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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Council approves $1.8M in new Tasers for CMPD

September 27, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are getting new, and supposedly safer, Tasers. Although the non-lethal tools have been the focus of controversy over the past few months, police are confident Tasers are not a problem. Just to be safe, they asked city council for $1.8 million to buy the new models.

The X2 version has several new safety features. The shock only lasts five seconds no matter how long the officer holds the trigger. The amount of electricity is now more exact.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe said these new Tasers are the top of the line models. "We don't believe that there is a better model out there," he told council members.

Those safety features could have meant the difference between life and death in 2008 when Darryl Turner died after being shocked by a police-issue Taser, and again two months ago when La'Reko Williams died. Williams' family made an appearance at the meeting Monday night, wearing shirts memorializing the 21-year-old man, but did not speak about the new Tasers.

The lawyer Charles Everage said the council should not have voted on the Taser deal until it figured out why WIlliams died from the shock. "We're not here to express any emotion about it," he said.

Police haven’t been allowed to use their Tasers since Williams died. The weapons have been in a state of review and testing and the department have been reviewing their policies for using Tasers. In fact, for the first time, CMPD officials said officers have deployed Tasers 760 times since 2004.

Police said those are time officers may have been forced to draw their guns instead, but they did not say how many of those suspects were seriously injured.

In light of the new X2 model Tasers, only one Charlotte resident spoke out about the weapons being added to officers' arsenal.

"If they're going to use these instruments that do cause devastation and it does cause death, they should be better trained," he said.

Cardiologists at Presbyterian Hospital in uptown Charlotte said any Taser can be dangerous, regardless of the safety mechanisms built into them because all Tasers hit suspects with thousands of volts of electricity.

"There are plenty of average, healthy people that in very unique situations can have weird electrical cardiac events," said Cardiologist Kevin Sharkey. "You've seen people on the basketball court collapse and die from an arythmia they didn't know they had."

Police have not said when officers will get the new Tasers. Even when they do, they may not use them right away because officers may need new training.

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