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Plattsmouth police Tasers also shoot video of incidents

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  • Plattsmouth police Tasers also shoot video of incidents

    Published Sunday September 21, 2008
    Plattsmouth police Tasers also shoot video of incidents
    BY JOHN FERAK
    WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

    PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. — Police in this small city south of Omaha want to have a video record when officers deploy their Tasers.

    During the past year, Plattsmouth added video cameras to their five Tasers, making the department one of the few law enforcement agencies in Nebraska to deploy the new technology.

    The $500 plug-in fits into the cartridge below the handle. The video camera activates when the officer flips the safety switch from off to fire.

    "It's a proactive step to eliminate any problems," said Plattsmouth Police Officer Jon Hardy, a Taser training instructor. "To my knowledge, we have not had any complaints of excessive force with the Taser."

    In recent years, more police departments have bought Tasers as another weapon to de-escalate instances when someone is combative, threatening or resists arrest.

    According to Taser International, 15 law enforcement agencies in Nebraska and 14 in Iowa either own the Taser cameras or are testing and evaluating the technology.

    The company declined to identify individual departments with video Tasers. A check of law enforcement agencies around Omaha and western Iowa found that only the Saunders County Sheriff's Office in Wahoo has them, besides Plattsmouth.

    The new device provides a built-in accountability factor for officers in the event of an allegation or complaint, said Hilary Gibeaut, public relations manager for Taser International.

    The Taser shoots darts with wires attached, releasing a powerful jolt of electricity that leaves a person incapacitated for five to 10 seconds and disrupts muscle activity. Now, with video footage, Plattsmouth police can review the entire incident if someone claims misuse of the Taser.

    "It shows the suspect's demeanor at the time of the law enforcement contact," Hardy said. "It eliminates the 'I was just standing there doing what law enforcement told me to do and I got tased anyway.'"

    Tasers have drawn controversy since their introduction. Amnesty International has criticized the use of such devices, saying they could be abused by law enforcement.

    At least 160 people had died during Taser use as of 2006, according to Amnesty International. Early Friday, a 23-year-old man wielding a knife died after a Lincoln police officer shocked him with a Taser.

    Plattsmouth City Councilman Terry Tilson said he's pleased the city bought the video cameras for its Tasers. Tilson, who previously criticized the use of Tasers in Plattsmouth, said all departments that use the devices should buy the video component.

    "I still have reservations about the device," Tilson said, "but this is a step in the right direction to mitigate risk. Because should the day come when someone decides to sue for whatever reason, we will have evidence as to what took place, as opposed to a 'he said, she said.'"

    For many large departments, the $500 video cameras are too expensive to justify. Omaha police have 99 Tasers. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office owns 115 Tasers.

    "This is something that we might consider down the road, but the technology is new, and we want to make sure all the bugs are worked out before we make a decision as to whether to purchase them in the future," said Lt. Darci Tierney, Omaha police spokeswoman. "Also, the cost of updating all of our Tasers, because of the number we have, makes it much more difficult for a city our size to go to video Tasers."

    Despite the Taser's growing popularity, some agencies, including the Nebraska State Patrol and the Cass County Sheriff's Office, do not own Tasers and have no immediate plans to purchase them.

    This spring, Saunders County purchased nine Tasers for the first time and equipped them with the video cameras. The Tasers have been used twice, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Bob Thorson said.

    "You can't argue with video, liabilitywise," Thorson said. "I really think Tasers are a good deterrent factor to anybody ever thinking of resisting arrest."

    Douglas County Sheriff Sgt. Shawn Millikan said the day may come when his agency converts to the Taser video camera, but it won't be anytime in the near future. If and when it purchases the video Tasers, Douglas County could not buy just a few. To prevent legal challenges, either all or none of the Tasers would need to have the video cameras, Millikan said.

    "For us, right now, the benefits are not outweighing the drawbacks," he said. "For every two video cameras, that's one more Taser we could buy to equip our officers on the street."


    • Contact the writer: 444-1056, [email protected]
    Some people were just dropped on their heads as children more than the rest of us!

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