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Bloomington police should carry Tasers

By Scott Tibbs, January 15, 2009

I was surprised to see the news of a shooting in downtown Bloomington come across HeraldTimesOnline.com on Thursday. A teenager armed with a knife charged at a police officer, who responded by shooting the teen twice. The BPD released guidelines on deadly force to the Herald-Times, and the shooting itself will be reviewed this week.

I believe this incident demonstrates the need for police officers to carry another option of "less lethal" force for situations like this, specifically the Taser. A few years ago, a Monroe County corrections officer used a Taser on an inmate, tragically leading to the inmate's death. This has led people to question the use of Tasers and whether the weapons should be used by law enforcement.

There is no question, however, that someone shot with a Taser is better off than someone shot with a handgun. Most of the time, someone shot with a Taser can recover quickly and will have no long-lasting side effects. The same cannot be said for someone shot with a firearm. Even if the shot is non-lethal, it will take weeks or months to heal the wound, instead. The Taser is incapacitating, as was reported by Herald-Times reporter Katy Murphy, who quite literally "took one for the team" in a 2004 article on the effectiveness of Tasers.

Obviously, a police officer need to have the option to use lethal force if necessary. Police shootings should be carefully scrutinized, but the option should be there, Police also need to have the option to use a baton if that is necessary for subduing a suspect. If the officer is well-trained and professional (as Bloomington police officers are) they can generally be trusted to make the right decision, and giving them all of the tools necessary to make the best decision is something that Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan should pursue.