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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Taser company addresses fears over stun guns

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The president and co-founder of Taser International yesterday flooded local law enforcement authorities and public officials with information about the company's stun gun in the wake of several deaths, including one in Lucas County, and recent reports on the safety of the devices.

Tom Smith provided about two dozen officials with medical safety information about Tasers, and data from police agencies - such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Cincinnati - that show declines in the use of lethal force and officer and suspect injuries because of the devices.

Tasers emit a five-second jolt of 50,000 volts of electricity - less than static discharge from a door knob - and have considerably less energy than a defibrillator, said Dr. Jeffrey Ho, an independent consultant for Taser who is examining the company's medical research.

The company approached local authorities about presenting information about Tasers when the devices came under recent scrutiny. The session was held at the Oregon Municipal Building.

Jeffrey Turner, of Toledo, died Jan. 31 after he was shocked five times by Toledo police and four times by Lucas County jail personnel within a three-hour period. An autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause and manner of his death. Toxicology tests and further investigation are pending.

After his death, Sheriff James

Telb suspended the use of Tasers and enacted a policy that requires any suspect shocked by a stun gun to pass a medical examination at a hospital before being booked into the jail.

After yesterday's presentation, Oregon police Chief Tom Gulch said the new policy is too restrictive and that local authorities and the sheriff need to jointly discuss the matter.

While a few local authorities asked medical questions about Tasers and other health issues suspects may experience, they said they are going to continue using the devices or training their officers to use them.

"The statistics continue to show suspect and officer injuries are down by the use of Tasers," Maumee police Chief Robert Zink said. "Before, the officers would get hurt. They'd wrestle or fight or hit [suspects] with a baton."

Four of his officers are trained Taser instructors, and the chief plans to begin using the stun guns later this year. He said pepper spray and batons received similar scrutiny when they were introduced years ago.

Authorities aren't the only ones taking a look at the Tasers, which have been used on children as well as adults.

Larry Sykes, president of the Toledo Board of Education, said he doesn't want any student to be shocked with a Taser.

"I'm looking for them to be removed from use in schools," he said.

"My recommendation is not to use them unless there are extreme circumstances - a life-and-death situation."

The school board is expected to discuss a policy on the devices during its next meeting March 22.

Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said he has not been contacted by the district with regard to the policy. Although he's willing to talk about the matter, he has "no intentions to have separate policies [for officers] depending on what venue they're in."

"The school resource officers who are in the schools are employees of the Toledo Police Department and are governed by the policy of the Toledo Police Department," Chief Navarre said.

Blade staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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