Poplarville officers now carrying tasers

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, November 9, 2006

As of mid-October, officers with the Poplarville Police Department now carry taser guns on regular patrols.

Lt. John Kramer, the department’s investigator and training coordinator, along with Police Chief Charles Fazende, gave a video presentation to Mayor Billy Spiers and the board of aldermen Tuesday evening to apprise them of the taser’s benefits to both law enforcement officers and suspects.

During the presentation, local officers were shown being tased themselves as part of their training process. Fazende said each officer had to be shot with the 50,000 volts for five seconds.

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Fazende said his department ordered five tasers at under $1,000 each. He noted the city has also been approved for a federal grant that will pay for adding six more of the tasers to outfit the entire department so officers will not have to trade out the weapons.

Fazende said the tasers are a “good investment in the officers’ safety.” He added, “How do you put a monetary amount on safety?”

The taser is a safe way to stop a suspect who is not compliant with officer commands or who is threatening harm in any way to the officer or others nearby. Although it incapacitates the suspect, it will not harm them and can be used multiple times if the person in question does not comply with officer commands.

Studies show the use of the taser reduces injuries and cost of treatment to both the officer and the lawbreaker. In one large metropolitan area in Florida, officer injuries dropped as much as 80 percent once the use of tasers was employed.

Kramer explained the tasers shoot out two small barb-like prongs into the suspect to allow the 50,000 volts of current to enter the body for five seconds.

Poplarville police officers were not shot with the hooks, but rather had “alligator clips” attached to their back to accept the current. The effects to the local officers were slightly less than what would occur if the hooks penetrated the skin.

Even with the clips, Kramer and Fazende said the officers agreed those were the five longest seconds any of them had ever experienced. Kramer also noted those officers who have been tased have a greater respect for the weapon and handle it with extra care.

The county sheriff’s department has been using tasers for the past eight months. Fazende noted that the size of Pearl River County alone, at over 800 square miles, is a good reason for county deputies to have the tasers at their sides for extra safety.

“This is just another tool for us to use. But something like this could help save an officer’s life and also could keep an officer from having to use a gun,” Fazende said.

Among other things discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, aldermen debated the issue of FEMA trailers, personal travel trailers and mobile homes set up within the city limits since Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore Aug. 29, 2005.

The original FEMA timeline for residents to be allowed to live in the trailers was 18 months from the date Katrina hit. The 18-month timeframe for locals living in the trailers would end March 1, 2007. Aldermen said they feel the March 1st deadline is reasonable for all local residents to be back in permanent housing.