This Tuesday, Chief Ken Paulhus addressed selectmen with his proposal to arm Southborough police with Electrical Control Weapons (a.k.a. ECW, tasers or “stun guns”).
The Board of Selectmen weren’t ready to vote, but voiced support of his plan.
The intent is to give officers a non-lethal choice for subduing a dangerous person. Paulhus explained, “It’s just the latest technology in law enforcement.”
He prefaced that in his previous job 38 out of 39 departments in RI were equipped with the technology.
When he started as Southborough Chief, he interviewed his officers. He told the board, “basically every single one of them” asked him to propose getting the equipment. He recently confirmed with a poll that all 16 officers in the union want it.
In his pitch, Paulhus pointed to the small size of the town and department, meaning a the lack of backup for officers. With potentially only 1-3 officers at an, he wants the “extra tool” for their safety.
Referring to statistics in his submitted presentation*, Paulhus claimed that the weapons improve safety “across the board”. “There’s about a 70% reduction of officer injuries and about a 40% reduction in injuries to the suspect.”
Following the presentation, psychiatrist and resident Momen El Nesr warned the chief and selectman about potential medical complications. He said it posed danger to people “accutely intoxicated with alcohol or cocaine” and “sudden death” for patients on certain medications that slow the heart. Some psychiatric patients who are aggressive or paranoid may be on those kinds of medications.
Earlier, Paulhus stated that tasers have been reported at 200-500 deaths, but out of about 4 million uses.
Referring to deaths, Selectman John Rooney asked if tasers would be used in situations where lethal force would otherwise be called for. Paulhus replied that if your life or someone else’s was in danger “you’re going to use your sidearm.”
On further questioning, Lt. Sean James provided, “if you look at the force continuum, active resistance is when it would be deployed, and that would be in an assualtive situation.”
James said it was a force option rather than using the stick or pepper spray. “Some agencies put it in the lethal force category. The majority of us don’t.”
The board and chief had agreed that training was key to ensure proper use. Inappropriate use included unnecessary use, or use on elderly people, children or pregnant women. After El Nesr’s comment, Selectman Dan Kolenda confirmed that appropriate use with the mentally ill would also be covered by training.
The chief’s goal is to get 4-5 tasers to rotate, and to train all staff. But he was planning to rollout smaller to get the program started this year.
Selectmen were supportive, but asked for more information on the training costs, initial and annually. They also want to see if PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) contribution money is available for funding the program. Otherwise some of the budget may have to wait for Town Meeting to approve for next year. And the chief was encouraged to find out if any grants are available.
Kolenda remarked that if the town doesn’t purchase them, in a future situation that could be questioned.
The item will be back in front of the board on September 23rd, after policy review by town and labor counsel.
*To read the chief’s presentation, click here for the Board of Selectmen’s meeting packet. The proposed policy and presentation begin on page 9.
This problem should go in front of BOS to be acted on before there is an accident.
Here we go again……………………..cars parking on road, id est, Middle rd. causing a real problem. Drivers just drop their cars on road, then attend meetings at Fay school. This evening there was something going on there, and not only were the stationary cars a problem, but the aggressive drivers exiting the school were circumventing parked cars, making the road surface even more narrow. Daytime drop offs and pick ups will be starting and we, the residents, should’nt have to deal with this dangerous situation. No way could an emergency vehicle get through this mess. And we should not have to go out of our neighborhood to get home by bypassing Middle Rd. Fay should provide additional parking for “events” and place parking persons to monitor the situation, which is an accident waiting to happen.
I suggest you and all others who see this type of problem call the Southborough Police and ask for an officer to be dispatched to ticket or resolve the issue.
SPD now has a much better system of tracking calls and issues so any calls they receive on this matter will allow them to 1) dispatch an officer if one is available and 2) capture statistics on this problem so the Chief can have something concrete to discuss when he visits Fay to discuss the issue.
Perhaps some of the residents could protest in front of Fay during some of these events. Just think of all the publicity that the teenage girls received when they recently picketed in front of the Garfield House. I know for a fact that Fay administrators read this blog. The last thing they want is bad publicity, especially on a safety issue.
I can’t seem to find a place for a comment on the first item above–namely the selectmen
being ready to vote to have police use Tasers after having one presentation by the chief and no public input. I have written a letter to the selectmen and chief e-mailed today because I thought there would be a discussion–not just a vote–on Tuesday night.
Now it is listed as “Approvals:” Tasers for police. Essentially, I wonder why the rush to Tasers when I’d like to ask when the last time was that a police officer had to fire his weapon or even use it to threaten someone. I have read police reports for years and have never seen anything concerning an exchange of gunfire or some kind of situation that would require the officer to depend on a weapon more than as a threat — which I assume would still be threat enough to a possible offender,
I’ve read all the back up data from the chief plus much on the website, all of which did nothing to convince me that our officers are in need of additional means of dealing with a person causing trouble. All the reports talk about their value in places where violent crime is an everyday, maybe every hour occurrence.
I have a 1.5 page letter with more information which I’d be glad to send to your e-mail
address, I’ll bring some with me on Tuesday. Hoping to hear some concern!
My e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donna McD