County cops address Taser threat
Northwest Indiana Times | February 20, 2005
The Lake County Sheriff's Office is adopting a new training regimen in response to a growing number of residents who own Tasers, said Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez.
Taser International began marketing a "civilian" model of its stun gun in 1994 and the company estimates that more than 100,000 people currently own one of the electronic devices.
"The public has access to it and it is a dangerous weapon," Dominguez said. "You have to prepare for these things and it's going to require a different type of protocol."
Officers are expected to study various models and learn strategies to avoid being struck with a stun gun, which have a range of approximately 15 feet.
Dominguez said attorneys representing the Sheriff's Office also are reviewing laws to determine whether officers are justified in using deadly force when faced with a stun gun.
"If someone comes up to them with a Taser against them, they are probably going to have to use deadly force because a Taser can be deadly," the sheriff said. "A Taser is different than a gun, but it can still be deadly and dangerous."
Taser officials, on the other hand, maintain that the company's products are non-lethal and "safely incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves," according to the company's Web site.
The company conducts a criminal background check on each person who purchases a Taser and maintains the devices are a safe alternative to firearms for home protection.
The company is currently the focus of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation in which the government has requested information about the company's public statements about the safety of it's products.
However, Dominguez pointed out that an officer would be temporarily incapacitated after being jolted with a stun gun and that training is important to prevent an officer from being shot with his own sidearm.
A recently released version of the civilian Taser allows a user to make multiple trigger pulls and deliver additional jolts after the user places the device on the ground and runs away.
Four months ago, Dominguez suspended the use of stun guns by corrections officers at the Lake County Jail, saying safety concerns must be sorted out before he gives the nod for future use.
"We don't want to injure of kill anyone," he said. "We are waiting for more medical data."
Meanwhile, Dominguez said he strongly believes the weapons should be restricted to police use.
"It could get into the wrong hands of people who want to use them against members of our community and law enforcement officers," he said. "This is not something that should be sold to the public."
Ronald Hasse, 54, of Cedar Lake, died Feb. 10 after being shot with a Taser fired by a Chicago police sergeant.
Police said they used the stun gun when they were unable to restrain Hasse, who was trying to kick and bite officers at a high-rise apartment building on the city's north side that afternoon.
Paramedics realized Hasse was under distress and took him to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Hasse was one of two men awaiting trial on a charge of moving the body of 25-year-old Michael Denvit.
Denvit, of Merrillville, was reported missing on June 16, 2001, and died after a night of drinking with Hasse and Jeffery Haugh, 33, of Knoxville, Tenn., according to court records.
Nearly two years later, it was Hasse who led police to Denvit's body, which was buried on a Cedar Lake farm owned by Hasse's father. Tests on Denvit's body failed to confirm a cause of death, and the two men never were charged with Denvit's death.