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I am not looking forward to being zapped anytime soon but if the department you are with chooses to issue them do the officers HAVE to be zapped or can they say NAY? I didn't mind the OC but I have a weird feeling that getting a hit from the taser will suck big.

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Tasers a pricey alternative to bullets

By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer
Lack of cash rather than worries about the safety of stun guns may wind up zapping some police departments' chances of getting the weapons for now.

"It comes down to the dollars," Carver Police Chief Arthur Parker said.

Police departments throughout the region said the $800 to $1,000 price tag of the Taser-brand stun guns, roughly twice the cost of a typical officer's gun — plus the cost of training officers to use them — would slow efforts to buy the weapons, despite a three-month-old law that cleared the way for police in the state to use them.

Only police officers can carry stun guns, weapons initially banned in 1986, in Massachusetts.

"It is not necessarily a priority right now," Pembroke Chief Gregory Wright said. "We are in a budget cycle now. It wouldn't be something we would do this year."

"With the budget constraints that is a big concern," West Bridgewater Police Chief Donald H. Clark said.

Raynham has one of the few police departments in the area taking steps to get the weapons in officers' holsters.

Town meeting voters next month will be asked to approve $25,000 to buy Taser guns and train the department's 25 officers on using them.

"It is a good alternative to have," Raynham Police Chief Peter King said. "You can't call a bullet back."

His deputy agreed.

"Anyone who is against them hasn't worked the street," Deputy Police Chief Louis J. Pacheco said. "It's a good tool. The departments that have used them decreased injuries 40 to 50 percent."

Mansfield Police Chief Arthur M. O'Neill said getting Tasers for his department is "under active consideration" but the weapons likely wouldn't be bought until after Jan. 1. "If we can use something to avoid death or injury to somebody we are dealng with, we will want to use it," he said.

Taser stun guns fire two dart-like probes with wires that can hit a target up to 21 feet away and deliver a 50,000-volt burst of electricity, incapacitating a suspect long enough for police to put on handcuffs.

Supporters of the weapon say it gives police a less-than-lethal alternative for subduing some suspects. Critics say police may be tempted to abuse the weapons because the guns do not leave physical injuries.

There have been a flurry of lawsuits filed across the country, including one filed in Long Island in September, alleging stun guns either caused or contributed to deaths.

Amnesty International, a human rights group, said more than 50 people died since 1999 after being shocked with stun guns, a claim denied by the Taser company and the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerned about the weapons.

"The general concern is that the science is not all in on the safety of this technique and, number two, even if this is a lesser degree of force, there is the concern that it is a method of force that is being used when maybe no force is needed," Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU chapter.

Taser International, makers of the weapon, this week said a study by the Department of Defense and a center established by the Air Force research laboratory found Tasers are "generally without significant risk of unintended results" and it was unlikely the weapons were the cause of the deaths.

There are also worries that use of alcohol-based pepper spray with the Tasers could cause a fire. "There are sprays that are not alcohol-based," O'Neill said. "You have to be aware of what pepper gas you are using. ... You have to remember this it is a less than lethal device. It is a device you use before you go to lethal force."

Several police chiefs said they would review studies about the technology but there did not appear to be any evidence that would lead them to bar use of the stun guns.

"What I know of right now, I would not be opposed to getting them," East Bridgewater Police Chief John L. Silva Jr. said. "I don't think there is anything on the table that puts up a red flag to me."

Abington police Chief David Majenski said police departments will weigh the pluses and minuses of the technology before buying.

"There are liability issues with everything," Majenski said. "At this point, we are going to sit back and wait for others to use their expertise, to see what product is the best and the most effective."

Other departments are also taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"We have limited experience in the technology," Bridgewater Sgt. Christopher Delmonte said. "It sounds good, but let's see if it works."

Hanover Police Chief Paul Hayes said he plans to send one of his firearms instructors for training on the Taser — then wait to see what type of funding for the weapon may be available.

"We may see if any homeland security funding is available to help us," he said.

Brockton Police Chief Paul Studenski said he has no plans yet to buy the weapons.

"We are going to take it very slow," he said. "We are watching everybody who uses them and what they do. It is a big investment."

Whitman Deputy Police Chief Raymond Nelson said departments are scrutinized closely on funding and it may be tough for some to get the money to buy stun guns.

"Once we had the finance committee ask us why we needed bullets," he said
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