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Twin Cities Fox

Just In Time For RNC Convention, St. Paul Police Orders Tasers For Every Officer


ST. PAUL -- St. Paul police are about to issue Tasers to all 370 officers on the force. Police say they are a safe way to stop a potential threat, but some people say Tasers are dangerous and sometimes deadly.0218 08

Police spokesman Tom Walsh says the Taser is stronger than a verbal order and less dangerous than a gun, especially in the case of a violent or unstable subject.

"It's a safety issue for both the person being arrested and the officer," Walsh said. "The bottom line is the Taser is an effective device that does not require the use of deadly force."

Currently, 140 St. Paul police officers carry Tasers. The addition of another 230 will bring the total to 37- -- one for every officer on the force.

The 230 new Tasers will cost $210,000 -- paid for with money seized during drug raids or other special investigations. The St. Paul City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to authorize the purchase of the Tasers, which they are likely to do.

Four years ago, St. Paul police unveiled Tasers at a media event and now the Taser is in high demand. But questions about Tasers can't escape law enforcement.

Last month, March Backlund, 29, died after being shot with a Taser in New Brighton, Minn. The exact cause of his death is still under investigation.

Scott Selmer, of the Urban League in St. Paul, believes Tasers could cause unnecessary harm if used too soon.

"Sensitivity training is critical," Selmer said. "Have some thought that goes into any encounter (police) may have."

Shortly after the new shipment of Tasers arrives in St. Paul, the Republican National Convention will come to town, and with it, protestors who may or may not get violent.

"Our hope is that no one will have to use any degree of force," Walsh said. "If it becomes necessary, will that be one of the tools available to them? I suppose that's safe to say."

© 2008 Twin Cities Fox

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