Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tasers doing their job, Police Department reports

Police chief calls benefits 'astronomical'

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Police Department's first report on its use of Taser stun guns found that officers say the weapon has worked in nearly all attempts and few suspects were hurt after they were jolted with electricity.

Chief Tom Streicher told City Council's Law and Public Safety committee Tuesday that Tasers are delivering "astronomical benefits to us." In several cases, he said, officers who were not carrying the weapon were able to get suspects to comply by claiming they had one and might use it.

The weapon fires two barbs that attach to a suspect's skin or clothing. The barbs send 50,000 volts of electricity meant to temporarily immobilize a suspect long enough for officers to gain control.

Lt. Col. Richard Janke provided these details of the department's first three months of use:

• Officers fired the weapon 69 times between mid-January and the end of March. In those incidents, 28 suspects were immobilized, 29 complied even though the Taser was only partially effective - usually because both barbs didn't attach - and 12 suspects were missed.

• Almost 80 percent of those shocked were black men.

• Comparing the first quarter of 2003 with the first three months of this year, use of chemical spray dropped from 85 to 59 instances, a 30 percent decrease; other uses of force fell from 73 to 18, a 75 percent decrease.

• Officers used their Tasers most often in Districts 1 and 4, where they were used 32 times each.

• Four people were hurt in falls after they were shocked. They suffered minor injuries.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman asked about the racial breakdown and for additional demographics on stunned suspects.

As of March 31, 566 officers were trained and equipped with Tasers.


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