Thursday, March 03, 2005

Taser Talk: MPD Host Public Forum on Tasers - MADISON NBC 15 NEWS

Madison, WI
Updated: 5:21 AM Mar 3, 2005
Leigh Mills

Madison police put their taser use in the public eye Wednesday night.

Locally and nationwide, taser's safety and usage have come under scrutiny.

About 85 people gathered at the Monona Terrace Wednesday night to learn about the Madison Police Department's use of tasers and then express their concerns.

The department demonstrated how the use of physical force isn't always as effective as a taser.

Officer Mike Hanson says, "The police department really feels this is a great tool because it saves lives, it can save injury to officers and suspects. And use of force with a taser can now be deployed several feet away as before officers would have to go hands on."

In several videos, the department showed how officers have acted in real-life situations with tasers and without them.

"I believe we will be successful as a community and a department if number one we don't overreact," says Madison Chief of Police, Noble Wray.

Some are pointing fingers at tasers for causing the death of close to 100 people nationwide.

Wednesday night people spoke out from both sides of the fence.

"The ACLU's position is that this should be just below deadly force," says Erik Guenther of the Wisconsin ACLU, "Because there is a lack right now of independent peer–reviewed research."

Tom Smith, President of Taser International, says, "I also think it's a complete mistake for officers to have or for the ACLU to say this should be up at the level of a firearm, you don't take a taser to a gun fight."

But their presentation didn't convince Alder Andy Heidt that tasers should be allowed in Madison. He referred to the statistics in a recently released city taser report.

"In 59% of cases where they [tasers] were used only a misdemeanor was charged," says Heidt, "And in only 9 out of 90 cases were weapons involved so I think the police department has to seriously review their policies on use of taser."

Heidt introduced a resolution asking the department to suspend its use of tasers until better safety studies are conducted. That is currently in the hands of the Public Safety Review Board.


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