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Stimulus funds equip police with Tasers

The TASER X26, a top law enforcement model

Some residents of South Carolina are “abuzz” after a recent report revealed the state’s capital city used federal stimulus money to equip its police officers with Tasers.

An article in the South Carolina’s The State explained that the Columbia City Council is working to pass a policy on use of the electric stun devices after $116,000 of federal funds were used for their purchase.

Comments posted to the online article demonstrate that some respondents voiced objections, concerned about how stimulus money is being used, the safety of the devices and the potential for lawsuits arising from use of the controversial Tasers.

“That is not the kind of ‘stimulus’ most Americans have in mind,” objected one respondent with the screen name JKHgadfly. “The idea is to send a jolt into the economy – not to jolt us into submission.”

Another comment from dongo55 warned police should “be very careful” in using the Tasers, lest discharging the weapons be seen as brutality and potentially ignite racial tensions in the city.

The Columbia City Council, according to The State, is in process of developing an extensive policy to address safety and brutality worries by strictly limiting use of the weapons.

The Taser stun gun is the most common brand of a conductive energy device, or CED, which fires 50,000 volts of electricity through its target from as far as 35 feet away, causing uncontrollable muscle contraction and temporary immobilization.

As WND has reported, news stories of people being injured and even killed by the weapon have prompted many Americans and several activist groups to question if the advertised “non-lethal” Tasers are as safe as police officers are being told and trained they are.

An Amnesty International report titled “USA: Less than lethal?” records 334 people have died after being stunned by Tasers in the U.S. between 2001 and August 2008, including 55 in California and 52 in Florida.

“Tasers are not the ‘non-lethal’ weapons they are portrayed to be,” said Angela Wright, author of the report. “They can kill and should only be used as a last resort.”

Part of the Taser policy being considered by the Columbia City Council, according to The State, includes strict prohibitions on how the weapons may be used:

“Number one is to have a very effective policy,” Mike King, the city’s public safety director, told The State. “If you notice, the prohibitions do not say ‘shall not’ or ‘should not.’ It is, ‘you will not use it in this instance.’ This helps clearly send a message to the officer that any type of improper use is absolutely not accepted.”

City officials confirmed with WND that the Tasers were purchased with funds from a Recovery Act Local Justice Assistance Grant, part of the money doled out under the nearly $800 billion “stimulus package” passed earlier this year.

The city of Columbia received nearly $600,000 in the grants, which a Department of Justice document explains are designed to “prevent crime and improve the criminal justice
system in the United States while supporting the creation of jobs and much needed resources for states and local communities.”

The Recovery Act passed under President Obama includes $4 billion in federal funds targeted for law enforcement and other criminal and juvenile justice activities, including not only the JAG grants, but also assistance to state crime victim compensation programs, victim assistance programs, Internet crime prevention measures and drug law enforcement along the Mexican border.