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Tasers to be used by WCSO

Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies will add a faster-acting tool to their utility belts if commissioners approve the transfer of funds for the purchase of 10 taser devices.
“We’re trying to prevent officers from being injured,” Capt. Bryan Horton said.
Along with a handgun, deputies are currently issued two non-lethal weapons that can be used if a suspect is resisting arrest or, in some cases, threatening suicide.
“In addition to a baton, all officers carry a chemical agent on their utility belts,” Horton said.
The chemical agent is a spray that will incapacitate a suspect, but it can take up to 15 seconds to become effective.
“That may not seem like a lot of time, but it can make a difference,” Horton said. “A taser is instantaneous.”
When applied to an individual, the taser sends an electric shock that temporarily “locks” muscles and prevents movement.
While faster-acting than the chemical agent, the effect lasts only a fraction of the time.
“That’s what’s amazing. It can take 20 to 45 minutes for the chemical agent to wear off, but the taser effect only lasts for two to three minutes,” Horton said. “That’s just enough time to handcuff them.”
Injury to the suspect or the responding officer is a possibility in any altercation, according to Horton.
Tasers will allow the officers to take control of a situation from a safer distance and prevent a suspect from harming himself.
Sheriff Ed Graybeal said three to four suicides were completed in front of officers during the last year that couldn’t be prevented without the officers being hurt.
“We’ve done our research, we’ve talked to all of our officers, and we believe this (using tasers) will help,” Graybeal told Budget Committee members during the June 15 meeting. “The transfer of funds is from a grant; this is no new money.”
Ten tasers will be purchased at a total cost of $12,360 from Gulf States Distributors, the sole provider of the devices in Tennessee.
The taser fires two probes from a distance of 15 to 35 feet. The probes contain barbs that embed into the suspect upon impact and transfer 50,000 volts of electricity that would stop a potential suicide, attempted assault or an escape.
Horton said the taser is considered a non-lethal device.
“The Department of Justice has found that taser deaths are related to drug overdoses or some other actions taken by suspects before the officer arrives on the scene,” he said.
The WCSO plans to place a couple of tasers on each platoon, which are nine- to 10-member officer teams that work 12-hour shifts.
Before carrying the weapon, officers must complete an eight-hour training course required by Taser International, the company that manufactures the tasers.
Horton said the course teaches civil and criminal liability related to taser use; safety aspects; removal of the barbs; how to check the functionality of the the taser; and includes a firsthand experience of being tased.
The requirement to submit to a tasing, according to Horton, prepares the officer for what to expect in the event his weapon is ever taken by the suspect.
Horton, who has completed the training course, described the experience of being tased as “uncomfortable.”
Nonetheless, he said officers are excited about the purchase of the tasers, which are targeted to be in use by Aug. 1.
“I think this will be a great tool,” he said. “And if we felt there was any danger to the public, we wouldn’t use them.”