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Program to give Tasers to troopers

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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State troopers have another tool in their arsenal beyond pepper spray and batons to subdue violent suspects: Tasers.


A pilot program is enabling the New York State Division of State Police to have 142 of the devices, paid for by the New York State Trooper Foundation. Each Taser unit costs about $900, said state police Capt. Eric A. Underhill, the program's coordinator.


"This is another tool we can utilize," Mr. Underhill said. "We're trying to minimize the amount of injuries to our troopers and the public."


Troop D, which includes Jefferson and Lewis counties, will receive 25 units, and Troop B, which includes Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, will get 12 Tasers, Mr. Underhill said. It's expected that each barracks will receive at least one Taser.


Tasers are devices that deliver an electric shock, rendering people temporarily unable to control their neuromuscular systems, troopers said. While a suspect is recovering, it provides police time to control them.


Most troopers statewide have completed a one-day training program to receive certification on using the Tasers. A majority of the troopers assigned a Taser have voluntarily allowed themselves to be shocked by the device, Mr. Underhill said.


Troopers, before receiving the Tasers, have had to rely on using either pepper spray to temporarily blind violent suspects or batons to subdue suspects.


Critics of Tasers say they believe they're more dangerous than advertised.


"Through many years of extensive testing and scrutiny, medical experts and independent governmental reports have concluded that these systems are among the safer use-of-force alternatives to subdue violent individuals who could harm law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves," state police said in a prepared statement.


The program, which started last week, will be evaluated after six months, Mr. Underhill said. Troopers have not used the devices before because they are expensive.


Several law enforcement agencies in the north country — including St. Lawrence County sheriff's deputies and police officers in Gouverneur, Ogdensburg, Massena and Clayton — use Tasers.

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