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Fla. bill limits police stun gun usage
The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE- Police would be able to use electric stun guns on suspects only when confrontations escalate to actual physical fights, or when fleeing suspects are considered a danger under a bill filed for the Legislature to consider next year.

The bill (SB 214) would also require four hours of training in electronic weaponry for all police officers, with one-hour updates each year.
The measure is sponsored by the two men who head the criminal justice committees in each chamber, making it likely to move quickly when lawmakers meet starting in March.

Sen. Stephen Wise and Rep. Dick Kravitz, both Jacksonville-area Republicans, are sponsoring the measure, which was drafted with the help of police agencies. The measure says police training must also include the effect firing a stun gun would have on someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A pair of Democrats have a competing proposal, saying the Wise-Kravitz bill doesn't go far enough.

Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, and Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, want stun guns banned from school grounds. They also want to mandate weeks of training for police in the use of all stun devices and other disabling techniques.

Wise said stun guns like the Taser can be useful, helping police avoid more dangerous options, such as using a gun.

''I think the Taser is going to protect the person being apprehended from being shot or beaten to a pulp,'' Wise said.

Critics claim the effects of the stun gun can be dangerous.

Larry Campbell, the sheriff of Leon County, which includes Tallahassee, said about 350 of his 650 employees carry Tasers.

He said injuries to officers have declined 40 percent since agencies began using the stun weapons.

More than 8,000 police, prison and military agencies worldwide use Tasers, which fire two small darts with electric wires carrying up to 26 watts of electricity.

The recipient of a shock normally loses muscle control long enough to be subdued and handcuffed.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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