Although the Schenectady Police Department has been in possession of 20 Tasers for more than a year, they were not in use until April.
Police Chief Mark Chaires and acting Mayor Gary McCarthy said the electroshock weapons were not in use because former Mayor Brian Stratton would not authorize their deployment.
The devices were purchased in February 2010 with an assistance grant of $32,125. But they weren’t issued to officers until April 7, 2011, even though the force had been trained and certified on New York’s procedures and policies of use.
“We have always thought they were long overdue,” said Chaires. “We don’t want to use force, but if you do they can save both suspects and police officers from serious injuries.”
McCarthy said one of his first actions after stepping into office was to issue the stun guns to officers after discussing the issue with the city’s police force.
He declined to explain why he thought Stratton would not authorize their use. Chaires said Stratton told him why he would not approve their use, but he said he would let the former mayor explain the reasons himself.
Stratton was not available for comment.
Their use has been a matter of contention in the Capital Region.
On April 1, a 13-year-old Schenectady boy was tased during an incident outside of the Rollerama in Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Police Department defended the action, saying the boy was unruly.
McCarthy said he approves of their use as long as the rules are followed and officers use appropriate judgment.
“I expect the officers to use them in the proper manner,” he said. “But when having to use force, [a Taser] benefits both the subject and officer when someone becomes combative.”
The stun guns have been used twice on subjects since their April introduction.
Charies said so far there has been no backlash from the community or the subjects they were used on.
“It probably wasn’t enjoyable for the suspect, but you have to look at the situation. It’s better and quicker than wrestling around on the ground where officers or the subject could get extremely hurt,” he said, adding that Tasers are also a better option than pulling a gun. “We could be saving lives.”
The police force was re-trained once they were issued the weapons.
Chaires said some practice tasing was preformed on several officers in order for the force to see the results.
Each electroshock weapon contains a video recorder.
The department specifically opted for that model because the recordings can help during investigations after incidents where the devices are used. According to Chaires, the videos can prevent allegations of abuse concerning officers, and protect subjects if the Tasers were used inappropriately.
Mayoral candidate Roger Hull said he had no opinion on the subject of Tasers or their use in Schenectady until he did more research on the subject.
McCarthy, a longtime investigator in the county’s District Attorney’s Office, said the weapons are a step before deadly physical force and they provide a lifesaving option for officers.
Other area police departments, including Rotterdam, Colonie, Guilderland, Troy, Albany, Amsterdam and Glenville, issue their officers electroshock weapons.
Categories: Schenectady County