Tulsa Police tazer safety

Sunday, February 20th 2005, 6:46 pm

By: News On 6

Tulsa Police Sergeant Steve Middleton counts at least two occasions when he was glad a taser was one of the tools on his belt. "The first one was actually a special operations team call out we had a woman who had stabbed her girlfriend and tried to set something on fire. She was in a house"

The suspect wouldn't come willingly and the officers weren't sure if she still had the knife, so Sergeant Middleton used his taser.

Sgt Steve Middleton: "Once again while she was under the uh influence of the charge officers were able to move in and control her hands and get her in custody safely without hurting her.

Ideally that's how tasers are supposed to work. The burst of electricity overrides the central nervous center, locks up the muscles, and causes the recipient to collapse. Five seconds later, no harm done.

But some human rights groups say harm is being done. More than 80 people have died after being shocked by a taser, including a Texas man who died just this week.

Sgt Steve Middleton: "I am not aware of any instance where it was just the taser alone and not some other factor coupled with that resulted in a death."

The major manufacturer, Taser International, says other factors like drug abuse have contributed to the deaths and the stun guns are not directly responsible.

One Tulsa officer points out the devices have been used thousands of times on police officers during training without incident.

But officers were only shocked for a second or two, suspects can be shocked for up to five seconds every time the trigger is pulled, longer if the trigger is held down.

At least one Georgia county isn't taking any chances. They suspended the use of the device after a man who had been shocked died. But several Tulsa officers say tasers are safer for them and the suspects, not to mention the powerful jolt is effective.

Cpl Curran: "If the taser was employed on them after one five second burst they're like I'll do whatever you tell me to just don't hit me with that again."

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