LAKEHURST – Tasers are out on the road in Lakehurst.
Sergeants Matthew Kline and Iain James completed the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office conducted energy device training – the first class the office held – the last full week of February.
With training complete, both sergeants now carry the CEDs on duty, though James joked with The Manchester Times that it was difficult to find the room on his already-full belt.
“We brought them on board as another tool for the officers to use in certain circumstances. It’s another tool that we hope will prevent not only injuries to the officers but injuries to the public, especially in cases when they’d be authorized to use deadly force, now perhaps if we have a conducted energy device, we can prevent injuries and deaths,” Lakehurst police chief Eric Higgins said.
The state changed its stance on police departments using “stun guns” late last year, with the prosecutor’s office granting their use earlier this year.
The department uses the Taser X2, described by the company as “a dependable piece of law enforcement technology, the TASER X2 incorporates agencies’ most requested features such as a backup shot, dual lasers, and a warning arc to protect life in the field.” Its back up shot allows a trained officer to fire the device again without reloading, and has laser focusing to enhance user accuracy.
Once shot, electrodes with small barbs attach to the target’s clothing. The attacker is shocked by the 50,000-volt electrical current that travels from the device down the wires, causing what those on the receiving end call a full-body Charlie horse, incapacitating them. James, for one, is pleased to have the Taser; he said he emptied a can of pepper spray on a perpetrator with the effect being as damaging as gently spraying water on him.
While news outlets have reported that CEDs have led to injuries or death in rare cases – Amnesty International has urged even stricter limits on CEDs use – James said the police are trained to remove the barbs. Should the barbs hit a sensitive area or prove difficult to remove, the EMTs will be called in. Severe cases, although unlikely, will require a trip to the emergency room.
“It’s a deterrent too. If people know we’re using Tasers and we’re allowed to deploy them in certain circumstances, the less our officers have to put their hands on people,” Higgins said. “That’s why we brought them on board. We don’t have to have to put our hands on people.”
Their use is strictly regulated and monitored by both the state attorney general’s and the county prosecutor’s offices. While James didn’t get into specifics with the Times, he said a CED can only be used in very specific instances; the charge may only be discharged for a certain length of time; every use of the CED must be video recorded. While there are strict guidelines, officers are encouraged to use discretion and discernment, based on circumstances.
While the Manchester Police Department will purchase Tasers with cameras, Lakehurst officers all wear body cameras. James said both his Taser and body camera are tested before each shift, as are Kline’s.
The department hopes to have all its officers trained and certified to use CEDs within the next year.