices such as mace, pepper spray and contact taser guns. But all these solutions, however, required an officer to get up close to the threatening individual. That however is changing, and changing right here in Carbon County.
"I saw a demonstration on these new taser guns and knew they would be a good addition to our department," said Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova last week as he picked up one of the new guns the county has purchased and plans to put in every patrol vehicle. "These will save lives."
The new taser guns that will soon be riding with every deputy sheriff has the ability to generate over 50,000 volts and can shoot a cartridge 21 feet attaching itself to the intended target.
"Once that attaches itself to the individuals body it will knock them down because it interferes with the persons nervous system," says Cordova. "It will knock down people no matter how strong they are; even if they are high on something that can give them extraordinary strength."
The yellow weapons can also be used as a contact weapon. For instance if two attackers approach, the deputy can shoot one with the cartridge and still use the gun as a contact weapon as well on the second person. For sighting purposes the weapon has a built in red laser light that is similar to lethal weapon sites used by law enforcement.
The new device also has a data pack built into it. Because the weapon is controlled by the deputy, if he runs into a particularly stubborn attacker, one who the weapon knocks down but tries to struggle again after the shock has stopped, he can reshock the individual if he needs to. The data pack can be downloaded to a computer to see how many times the deputy used the shock device on a suspect as well as the duration of the shocks administered and the time they were administered. It also ejects small tags (called AFID) when a cartridge is discharged. These tags are color coded and have the serial number of the cartridge printed on them so officials can ascertain which officer or how many officers used the weapon during an incident.
"Some people fear that these might affect someone that has a pacemaker," said the Sheriff, "But they are designed not to affect them."
Basically the new guns fill in the gap between mace and the use of deadly force. Each gun costs around $400 and the actual cartridges cost $18 each.
"We buy practice cartridges for the guns for $11 each so our personnel will know how to use the guns and how they operate," says Cordova.
One of the most important aspects of the new guns is the fact that there is no permanent damage of any kind to the person they hit and it is also much safer for the officers than past non-lethal tools.
"The problem with mace and pepper spray is that it can affect the deputies as much as it does the person we are trying to subdue," states Cordova.
The cartridge shoots tags that attach to the body of the person at the same time extending small leads to the gun, which gives the person using it complete control.
All the deputies have gone through the official training on the weapons system. Part of that training was actually being shot by the gun so they knew how it would feel. It can even take down groups of people if they are touching each other.
"I was in the middle of a row of six deputies and we had another deputy fire the gun at the guy on one side and I got shocked as bad as the guy would was the target," states Cordova.
The guns will be installed in the cruisers as well as in the counties prisoner transport van in the next couple of weeks.
"We also bought one for the jail so that if we have a problem there it is available," concluded the Sheriff.