Sheriff debates proposed Taser ban

The proposed ban would make Taser use in Columbia illegal.
Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey describes the importance of tasers for police officers on duty Tuesday in the Rock Bridge Hy-Vee Community Room. Proposition 2, if passed, would make tasering a Class A misdemeanor, even for police officers.

Columbia residents heard both sides of the proposed Taser ban at a debate Tuesday between Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey and CoMo Citizens member Eapen Thampy.

Columbia voters will decide on Proposition 2 in the Nov. 2 election. The proposition would make it illegal for any person, including police officers, to use or threaten to use Tasers against any person within city limits.

Those opposed and those in favor of the ban met in a debate-style discussion in the conference rooms at the Hy-Vee on E. Nifong Boulevard.

Carey spoke first in the debate-style event. In his argument, Carey said even the threat of a Taser is useful for law enforcement officers.

"To date in 2010, we have not deployed a single Taser," he said. "The threat of being able to use one works great as a deterrent for crime."

The Boone County Sheriff's Department has had Tasers since it was funded to buy them in 2003 by a sales tax proposal called Proposition L. Carey said the use of Tasers is only natural given the changes in crime over the years.

"Back when I started about 20 years ago, (police officers) all had Maglites for protection," he said. "Next it was Mace, then retractable batons and now Tasers. It's all a necessary way of defense for police officers. It keeps us from having to resort to hand-to-hand combat or lethal force."

The officers use the X26 model of Taser. According to Taser's website, it is a handheld Taser that deploys two small probes with a maximum range of 35 feet.

"The shock that the Taser provides is 50,000 volts," Carey said. "Comparatively, when you get shocked by electronics around the home, that's about 20,000 volts. The volts alone aren't enough to kill someone."

Thampy voiced concern over the relationship between residents of Columbia and the police if they are carrying dangerous weapons like Tasers. He also said Tasers do pose a risk to people's safety.

"A man in Moberly was killed last year by a Taser right in front of his family," he said.

Carey said that particular incident was not proof Tasers themselves are dangerous.

"The man in Moberly died because the officer operating the Taser never let off on the trigger," Carey said. "He continued to pour volts into the man."

Carey also said preexisting conditions play a major role in survival from 50,000 volts. Things such as heart conditions or recent drug use can increase a victim's chance of death from a Taser.

Thampy told Pachyderms, the organization that hosted the debate, he had a problem with the wording of the proposition. He said the sheriff's department should be exempt from the ban.

"It would be a trivial matter to rewrite the bill to only include the Columbia Police Department, as they use (Tasers) a lot more often and inappropriately," he said.

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