Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ketchum police equipped with ?Taser? stun guns

Equipment could reduce injuries to officers and suspects, chief says

Express Staff Writer

?You stiffen up and you fall to the ground.?

Those were the words of Ketchum Assistant Police Chief Mike McNeil this week, as he described the bodily effects of a new advanced stun gun Ketchum police officers will be carrying before the end of the year.

In addressing the Ketchum City Council Monday, Oct. 18, McNeil said the Ketchum Police Department recently acquired 10 new Taser X-26 stun guns, technically referred to as ?electric incapacitation devices.?

McNeil, who recently returned from a two-day seminar to learn proper use of the Taser X-26, said he believes the devices will help prevent serious injuries to police officers and criminal suspects alike.

Within a range of 21 feet, the Taser X-26 can deliver two probes into the skin of a combative suspect and then?through small wires?transmit 50,000 volts of electricity in five-second bursts to effectively incapacitate the person.

McNeil said the device has been proven to be 94 percent effective in arresting suspects without injury in thousands of uses nationwide. At the same time, he noted, the Taser has proven to not cause any health-related side effects.

McNeil and Police Chief Cory Lyman characterized the Taser as a less-than-lethal weapon that can be used as a substitute for direct physical contact or chemical agents, such as pepper spray. It could help reduce the need for the use of lethal force, they said, but is not a ?substitute? for lethal force.

McNeil said KPD has been looking for additional ways to subdue violent suspects without using firearms, largely because of a ?dramatic increase in violent crimes? in the Wood River Valley.

On Tuesday, Lyman said the decision to purchase the Tasers was only indirectly related to a May incident in which Ketchum resident Thomas Algiers, 46, was shot and killed in a police standoff.

?It was a factor in the discussion,? he said, but cautioned that the outcome of the Algiers incident might not have been any different if the officers on the scene had been carrying Tasers.

Lyman said KPD had been researching new options for using non-lethal force before the Algiers incident.

KPD spent $8,000 on the 10 Tasers for patrol officers, all of which was taken from a police trust fund that is derived from money the city has received through asset seizures.

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