Routt County Sheriff's patrol deputies and jailers soon will be armed with Taser stun guns, making them one of three law enforcement agencies in Routt County carrying the equipment.
On Monday, the Board of Routt County Commissioners discussed purchasing Tasers, which use electricity to temporarily paralyze a person's muscles. Routt County Sheriff John Warner asked for the purchase of 11 Tasers for the Sheriff's Office and two for the jail. Purchasing all of the stun guns would cost just less than $11,000.
If the commissioners approve the stun guns today, the Sheriff's Office is expected to have the guns in hand within two weeks and be trained and ready to use them in another two weeks. Every deputy would carry a Taser.
Warner told the commissioners that the Tasers would afford added protection for his deputies.
"It's one more level we have before we have to shoot," he said.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol have Tasers. Warner said the Sheriff's Office would purchase the same models as the other agencies, the X26 Taser stun gun.
Similar in appearance to a handgun, a Taser shoots two fishhook-type probes as far as 21 feet. The probes stick into a person's clothing or skin and deliver a 50,000-volt shock for five seconds, unless the officer terminates the shock sooner. The electricity causes the muscles to contract, temporarily disabling the person.
A few years ago, the county discussed purchasing Tasers, but held off after the negative publicity the stun guns received. Warner's concerns were eased last year when Barbara Case King, the legal adviser for the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said she was comfortable with the state's sheriff's departments using Tasers as long as they had good policies in place.
The Sheriff's Office policy will define when Tasers are to be used, Warner said. The Sheriff's Department has looked at policies used in sheriff's departments throughout the state, as well as what the city police department has in place.
The policy will call for deputies to take people stunned by the Tasers to the hospital immediately after the incidents. Doing so will ensure that there are no arguments about whether the stun guns cause infections or erratic heartbeats or breathing, Warner said.
Warner stressed that studies have been done about the safety of Tasers, which have been somewhat controversial in recent years and have been linked to a number of deaths.
"The studies reaffirm the overall general safety and effectiveness. I am comfortable with moving ahead with the protection," Warner said.
Many of the deaths that have been connected to Tasers also have involved people who were under the influence of drugs or were heavily intoxicated, Warner said.
"There is a good possibility if they hadn't used a Taser, there would be the same sort of medical problems," he said.
Every deputy using the Taser will be zapped by the stun gun so they understand the force of the gun, Warner said.
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