Taser ban defeat draws reaction from both sides

Almost 80 percent of voters rejected Proposition 2.

Two days after Columbia voters soundly rejected the proposed Taser ban, local law enforcement officers said their policies will remain unchanged.

“This has been an on-going process for three years or so,” said Major Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. “Frankly, the sheriff’s department has had Tasers for seven years now, and we had them for three years before Columbia (Police Department) ever had them, and there’s never been an issue.”

Had Proposition 2 passed, it would have been a Class A misdemeanor for anyone in Columbia to use a Taser. People would have still been allowed to possess them as long as they were not put to use.

Reddin said he feels Tasers could resurface as a ballot issue sometime in the future, but he does not know how likely that is.

“Maybe they will try to bring it back at the municipal level,” Reddin said. “There have been attempts at state legislation to try and basically do away with Tasers.”

Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jill Wieneke said every time an officer deploys a Taser, he or she must file a report and the reports are reviewed. Each Taser used is then hooked up to a computer to report the circumstances under which the Taser was fired, including how it was fired and its temperature.

“We have all this information that we’re constantly compiling to make sure officers are using them appropriately,” Wieneke said. “I think if people knew the vast amount of checks and balances and paperwork there is involved with the Taser deployment, they’d be very pleased with how the police department handles it.”

Catherine Parke, spokeswoman for People for a Taser-Free Columbia, said she does not know why voters cast their ballots the way they did.

“I can’t go inside people’s heads,” she said. “I don’t know why people vote the way they vote.”

Parke said the main issue is public safety.

“The Taser and CED (Conductive Electrical Device) issue is now, after the election and the education campaign, in a different mental and visual space for the public to observe and be alert to in new ways,” Parke said. “We want public safety issues to be visible to all. We’re definitely in a different place and space.”

Cities that enforce Taser bans are Las Vegas, N. M., Memphis, Tenn., and San Francisco. Parke said she feels the number of cities with Taser bans is increasing.

“Columbia would have been safer if the law had passed,” Parke said.

Parke also said some signs against the Taser ban were erroneous because she does not believe the Taser ban was a statement against law enforcement. The ban was a matter of protecting police officers’ safety as well as citizens’, she said.

Wieneke said the Police Officers Association made the signs.

People for a Taser-Free Columbia issued a news release Wednesday detailing its views on the ban being voted down. It said it feels an issue such as Tasers is too important to be ignored and looked at with a “win/lose mentality.”

“On this matter of public safety there are no opposing sides [sic],” the news release stated.

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