Sylvania police could soon join their township counterparts, along with members of other area departments, in carrying Taser guns along with firearms.
City council last week voted to direct administrators to draft an ordinance allowing city police to carry the normally nonlethal weapons for use in subduing physically violent crime suspects. Police Chief Gerald Sobb said initial equipment and training for his force likely would cost about $65,000.
Council's action followed a favorable recommendation from its safety committee, which during the morning before the Sept. 21 meeting heard a police department presentation about the Taser devices. Todd Milner, the safety committee's chairman, said the presentation allayed any concerns he had about them.
"This is a very good tool for our officers," Mr. Sobb said.
Mayor Craig Stough assured council earlier that "we will have a very comprehensive policy and procedure in place" before the first Taser is issued to a Sylvania officer.
Taser devices shoot two metal barbs, attached to electrical wires, that lodge in a suspect's skin or clothing to deliver a high-voltage, but low amperage, shock to attack the nervous system and subdue a suspect. Police Tasers typically deliver 50,000 volts for five seconds; a civilian model delivers a weaker shock for a longer period of time.
The devices are designed to give police an alternative to using physical force to subdue combative subjects or firing their guns.
"It's a terrible choice to have to use your firearm or not," Mayor Stough said.
Chief Sobb said that an officer using a Taser instead of engaging a suspect physically also eliminates the risk of that suspect gaining control of the officer's gun during a struggle.
Still, Tasers are not free of controversies.
Based on the deaths of crime suspects shocked repeatedly with the devices to subdue them, groups such asAmnesty International have called on police to discontinue their use until their safety is better proven.
In Toledo, Jeffrey Turner, 41, died on Jan. 31, 2005, after being shocked a combination of nine times in separate volleys three hours apart, first during a disorderly conduct arrest by Toledo police and then by sheriff's deputies at the Lucas County Jail. A coroner's report cited the Taser shocks as a contributing factor in his death, which is the subject of a pending civil lawsuit in county and federal court.
Mayor Stough said that, in light of some issues arising over the repeated use of Tasers, "procedures have been improved."
Chief Sobb said the Tasers to be obtained by his department will have microcameras to keep a record of the circumstances under which they are used.
And Mr. Milner said the Taser's overall track record is one of reducing officer and suspect injuries, as well as fewer complaints about excessive use of police force.
Council member Michael Brown said he was sold on Tasers' effectiveness during a disturbance at Westfield Franklin Park that he witnessed. Toledo police responding to the disturbance didn't even have to use the devices, which have laser sights for targeting.
"When they [the troublemakers] saw that little red dot on their chests, they went right to the ground. It was over," Mr. Brown said.