Sikeston Department of Public Safety hasn't had any problems with use of weapon
SIKESTON -- Allegations of TASER abuse are becoming increasingly frequent across the United States but locally they are being used as they should be, officials said.
A TASER fires projectiles up to around 25 feet which administer a high-
voltage, low-amperage electric shock to incapacitate. The name is an acronym for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle" which refers to an adventurous inventor character from a series of books in the early 1900s.
Hailed as a safe alternative to brute force or firearms, there is some controversy regarding their use following videos of law enforcement personnel elsewhere in the U.S. tasing non-resisting-subjects, subjects who have already been placed under arrest and in a police vehicle, elderly persons and even children.
Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, said his department was among the first to begin using TASERs in this area and hasn't experienced any problems with their use.
"The long and short of the TASER issue as far as I'm concerned is, anything a police officer or anybody carries as a defense tool can be misused. It doesn't matter whether it's a TASER or Mace, it can be used either excessively or improperly. That does not make the device bad," Juden said. "I can tell you that in my 30-plus years of being in law enforcement, the TASER is the best tool to come along in that 30-plus years. It has cut down on suspect injury, officer injury and workers comp claims."
Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter agreed TASERs are a valuable tool.
Walter said as physically subduing a resisting subject can often result in someone getting injured, using a TASER "saves a deputy from getting hurt and it saves the other person from getting hurt, too."
"Generally we try to keep our officers away from manhandling anyone," Juden said. "The minute you get that close to anyone, they then have the ability to get to your weapon, your sidearm."
"I think they're a benefit to us," Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore said of TASERs.
Moore explained he and his six road deputies often find themselves alone when first responding to an incident. Simply having a TASER visible will usually keep situations from becoming dangerous, he said. "They see it, know what it is," Moore said. "It deters a lot of the aggression in people."
Moore said he has seen the videos of subjects being tased after they are already under control by law enforcement officers.
"To me that is just misuse by the person and that's an individual thing -- we wont tolerate it here," he said. "We have policies."
Walter said while his department hasn't had any problems with them, he has also seen and heard about cases in which TASERs were misused or abused.
"I don't think those people need to be in law enforcement," he said. Walter said his department has two certified instructors, "and that keeps everybody in check."
None of the local agencies reported receiving complaints about their use of TASERs.
"We have not had one improper use of TASERS that I am aware of," Juden said. "We have a use of force policy that covers all uses of force and the TASER is part of that policy just like Mace and handguns. Any type of weapon that we have is covered in that use of force policy."
Walter said those who have been tased by his department typically acknowledge once they have calmed down that they were in the wrong and promise, "next time, I'll do whatever the officer says." He recalled in one instance of a subject being tased, "we talked about it later and he apologized."