Tasers offering NJ cops an alternative to deadly force
Within six hours of its first deployment, a Taser was used by a Brick police officer to subdue a person who officers said posed a physical threat to them.
The device, says Police Chief James Riccio, helped deescalate a situation that could've quickly gotten much worse.
Riccio's department deployed 10 conducted energy devices, or tasers, in late February to help officers handle encounters with violent suspects.
"We have 37 officers that are trained and qualified to carry them. Our intent is to qualify more in the future," Riccio told New Jersey 101.5. "It's something that we've wanted to do for quite some time."
But a department's budget needs room for the move. Each taser, with any accessories that go with it, costs about $1,900, Riccio said.
The department's first use occurred when a "mentally disturbed" individual wanted to fight officers instead of "going for an evaluation," Riccio said. He then complied with the officers' demands.
In late 2011, New Jersey became the last state in the country to approve the use of stun guns. Since then, police departments across the state have been introducing the weapons, which serve as an alternative to deadly force. New Jersey's first recorded police-use of a taser took place in Nov. 2012, in Hudson County.
According to the state Attorney General's Office, 57 stun gun deployments by police were recorded in 2018, and 55 in 2017.
In March 2016, New Jersey cops were granted less-restrictive guidelines that let officers deploy the electrical weapons in more situations, not just when they feel like their life is in danger.
The state does not currently track how many law enforcement agencies have added tasers to their belts. But as of February 2016, when the last survey was conducted by the state, 138 police departments were carrying tasers in some capacity.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.