Police now armed with taser weapons

Staff photo by Dean H. Borgwardt

COTTONWOOD Police Sgt. Jack Stapleton demonstrates the department's new Advanced M26 Taser weapon.

Police officers are currently undergoing training for the M26 Advanced Taser and will deploy the Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) weapon as soon as the training is completed and policy implementation is in place.

Cottonwood Police say that the purpose of purchasing the taser is to improve safety for its officers and the community in which they serve.

Cottonwood Chief of Police Pat Spence said, "We are continually looking to utilize the latest technology in order to increase the safety of both the general public and our officers."

Spence said that there is an increase in the frequency of officers confronting irrational and non-compliant individuals and officers now have an option to use a less-lethal tool to reduce the possibility of a confrontation resulting in a fatality.

The M26 Advanced Taser, manufactured by Taser International, Inc. in Scottsdale, shoots two probes up to a distance of 21-feet from a replaceable air cartridge. Connected to the weapon by high-voltage insulated wire, the probes make contact with an assailant and the taser transmits a powerful electrical pulse carried through the wires and into the body through up to two inches of clothing.

The new EMD weapons use a powerful 26-watt electrical signal to completely override the central nervous system and directly control the skeletal muscles, thus causing an uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue resulting in physical debilitation of an assailant regardless of pain tolerance or mental focus. The new M26 is improved over traditional stun technology weapons, which operate in the 7-watt to 14-watt range and interfere with communications signals within the nervous system of the target.

Spence said that this new crime-fighting tool should prevent injuries to our officers and to the suspects they encounter, giving police a less lethal alternative that can be used safely.

The M26 offers a 5-second window where officers can go hands-on and restrain an assailant without being affected by the weapon.

Cottonwood Police Sergeant Jack Stapleton said the last stun technology was inadequate.

"An assailant with high pain capacity or under the influence of drugs were often not affected," he said. "This is much improved and highly effective."

Stapleton said that all officers from patrol level to sergeant will be outfitted with the M26 and added that it will not be replacing any existing equipment they are currently using.

He said that he and his fellow police officers should start carrying the M26 at the first of July.

"It's about the same level of restraint as pepper spray," he said. "But, I've seen suspects continue to fight even after being sprayed."

He mentioned one officer who recently suffered a dislocated finger who is still in rehabilitation stemming from an altercation that turned violent.

"Anything we can do to avoid a fight," he said. "Will benefit police officers and citizens. Otherwise, someone will get hurt."

Weapons and tactics in the police arsenal are verbal and open-hand techniques, Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) pepper spray, non-impact and impact baton techniques, taser use and non life-endangering actions and at a more severe level, firearms. Offers responding to a disturbance gauge the situation and are trained to evaluate and act in order to subdue an assailant with as little injury and as safely and efficiently as possible. According to police policy, immediate medical attention is provided in the event of injuries when force is used and OC spray is rinsed from an assailant. Police adhere to a strict policy of the use of force, be it lethal or merely using restraints like handcuffs. The policy is active to protect civilians and officers from injury and litigation.

The M26 Taser has built-in modes of accountability.

Stapleton said that the M26 has a recording device that notes every time the trigger is pulled.

"It also has serial numbers on the probe cartridge and confetti that is emitted when it is used," he said. "The confetti has a serial number on it also. This makes the user accountable."

Stapleton said that there has been no reports of death or any litigation where a police department was sued successfully from taser use. The M26 costs $395 each and a special holster and air cartridges are required. The M26 uses eight AA size batteries and is significantly lighter than a firearm.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, said in the past year, the Pima County Sheriff's Department deployed 54 Advanced Taser M26s. The M26 provided his department with a means of safely stopping violent and dangerous suspects without causing permanent injuries. As a result of field testing, his office has seen a dramatic decrease in deputy related injuries. Yavapai County Sheriff's Office expects to be outfitted with the taser weapon in the future but deputies stated that they have not implemented policy and are at the ground level.

Cottonwood police are ready for the M26 and local government officials have adopted the policy.

"I see no down-side to this weapon," Stapleton added. "I'm looking forward to it being implemented."

The M26 and similar tools provides advanced less-lethal weapons for use in the law enforcement, private security and personal defense markets. It is reported that this product has reduced officer and suspect injuries by over 72 percent in the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department. The Advanced Taser is saving lives, reducing liability and creating safer jobs in over 2,500 law enforcement agencies worldwide. For more information on the taser, check out www.taser.com.

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