Avon cops add useful tool
The Avon Police Department made a wise move recently by purchasing a pair of Taser electronic stun guns for use by officers.
Avon, along with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office – which purchased a brace of the devices last year – are among the 170 police departments a month buying Tasers. The allure is simple: Tasers give officers a new, non-lethal, tool to subdue the uncooperative.
In a recent training session, Avon police officer Matt Westenfelder offered himself as a Guinea pig, and testified to the Taser’s effectiveness. “My mind just went blank and I couldn’t do anything,” he said after getting zapped.
Which is the point. It’s a lot easier to put handcuffs on a belligerent drunk or other potentially violent customer with a temporarily blanked-out central nervous system.
Tasers are becoming popular in big-city police departments, especially those like Denver that have a reputation for trigger-happy cops. A subject with a knife or similar weapon can be safely put down from up to 20 feet away, eliminating the need for deadly force.
Watchdog groups are all for non-lethal methods of course, but some, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have expressed concern that cops will start to use Tasers as a substitute for a good talking-to.
Other concerns have been raised about people who have died in custody after being shocked.
So far, coroners have determined all of those people had other medical complications that led to their deaths, such as drug use or heart conditions.
While the concern is understandable, police work is dodgy business, with countless variables and potential hazards in almost every call.
A tool that gives officers a chance to knock down a potentially hazardous suspect without permanent harm is worth risks that we think can be addressed with proper oversight.