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Federal grant provides Yarmouth Police Department with Tasers

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Federal grant provides Yarmouth Police Department with Tasers

YARMOUTH — Police Department officers have been trained to operate Tasers and will be carrying the electric devices as soon as May 1. 

About a year ago, Police Chief Mike Morrill applied for a $15,000 federal Byrne Grant. In addition to three Tasers, the department used the money for ballistic helmets and shields, night-vision goggles, an evidence canopy and overtime funds to train the officers.

"I am pleased that we have this tool," Morrill said. "These devices are common in the surrounding area, and are used from Augusta to York."

The Tasers have a replaceable cartridge that contains two small probes released by compressed nitrogen. The probes are attached to the Taser gun by conductive wires that can reach about 35 feet. The devices transmit electrical pulses through the wires and into the target's body, causing incapacitation of the sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system.

Sgt. Daniel Gallant said the device has the ability to stun at close range and to deploy probes from a safe distance. When an officer pulls the trigger, two probes shoot out and lodge into the skin as deep as a half an inch. The device will deliver a shock for up to five seconds, with 19 pulses per second, and allows a charge to be delivered through clothing, he said.

"This is not a replacement for a gun or a substitute for deadly force," Gallant said. "This is a tool to reduce injury for us and for others, and when used correctly, has the ability to reduce deadly incidents."

Gallant said there are misconceptions about how a Taser works. He said the device contains up to 50,000 volts of electricity, but in comparison, a static shock from a carpet contains about 30,000 volts.

The volt is the delivery system, but what causes pain is the amount of current, or amps, he said. The device contains .0036 amps, while a Christmas tree light bulb is 1 amp and a wall outlet contains about 16 amps. He said the current causes large muscle groups to contract, making it impossible to move.

All 12 members of the department took part in a six-hour training session, including classroom time, hands-on experience, policy instruction and first-hand Taser demonstrations.  

"I took a hit," Morrill said. "I wanted to know exactly what the experience was."

"I think it is really an effective tool," he said. "When officers are on solo shifts and are confronted with an armed or violent person, it can be effective. I don't envision them being deployed a lot – it may act more as a deterrent."

The device also has accountability protection built in, Gallant said, and records each time the trigger is depressed, for how long, on what day, at what time. The department also created a new policy that establishes the guidelines of use, maintenance and training involved in electronic control weapons.

Gallant said he is very excited to have the devices available.

"It puts us in line with other agencies such as Cumberland County and the Brunswick and Cumberland police departments," he said. "This will be an effective tool that we will hopefully never have to use. It is benefit to the public and to us."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net