Northborough selectmen approve police taser policy
By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
On the recommendation of Police Chief Mark Leahy, selectmen unanimously approved a policy on the use of electronic control weapons, commonly known by the brand name of Taser.
Leahy said tasers will be “another tool in the toolbox” of officers, and one that could be potentially life-saving for both officers and suspects, reducing the likelihood that deadly force must be used.
“Sometimes, all that is required to subdue a suspect is to show these weapons,” Leahy said. “People know what they are capable of doing.”
Nearby communities such as Marlborough and Hudson already equip their officers with tasers, which use a pulse of electricity to temporarily immobilize a suspect, and 42 of 60 communities in Worcester County have approved use of the technology.
Leahy said his department has seen several incidents in recent years that have exposed officers to dangerous or deadly situations, including one incident where a suspect lunged for an officer’s weapon and several involving violent suspects who were armed with a knife.
“We’re dealing more and more with transient elements who are not known to us and because we don’t know them, we don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said, adding that taser use has been extensively studied and have been approved for use in Massachusetts since 2005.
Selectman William Pantazis expressed mixed feelings about the move, citing concerns about increasing the town’s exposure to liability.
“We are not a city,” he said.
Overall, however, the board agreed the move could improve officer safety and make it less likely that officers will have to use their firearms.
“It gets us out of those all-or-nothing situations,” said Selectman Leslie Rutan.
All 21 active members of the department will receive tasers and will carry them at all times, Leahy said. Two officers are scheduled to become certified instructors early next month, he added.
Town Meeting approved about $36,000 in funding for the taser program earlier this year as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget.
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