Jefferson County sheriffs deputies will be wearing an additional weapon on their utility belts Tasers in about a week.
Training began Wednesday for deputies and correction officers who will be equipped with the electrical-charge device designed to subdue combative prisoners. Part of the training, Sheriff John P. Burns said, includes the officers themselves being subjected to the charge carried by the Tasers probes.
If a deputy doesnt want to be tased, he will not carry a Taser, he said.
The sheriff said he sees a real need for his officers to have the weapon, particularly with the recent rise in the use of synthetic drugs such as bath salts.
There have been a number of cases where users have shown absolutely no reaction to pepper spray, he said.
While there have been stories about Taser victims being seriously injured, with an occasional report of death occurring, the sheriff said statistics show that in incidents where the weapon is used, fewer officers are injured in direct contact with suspects and not a lot of suspects are injured.
About 30 state troopers in the Watertown zone, which includes Lewis and northern Oswego counties, have been armed with Tasers for about two years, said Capt. Darrin S. Pitkin, zone commander.
We have used Tasers effectively to prevent incidents from getting out of hand, he said. It has been successful, with no injuries.
Watertown police officers do not carry Tasers.
We have concerns about getting them, interim Chief Gary R. Comins said. Weve been looking into it for a few years.
He said he does not see them being added to the departments weaponry soon.
The Sheriffs Department purchased a dozen Tasers from Taser International, at a cost of about $1,000 per unit, with money distributed to the department from narcotics investigations, the sheriff said.
Tasers are being added to, not replacing, pepper spray devices also carried by deputies, he said. Eight units will be for the use of road patrol deputies, and four will be available to correction officers.
In training, officers are instructed to aim at body mass, the suspects mid-section, Sheriff Burns said.