NYPD Adds Taser Guns to its Arsenal

Laser Taser

NEW YORK (AP) — The NYPD is expanding its use of the Taser stun gun, a common tool in the law enforcement arsenal that’s seen limited use in the nation’s largest police force.

Newer model Tasers are smaller, lighter and easier to carry in a holster, the main reason for the change, department spokesman Paul Browne said Saturday.

Starting Wednesday, thousands of police sergeants will begin carrying electronic stun guns on their belts. The NYPD has used Tasers since 1984, but policy called for sergeants to store the stun guns in their trunks while patrolling, rather than strapping the weapons to their hips.

“They were a little too cumbersome,” Browne explained. He said older Tasers were about the size and weight of a large flashlight and were less essential than other items police carry.

About 3,500 uniformed sergeants and other supervisors on patrol duty will be issued Tasers, costing about $500 each. The NYPD has 36,000 officers.

Browne said stun guns can be valuable when dealing with psychologically distressed people who might mean no harm but who are acting violently and have lost their ability to comply with an officer’s orders.

Police forces nationwide use stun guns as alternatives to guns.

Some critics have questioned whether the devices are used too hastily and on vulnerable people. Amnesty International has counted more than 300 deaths since June 2001 in which a Taser was used against someone, though the tally does not show what caused those deaths.

The manufacturer, Taser International Inc., says the devices have been listed as a contributing factor in about 12 deaths.

One thought on “NYPD Adds Taser Guns to its Arsenal

  1. Thought it should be known our struggles continue and we won’t rest till change is implemented.
    read article below from one of our actions against the use of tasers and the lost of life as a result of it being used.
    Group Demands Change Following Taser Incident
    by Jami Maday, Assistant Editor

    More than a week after a mentally disturbed man died following a Taser shock by police in Rosedale, an advocacy group for the mentally disabled demanded a change in NYPD policy.
    The Manhattan based Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities — which includes some members with mental disorders who have been incarcerated — rallied outside Queens Village’s 105th Police Precinct last Thursday. Before the demonstration, around 15 group members marched into the precinct house and gave a letter to the commanding officer, Capt. Steven Haynes, announcing their campaign.

    The group called for the elimination of Tasers — stun guns that emit a powerful electric shock — as well as the establishment of an NYPD crisis intervention team. Based on a concept tested in Rochester, N.Y., the intervention team would be composed of officers who are specifically trained to handle mental health emergency calls.
    Reading aloud from the group’s letter, demonstrator Marvin James, of Jamaica, said: “By implementing (the teams), New York City would be taking a progressive step in ending the discrimination and prejudice that people with psychiatric disabilities face.” As he spoke, fellow protesters held signs demanding the changes.
    The group rallied on behalf of Blondel Lassegue, 38, a Brooklyn man who reportedly went into cardiac arrest on Jan. 7 after being Tasered in his uncle’s home by officers trying to subdue him. Preceding the incident, Lassegue became erratic and refused to leave, prompting family members to call 911. He had stopped taking his bipolar disorder medication, family members said.
    Preliminary autopsy findings indicate the Taser shock did not kill Lassegue. The Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting more tests and expects to determine a cause of death in a couple of weeks.
    Whatever the cause may be, members of the advocacy group said the four officers involved should have responded less violently to Lassegue’s mental condition. They insisted that police placed fear before training when the former schoolteacher lashed out and repeatedly punched an officer while being placed in handcuffs.
    “You can’t go in there like you’re dealing with any average person,” said South Bronx resident Jose Cintron, who suffers from depression. “Not all things apply to all people. There’s no justifying treating a mental person as someone carrying a loaded gun.”
    Although Capt. Haynes believes the officers followed proper procedure, he told the group he will evaluate the precinct’s policies in responding to calls involving the mentally disabled. He is also open to hearing concerns from residents regarding the incident, despite not having any jurisdiction to make policy changes. “I can work with anyone in the community,” he added. “I’m all ears.”
    Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities is applying pressure not only to the police. The group’s campaign also demands that New York City judicial officials establish mental health courts and find alternatives to incarcerating the mentally ill.
    Group members attempted to contact Lassegue’s family by phone and mail regarding Thursday’s protest but received no response. The Queens Chronicle’s efforts to reach his family were also unsuccessful.

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