Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seems like a good idea...

Sheriff considers Taser purchase after incident

POSTED: March 16, 2009

LISBON - Columbiana County Sheriff Ray Stone is considering arming his deputies with stun guns after a recent confrontation ended only with assistance from a Ohio Highway Patrol trooper who had one.

The confrontation involved a Guilford Lake man armed with a butcher knife threatening his wife and children. The standoff ended when the trooper used his Taser to subdue the man.

"Our guys only had their handguns," Stone said.

That incident, combined with the fact some of his deputies had been asking him to consider issuing them stun guns, resulted in Stone inviting a salesman to visit in early March. After watching four volunteers be shot with a Stinger brand stun gun, Stone came away impressed.

"Truthfully, I'm leaning in that direction," said Stone, who wants to first have a demonstration by Taser, another supplier, before making a decision.

As for the Guilford Lake confrontation, Stone said it would have been a benefit to have another option available besides using pepper spray, a police baton or handgun. He said pepper spray isn't a viable option inside a building because the officers "end up eating some of it," and the baton requires they get dangerously close to the armed suspect, leaving firearms as the only remaining option.

"I don't want to shoot someone (unnecessarily) and I don't want my deputies to have to shoot anyone," he said. "It's (stun guns) a second-to-the-last resort and it's better than beating someone with a (baton) or billy club."

Stone believes a stun gun could be a great benefit to a small department such as his when there often are only two deputies on duty at opposite ends of the county.

"Our deputies are basically out there by themselves, and their backup is usually miles away," he said.

Former Sheriff David Smith was reluctant to equip his deputies with stun guns, seeing in them a potential for abuse as officers turn to them first to resolve a situation instead of using other means. Smith also was worried about the growing number of people who have died after being shot with a stun gun and the lawsuits that might result.

Stone is aware of those concerns, which is why he never outfitted his officers with stun guns during the years he served as Perry Township police chief. But he said any problems with overusage can be addressed with a strict policy about when stun guns are to be used, similar to other policies involving when to use firearms.

"Any instrument can be used wrong, but if they follow the guidelines, policies and training as they were taught, (stun guns) could be a great asset," he said.

As for getting sued if someone should die after being shot with a stun gun by a deputy, Stone said the manufacturer will provide legal coverage as long as it was used properly.

"I'm not too afraid of using them because every major police department carries them," he said.

Stun guns cost between $500 or $800 per unit, depending on whether they go with Stinger or Taser, and Stone said they could afford to purchase only four, which all of the deputies would share while on duty.


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