Salisbury Police get first Tasers
By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Police have purchased, trained on and have available in the field four Tasers ó the stun guns that shock troublesome subjects and assist in controlling them.
Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said he expects that his officers will use the Tasers sparingly.
“They will help us in situations where the only other alternative is physical force,” he said Wednesday.
Used properly, they can take the place of three of four officers who might be needed in subduing a fleeing, highly volatile or potentially dangerous subject.
A local doctor contributed the funds for the purchase of the four stun guns, which cost about $850 each.
Patrol and assistant patrol supervisors have been trained in their use.
Wilhelm said more and more departments are using Tasers, including the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Spencer, Landis and Kannapolis police departments.
On occasion, Salisbury Police officers have called on Spencer Police or the Sheriff’s office to assist them with their Tasers. Wilhelm recalled one instance when a man was threatening to commit suicide or harm others with a knife, and a Taser-armed officer was able to get close enough to incapacitate the man with a shock from the stun gun.
In another case, officers used a Taser to control a mental patient at a hospital, Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm said he has had some of his own officers pushing for Tasers for several years. He acknowledged his reluctance in the past to equip officers with Tasers because of instances when the “non-lethal” weapons have been used on someone, and that person ended up dying.
If an officer is justified in killing a subject, he has a sidearm, Wilhelm said.
But whether deaths that have occurred can be wholly blamed on the use of Tasers is something debated heavily in law enforcement circles.
Wilhelm said there is a school of thought among some officers that if a subject doesn’t respond to a verbal command, he can be “Tased,” the verb that has emerged with the stun gun’s use.
“That’s not what we’re going to do,” Wilhelm added.
Tasers are useful tools, Wilhelm has decided, but he isn’t sure they belong in the hands of every officer, even if that were a budget option.
Equipping his whole department would cost roughly $80,000, he said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.