City, police deserve applause for stun gun purchase

Published 5:04 pm Thursday, February 20, 2014

In the days that followed the death of Anaias Shaw in early December, cries were heard around the city asking why the Selma Police Department used deadly force when many thought they could have used other measures to resolve the situation.

The results investigation of the that particular incident have yet to be released by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, but already city leaders and the SPD has made moves to further decrease the chances they would have to use deadly force in the future.

A week after Shaw’s death, the Selma City Council voted unanimously for the purchase of 27 stun guns to be used by members of the Selma Police Department.

The stun guns arrived in Selma less than a month ago and have already been distributed to 27 officers who patrol the city’s street everyday.

While the purchase of the weapons may have seemed like a knee-jerk publicity stunt to some early on, I have no doubt it was a well-researched move by the city and police force to lessen the need for officers to use their guns.

Police officers already possess pepper spray and batons, which they could use to diffuse a threatening situation without taking a life, and the stun guns are one more tool in that arsenal.

There are two important things I hope everyone took note of in Tuesday’s story about the police department’s use of the new stun guns; every officer had to undergo eight hours of training, which included getting shot by the weapon to better understand it’s effects on the body, and that a full investigation would follow the use of these weapons in the field of duty, each and every time.

When discussing his experience getting shot by one of the stun guns during the training session, police officer Nathan Gibson said he was impressed by the system’s effectiveness.

“I was shot in the back and I can tell you, I would not advise anybody to get tased,” Gibson said. “I held it together, but it did drop me down to my knees.”

Selma Chief of Police William Riley said the stun guns are equipped with a digital memory that can be used after they are discharged to double-check the officer’s use of the weapon.

“There is a mechanism in these tasers where we can plug it in to a computer and it will show how many time it was utilized and the length of the charge,” Riley said. “That’s part of the policy that once it is used, we will download that system so we can maintain it. It’s another check and balance for us. It checks the police officers to make sure they are doing what they are trained, and it’s a check for the general public because it helps the police police themselves.”

For me, the fact that there will be an investigation after the use of these stun guns, just like there is with the use of a gun, is something else the department should be commended for. This shows how much the department wants to avoid the use of deadly force.

“With every action that was taken, we want to be able to show why that action was taken,” Riley said. “If there is something we can retrain them on or change the policy, this will allow us to do that.”

Sadly, some situations will call for officers to use deadly force, but it’s good to know that it’s become little less likely to happen.