Tased and confused?Red Wing resident Dick Johnson believes the use of Tasers is torture. If that is the case, the former Goodhue County attorney says the instruments may be an affront to the Constitution.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing resident Dick Johnson believes the use of Tasers is torture.
If that is the case, the former Goodhue County attorney says the instruments may be an affront to the Constitution.
"It needs to be addressed," he said.
And so it shall, said Red Wing police Chief Tim Sletten. A Wednesday forum at the Red Wing Public Library will explore the use of Tasers and the reasons behind the yellow devices hanging from officers' belts.
Triggered by Johnson's complaints to the city's Human Rights Commission, Sletten — a liaison to the panel — organized the meeting.
Sletten said he is seeking to shine a brighter light on the device which, statistically speaking, few residents see in action.
Tasers became part of the Red Wing police tool box in June 2002. Between then and November 2007, officers deployed the devices 19 times, according to city data.
Sletten noted that a deployment constitutes incidents where voltage is transmitted from the device to a person. Red Wing officers must also document each time a Taser is drawn — even if not deployed. That has happened 91 times, according to the city.
Taser proponents like Sletten argue the devices — which administer a jolt of 50,000 volts — are a nonlethal way of controlling suspects who present a danger to others or themselves.
"I do think that they're a valuable tool for law enforcement," he said.
Each Red Wing officer carries a Taser, which Sletten said is not a torture device.
"I do not believe that Tasers — used as officers are trained to use them and as policy dictates — that they're not devices of torture," he said.
But Johnson claims police have enough resources at their disposal.
"They've gotten along without this," Johnson said. "They've got pepper spray, bean bags and their night sticks."
Johnson said the number number of Taser-related deaths in the United States ultimately could present a liability issue for municipalities. Lawsuits, he said, could phase out the so-called stun guns.
Sletten said there have been no Taser-generated complaints since his officers have begun carrying the units.
While the constitutionality of Tasers isn't likely to be addressed during the forum, Sletten said the event will provide a detailed explanation of the devices, justification for their use and an opportunity for community members to ask questions. A demonstration is also possible, he said, which could involved a volunteer being tased. Red Wing police officers have deployed their Tasers 19 times since 2002. The non-lethal weapons have been drawn a total of 91 times, according to the city.