The idea for department-wide implementation of the weapons — which fire electrified barbs, immobilizing people with what can be painful shocks, was first floated a year ago, officials said.
“It was a safety issue,” Lt. Eric Rosoff said. “The stats bear out that there is less injury to officers and less injury to citizens. When people become aware [of the Tasers], they seem to simmer down a little bit. The whole idea is that we have to use less force.”
There are now 140 Tasers in use at a cost of $169,000 to the city, Merich said. The yellow weapons are affixed to the belts of all patrol officers, and half of all detectives in the city now carry them. The goal is to outfit all 165 officers in the department with Tasers.
Though they have not been used yet, the Tasers might first be fired in place of pepper spray or in cases where an officer feels he is being threatened, Rosoff said.
“It’s a compliance tool,” he said. “If it looks like someone’s going to hurt me or an officer, I have the availability if it presents itself. It’s the best tool we can use to go out and do what we do, which is protect the community.”
But the nonlethal weapon has drawn some criticism because of its effects.
In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine found that a shock from a Taser stun gun nearly killed a Chicago teenager after he suffered a heart problem.
Two doctors at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago wrote to the journal saying the incident appeared to be the first medically documented case of ventricular fibrillation caused by a Taser gun.