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KOMU (Columbia, Mo.)

Asking to Reconsider Tasers

Noel Feldman

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Community members asked the city council Monday to pull the plug on new police taser purchases. 0708 02 1

The debate comes after police officials received a $30,000 federal grant to add 40 tasers to their arsenal.

While police say the tasers are a valuable tool, members of the community questioned whether they are safe enough to be used in violent, yet non-life threatening situations. Police consider the taser to be a non-lethal option to fight crime, but some in the community say the police are sugar-coating the issue.

"I think that everyone is under a misconception about them that they are non-lethal. They are less lethal," said resident Edward Berg.

Berg spoke at the council meeting challenging the need to buy more tasers. He and a representative from the activist group Grassroots Organizing say 300 people have died in the U.S. and Canada since 2002 from injuries sustained from being tased.

But Columbia Police Captain Steve Monticelli says that no major issues have stemmed from his department's use of tasers.

"In our experiences we have found that in the 164 instances that we've used the tasers we've had absolutely zero negative response either to the officer or the suspects themselves,"explained Monticelli.

The Columbia Police Department reports that officer injuries have dropped drastically since 2005 - their first year to use tasers. But for the opposition, the possibility of the use of a taser resulting in a fatality outweighs the good.

"I'm concerned that we don't play Russian Roulette with the lives of the people here in Columbia," stated Berg.

Berg hopes the community will began to think more about the impact of tasers. Currently, more than 12,000 agencies in the United States use tasers to fight crime.

© 2008 , KOMU-TV8 and the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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