As early as this weekend, every police officer in the city of
Gilroy will begin carrying a second sidearm – a TASER stun gun that
can briefly immobilize someone from up to 21 feet away with a
50,000-volt shock.
As early as this weekend, every police officer in the city of Gilroy will begin carrying a second sidearm – a TASER stun gun that can briefly immobilize someone from up to 21 feet away with a 50,000-volt shock.

The idea is that an officer with a TASER on his belt will have less cause to draw his pistol or baton. The officer will be able to keep a safe distance from a dangerous suspect without having to use or threaten lethal force or bludgeoning, Assistant Police Chief Lanny Brown said Tuesday.

“They enhance the safety to both the officer and the suspect,” Brown said. “There will be less injuries to both.”

When word gets out about the new tools, Brown said he expects fewer people to bother fighting with police officers.

For the past two weeks, 31 TASER X26 guns have been sitting in boxes in Brown’s office. Gilroy police officers are scheduled to receive training with the weapons Friday and Saturday, and Brown said he hopes they can begin carrying them immediately afterward.

Brown ordered the TASERs on May 18, following the lead of Salinas and San Jose police. The stun guns cost $800 each. With holsters, ammunition cartridges, power cartridges and warranties, the bill was $34,804, meeting the $35,000 the police department had to spend on them.

“They’re almost double the cost of a real gun, but to us it’s money well spent,” Brown said. “We’d rather not have to use our real gun. We’d rather solve problems at a level of force below that.”

The department will issue a stun gun to each member of its gang/drug specialty unit, the Anti-Crime Team. The remaining weapons will be shared by patrol officers, each of whom will pick one up at the beginning of a shift.

“That’s just the beginning,” Brown said. “Our goal, if we get some more federal funding – which we’re supposed to this fall – is to purchase an additional 30 so that each of our officers has one.”

On its own, the TASER X26 can be pressed against a person’s body to shock them. It can also be loaded with projectile cartridges that, when fired, shoot two metal prongs connected to the gun by thin wires. Through the prongs, the gun delivers an electric shock that briefly incapacitates the person hit.

Each prong is tipped with a fishhook-like barb to stick in clothing or skin. These can be pulled out easily, however, without bleeding, according to Gilroy police officer Joseph Deras, who once used TASERs with the San Jose Police Department and will help train officers here.

It still sounds like it hurts, and it does, Deras said, but there is no lasting damage if everything goes right. A person stunned with a TASER remains conscious and is able to move as soon as the five-second shock is finished, Deras said. He knows first-hand; he’s been “Tased” as part of a training exercise.

The shock “interrupts signals from the brain to the muscles,” Deras said. “It’s not pain in the traditional sense. … It’s very, very uncomfortable.”

When the short shock is done, Deras said, “You’re fine. You can get up and walk around. You might feel a little tingly … like when your foot falls asleep.”

By comparison, Brown and Deras said, a police baton can break bones and leave heavy bruises or cuts.

“Basically what you’re doing (with a baton) is beating someone into submission,” Brown said. “When they submit, you stop. … With the TASER, there’s immediate compliance, and there’s no damage.”

One stun gun burst is usually enough for police to take a suspect into custody, Deras said, but in rare circumstances – such as someone with enhanced strength from taking the drug PCP – police can deliver a second.

Concerns about the impacts of TASERs on people with weak hearts or pacemakers have been medically disproved, according to Brown and Deras.

“There have been zero causes of death across the country attributed to TASERs,” Deras said.

Salinas police were the first in this area to carry stun guns and used them often at first, Brown said. As word got out, however, Brown says they found less need because people were less likely to confront the officers.

San Jose police, who gave a stun gun to every officer earlier this year, have been Tasing someone every other day on average, they recently reported. Brown predicted that stun-gun use there will drop soon, just as it did in Salinas. Gilroy will see the same trend, he said.

“Word will get out that if you challenge the cops, you’re going to get Tased,” Brown said.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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