Minneapolis approves $130,000 for tasers
While St. Paul city officials dealt with the fallout from the allegedly racially motivated tasing of Chris Lollie, the Minneapolis City Council approved purchasing 50 new tasers for its police force.
On Friday, council green-lighted spending $130,000 for the tasers, which run $999.95 each, along with the corresponding numbers of batteries, holsters, and warranties.
Blong Yang, chair of the council's Civil Rights and Emergency Management Committee, tells us, "We're just replenishing our supply. The new ones we're buying are to replace ones that are already there" but are aging out of their service life.
"From what the police department has said, the life cycle of a taser is about five years, and ours have gone up to 10 years," Yang continues. "We're putting the old ones out of business."
During a recent public safety committee meeting, Minneapolis Police Department Deputy Chief Travis Glampe said the department owns about 300 tasers and pointed out that the $130,000 wouldn't increase that number. They were first introduced to the force in 2001.
The goal is to replace the aging tasers "on a yearly basis, bring forward a rotation so we can swap out the old and get the new ones in" at a rate of 50 per year, Glampe added.
According to numbers cited by Glampe during the meeting, the number of times Minneapolis officers have deployed tasers declined from 225 in 2011, to 154 in 2012, to 91 last year. This year's number is on pace to be close to 2013.
Asked why he thinks that number is going down, Glampe said, "We believe it's the public's perception... nationally they've become a very well-known police tool, and quite honestly our officers have taken a lot of ownership and have been accountable for their use."
"The other thing is we've also seen our officers use [tasers] as a warning tool," Glampe continued. "When you tell someone, 'I'm going to tase you' and they see the red dots from the taser come out, a lot of stuff stops right there."
Though taser deployments have decreased in recent years, Glampe points out that their use in crisis intervention and suicidal person calls have gone up.
"I think that speaks to how these are being used in a positive manner," he said.
But ACLU-MN director Chuck Samuelson tells us he's of the opinion that tasers "are used way too much."
(For more, click to page two.)
But Samuelson did praise the MPD for the department's relatively rigorous use-of-force guidelines. According to Glampe, officers who carry tasers receive training each year, and every use is subject to multiple levels of internal review.
"We've had I believe only one death in the last how many years that was attributed to a taser," Glampe said during the meeting. "Quite honestly most of the injuries that occurred are not [from] the tasers themselves, they're when people fall, when the barbs go in -- it's not the taser acting against their bodies."
There have reportedly been 564 taser-related deaths throughout the country since 2001, when the weapons started being widely used by police departments.
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