Chief adds safer option to fill void in current law enforcement choices
ATHENS, Ohio (April 3, 2007) -- At tonight's Student Senate meeting, the Ohio University Police Department will announce that it has purchased five TASER devices. The tasers will provide a safer option for dealing with individuals who are clearly at risk of harming others or themselves.
"To protect the Ohio University community and my officers, I feel obligated to fill the void between our current options: chemical spray or a baton and deadly force," OUPD Chief Mike Martinsen said. "Dangerous people can find their way onto campus, and we need to be able to respond appropriately and professionally."
OUPD will use tasers only on violent or potentially violent subjects who are not complying with lawful orders and are at risk of harming themselves, an officer or others. The tasers can be used from 21 feet away to immobilize such individuals. Pepper spray is only effective up to three feet away and a baton, only 18 inches.
The tasers transmit electrical impulses that temporarily (for five seconds) disrupt the body's central nervous system, immobilizing the subject. Subjects recover instantly. It takes about 40 minutes to recover from the effects of pepper spray.
"I hope we never have a use for tasers, but if we're in a situation where someone is violent and cannot be controlled, I'd rather use this option than have to resort to using a firearm," Martinsen said. "I would feel uncomfortable not having this less lethal option."
All OUPD noncivilian officers have taken training in taser use from the master trainer of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. As part of the training, the devices were demonstrated on each officer.
Before the tasers are deployed, Martinsen will meet with various student groups and leaders to explain the decision to purchase tasers and address concerns about the devices. Yesterday he met with the Council of Student Leaders and tonight he will meet with Student Senate.
Independent studies, including the United Kingdom's Association of Chief Police Officers and the U.S. Department of Defense, affirm that TASER devices are the safest alternative on the market for immobilizing a violent subject. A peer reviewed study by Journal of Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology (PACE) suggests that it would take 20 times the electrical force of one taser impulse to be considered dangerous. In contrast, acetaminophen has an 8:1 safety margin.
"Right now, when used properly and according to sound use of force policy, the taser is the safest tool to bring an end to confrontations with dangerous people," said Scott Greenwood, a leading civil rights lawyer and lead counsel in the Cincinnati police reform case. "I would rather face a taser than pepper spray. Tasers have a better success rate in preventing dangerous situations from ratcheting up and have the fewest injuries of all the other use of force options."
OUPD purchased five X26 Advanced Tasers ® from TASER International for $8,000. The devices have internal audit systems: computer chips that record the time, date and duration of use. To further ensure accountability, each taser is equipped with a video and audio recording device that will activate when a taser is used.
"We have stricter limits for allowable uses of the tasers than most organizations," Martinsen said. "If an officer breeches these guidelines, I will not hesitate to suspend that officer's use of tasers and promptly initiate an internal investigation."
More than 580 Ohio law enforcement agencies, including Athens Police Department, deploy TASER brand devices and more than 10,500 law enforcement agencies deploy devices in the United States. Some of the campus police departments around the state that have tasers are Miami University, Hocking College, Marietta College, Xavier University, Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, Wright State University, University of Akron, University of Cincinnati and University of Toledo.
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