As Press staff writer Becky Campbell reported in Thursday’s paper, deputies in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office are being equipped with Tasers — devices that fire barbs attached by wires to batteries that deliver 1,200 volts of low-amp electricity for five seconds.
The idea is to use them to temporarily immobilize a suspect who might not otherwise be restrained without using deadly force. Tasers, however, have come under investigation in relation to a number of cases where their use is believed to have contributed to the injury or death of a suspect.
Taser International Inc., the company that manufactures the stun guns, issued a training bulletin in 2009 stating the weapon could pose a low risk of an “adverse cardiac event.”
Company officials were quick to say the bulletin did not mean Tasers cause cardiac arrest. Instead, they said the advisory suggests law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy over the topic if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.
The advisory came a week before police in San Bernardino, Calif., reported a 19-year-old man died after officers used a Taser to subdue him at a board-and-care facility.
A similar incident in 2005 led the Cook County medical examiner’s office in Illinois to rule that Ronald Hasse died as a result of being Tasered by Chicago Police. Electrocution was cited as the primary cause of death, with drugs listed as a contributing factor. Taser officials dispute those and other similar findings, and the company continues to deny a direct link between the device and deaths.
Even so, it is important that Washington County sheriff’s deputies know when and how to use a Taser correctly. Failure to do so could create a liability problem for the county.
That’s why we are pleased to hear that Sheriff Ed Graybeal insisted his department thoroughly research this matter before purchasing these devices. We are also pleased to see the sheriff is training his officers on their proper use.