The police department is halting its purchase of Taser stun guns while awaiting the outcome of medical studies about the risks of the weapons.
Police Chief Anthany Beatty said his department will still use the department’s Tasers, which stun with a jolt of electricity, because “they’ve been effective, and they do work.”
Lexington bought about 100 Tasers, at $900 each, in July.
Lexington police reports show that during the past year, officers have used their Tasers at least 69 times. In comparison, officers used their batons on eight occasions, the reports state.
Tasers have become controversial. The gun sends a 50,000-volt jolt into the central nervous system, immobilizing the target. The shock usually lasts five seconds and can be re-sent at the officer’s discretion.
Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle said it has been “a year of frustration” because people are not waiting for medical opinions before reaching conclusions about the weapon’s safety.
“We’ve never said the technology was risk-free; but compared to other uses of force, it is the safer alternative,” Tuttle said.
Amnesty International released a report this month that says there have been 103 Taser-related deaths in the United States and Canada in the past five years.
Beatty said his department started its moratorium before the release of Amnesty’s report.
The chief said his command staff made the decision after he talked with other departments and spoke with officials from the city’s risk-management and law departments.
“There are medical deaths that are not directly associated with the Taser, but until we know that factually and absolutely for sure, then we’re going to hold off and keep the moratorium placed on purchases,” Beatty said. “If the medical information says they shouldn’t be used, we won’t use them; but I’d be very surprised if that is the case, given the number of departments we have using them versus the number of deaths.”
Albert Arena, a spokesman for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said 7,000 agencies out of 17,000 in the United States are using stun guns. He said there are at least 130,000 Tasers on the streets.
“We say more study needs to be done, but so does the Department of Defense and everyone else out there,” he said. “We also don’t feel there is enough data out there that says they should not be used.”