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City officers to begin using Tasers soon

Thomson Police officers will soon have a new weapon in the war against crime: Tasers.

Thomson Police Officer John James said the electronic control device will give officers another "non-lethal" option when it comes to corralling a suspect - one that often provides more stopping power than batons, pepper spray or other weapons.

With some other non-lethal options, "If someone was high ... they may be able to work through it and continue their attack on the officer," Officer James told members of the Thomson City Council during a presentation last week.

City council members unanimously agreed to allow the department to begin using Tasers on the street. The McDuffie County Sheriff's Department already has the devices in place in the jail.

City Police Chief John Hathaway said he plans to purchase four Tasers - one for each shift - using money from the department's seized funds account. The devices cost about $600 each, he said. Police Sgt. Jared Land said officers end up in situations where Tasers could be used three to five times per month.

Each officer will have to go through special training to be certified to use the weapons, Officer James said. The training includes being shocked, which feels like the equivalent of a lawnmower spark plug shock amplified 100 times, he said.

The Tasers shoot dart-like tips attached to wires. The tips can penetrate 1 1/2 inches of clothing and still make contact with the skin, according to Officer James. The weapons have a range of 21 feet, but are most effective within 15 feet, he said. The Tasers also record shooting information that can be monitored to prevent abuse, he said.

The weapons have gained the endorsement of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, and have been tested on more than 100,000 subjects, Officer James said. In those tests, it has incapacitated the target - with no ill side effects - 99 percent of the time, he said.

Web posted on Thursday, March 15, 2007

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