04/01/07 — Fremont police get new taser

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Fremont police get new taser

By Lee Williams
Published in News on April 1, 2007 2:05 AM

Fremont police Chief Ron Rawlings knows the small town he serves doesn't have the resources to put more officers on the street.

So, he decided to give them more fire power.

Rawlings asked the Fremont Town Board to purchase a Taser X26 to place on the officers' gun belts should they encounter an uncooperative suspect while out on patrol.

He also asked the board earlier this year to purchase a video camera that would monitor the officers' use of the taser to ensure it is applied properly.

"Once I got here, I noticed a lot of times our officers are working by themselves," said Rawlings who joined the department last month. "If they encounter a suspect or more than one suspect at one time, more often than not, if there's a confrontation, the suspect is injured or the officer is injured."

Rawlings wanted to eliminate this problem, so he decided to purchase a taser and a video camera. The video camera would deploy when the taser is taken out of its holster and the safety is released.

Rawlings knows the taser comes with risks, but after researching the item he said he believes it will be a plus for his eight-man department. He used the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff's Department as a basis for his research and presented the information to the board.

After listening to Rawlings' presentation, the board unanimously approved the purchase of the taser and video camera, which came with a total cost of $1,109.

He said the Orange County Sheriff's Department noted injuries to officers and suspects dropped, the number of shootings dipped, workman's compensation claims fell and officer complaints plummeted after adding the taser to its deputies' arsenals.

"They used the taser 800 times and, out of those times, they got 16 complaints and they were all unfounded," he said.

Rawlings said a reduction in the number of injuries to officers and suspects is what sold him on the tool.

He added word travels fast when people learn an officer has a taser on his hip.

"They call it 'the electric chair' on the street," he said.

The taser does not have a permanent effect on suspects, he added.

"It doesn't injure them," he said. "It just stuns them long enough, so that you can go ahead and get the handcuffs on."

Two deaths have been connected to the Orange County taser, Rawlings said.

"One had heart problems and the other had a pacemaker," he said. "If you have a pacemaker, you shouldn't be out fighting the police. You should be at home taking care of yourself."

Rawlings said the taser also has been credited with saving lives including several attempted suicide victims.

"They had instances where people had guns to their heads and they got tased and they were brought to safety," he said.

The taser has also been applauded for stopping a man who tried to jump off of a building, he added.

Rawlings said the taser has had a lot more successes than failures, which is why he decided to purchase the weapon.

"We don't have the money to hire another police officer, so we will treat this like this is a partner," he said.

All of his officers will be trained to use the taser and will attend a refresher course each year. He said a policy on when to use the weapon has been adopted and will be strongly enforced.

"We won't be out there using it arbitrarily," Rawlings said. "We are not going to be out there shooting people on a whim. We do want our officers safe, and we wanted another tool to keep them safe. They are out there working by themselves, and we want them to be safe."