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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nashville police to return tasers to any trained officer

May 29, 2008
By KATE HOWARD, Tennessean.com

Metro Police announced today plans to return Taser stun guns to its regular arsenal, almost three years after removing them from all but high-ranking officers in the wake of a controversial death.

Police Chief Ronal Serpas said he’s carefully considered the medical research on the weapons, and he’s confident that the benefits — fewer fistfights with suspects who resist arrest — outweigh the perceived risks. Serpas said there is no credible research to suggest the Taser causes significant injury.

He said the department currently has no plans to make the $799 Taser X26 a tool on the belt of every Metro officer. Instead, the department will have a total of about 200 Tasers, enough for each on-duty officer who wants one to check it out for a shift. Only officers who take an eight-hour certification class will be allowed to use the Taser, Serpas said.

While Serpas said he thinks the Taser is a safe and useful tool that can prevent stronger use of force during an arrest, he said he won’t insist that any officer uncomfortable with the tool must use it.

“This is all about reducing injury and the number of times we have to go hand-to-hand with people,” Serpas said.

The 2005 death of 21-year-old Patrick Lee raised questions about the safety of Taser use. Lee was shot with a Taser 19 times outside a Nashville nightclub and died two days later. The autopsy cited his cause of death as excited delirium, a medical condition often associated with in-custody deaths of suspects using illegal drugs.

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