Portland police ask to buy 40 stun guns
The Portland Police Bureau wants to buy 40 more stun guns for officers' use after finding them effective on the street during a six-month pilot program, Police Chief Mark Kroeker said.
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The chief, in his videotaped address to officers this week, described the M26 Advanced Taser gun as "another nonlethal tool" for police that already has and will continue to avert officer-involved fatal shootings.
The stun gun fires darts that carry an electric current and can temporarily incapacitate a person. The chief said the gun has been effective, even working through several layers of clothing, except in one or two instances over the past six months.
The field testing of the Taser grew out of the bureau's search for alternatives to the use of deadly force following the April 1, 2001, fatal police shooting of Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot, 29, in a psychiatric hospital.
In July, the bureau distributed two guns to each of the bureau's five precincts, and assigned another two to a training division officer and member of the Special Emergency Reaction Team. Arizona-based Taser International offered 12 guns to the bureau for free for testing.
The training division evaluated the stun guns and drafted a directive on when and how the guns should be used. They fall on the bureau's "force options chart" in the same area as the use of pepper spray.
Pending approval from the mayor, the bureau will order an additional 40 guns, which cost $399 each. They are expected to be distributed to patrol officers who complete eight hours of training in their use. They will wear them holstered on their gun belt, on the opposite side of their firearm.
Training officers were expected to present the results of the pilot project to the Chief's Forum on Monday, but that has been postponed until March 17 so Kroeker can brief Mayor Vera Katz.
Officer praises device Officer Tom Forsyth, who oversaw the pilot project and stun gun training, declined to discuss how many times the stun gun was used in the past six months until the mayor and others have been briefed. He said its use resulted in no injuries during the pilot period. Each of the persons struck was taken for evaluation to a local hospital as part of the bureau's directive.
"It's proven to have been a tool that has been used on numerous occasions and brought incidents to successful conclusions," Forsyth said.
The weapon looks like a conventional handgun, but when the trigger is pulled, compressed nitrogen propels two tethered metal darts at 100 mph to a target as far as 21 feet away. Once attached to a subject, the darts send out an electrical charge that can penetrate as much as 21/4 inches of clothing or padding.
The shocks, discharged through the insulated wire connected to the darts, last about five seconds. The gun incapacitates a person by emitting 26 watts, or 50,000 volts, of electricity, which overrides the person's central nervous system and causes an uncontrollable contraction of muscle tissue.
In August, police used the Taser in the course of making an arrest during the monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride in downtown Portland. Earlier this month, police used the Taser against a 41-year-old man thought to have been driving drunk from Beaverton into Portland. After police rammed his truck and it crashed into a barrier on Interstate 405, the driver didn't answer commands to leave the truck or show his hands, police said.
After Portland officers fired bean-bag rounds that broke the truck window, Beaverton police fired about 25 pepper balls, packed with pepper spray, into the truck. When the man still didn't leave the truck, Portland officers shot the man with a Taser and pulled the man out of the truck and handcuffed him.
Portland Copwatch, a police watchdog group, last year criticized the bureau's decision to try out the stun guns without seeking community input. In their January issue of "The People's Police Report," Copwatch wrote that it hoped the pilot project's report, detailing when and how the gun was used in the past six months, would be presented in a public forum. Maxine Bernstein: 503-221-8212; firstname.lastname@example.org