Detroit police making push to arm officers with tasers

Posted at 8:09 AM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 08:09:55-04

A renewed push to arm Detroit Police with tasers will be discussed at Thursday’s regularly scheduled Police Commission meeting. Chief James Craig referred to the discussion as a "final presentation."

The topic has been brought up before, but this time Chief Craig seems optimistic about the opportunity to arm his officers with a new tool.

“I grew up with tasers,” said Chief Craig, during a Facebook Live video chat with 7 Action News viewers. “I’ve had tasers in every department I’ve worked at except Detroit, and I will tell you it’s been a tool that has frankly saved lives.”

A number of departments in metro Detroit are already using tasers. In fact, nationwide more departments utilize tasers than those that don’t. The latest numbers from the Bureau of Justice were released in 2015 showing that between 2000 and 2013 the number of local police departments using tasers jumped from 7-percent to 81-percent.

Asked about the possibility of tasers being introduced to Detroit police officers, Chief Craig seemed confident.

“We’re optimistic,” he said. “I think it’s a tool that should be in our toolbox — should be in our toolbox, because it’s a great alternative to using deadly force.”

While some say tasers can de-escalate a situation, others have argued that they are dangerous. A taser, or conducted electrical weapon, delivers an electric current with the goal of incapacitating the target. Deaths linked to tasers have led to numerous lawsuits, including one following a taser incident in 2009 in the city of Warren.

Robert Mitchell, then 16-years-old, died after being tasered by a police officer. According to 7 Action News records, a spokesperson said that the department followed taser guidelines; however, a lawsuit was brought against them which was eventually settled out of court.

Mitchell’s family also sued the company that makes the taser used in that incident, but ultimately lost the lawsuit on appeal. The city of Warren no longer uses tasers.

The public has been encouraged to get involved in the discussion of tasers and the possible use of them on Detroit streets. A public hearing was held in 2016 after discussion had already been ongoing, the goal was to get more public input on the use of tasers.

The Detroit Police Commission meeting will take place Thursday at 3 p.m. Chief Craig said that Detroit Police are limited in their options right now, and hopes that tasers are soon a reality for the department. He noted that other departments use a variety of “tools” in addition to firearms including batons, and tasers.