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State College, Penn State Police Add Tasers to Their Arsenals

by on February 24, 2015 5:42 PM

They look like bright yellow handguns, they’re nonlethal, and they can now be found on the tool belts of 70 police officers in the State College area.

State College and Penn State police officers have added tasers to their arsenal of peacekeeping tools.

In a Tuesday news conference, State College police chief Tom King said the two departments have been looking to add tasers for the last year and a half. The two departments are the last two in Centre County to adopt the use of tasers, and officially began using them on Tuesday.

“These are an effective tool that make one more option available to our officers before the use of deadly force,” King said. “…We’re very confident in this decision. Tasers have been proven to reduce injuries to both members of the public and to police officers.”

King said all officers are required to undergo training before being permitted to use a taser, and will periodically go through refresher training. He said tasers would only be used when someone is aggressively resisting arrest or attempting to assault an officer.

Penn State assistant police chief Bill Moerschbacher said tasers are often preferable to pepper spray because the spray will likely impact everyone in the immediate vicinity. Tasers, by comparison, are used on a single target with almost no risk to anyone else.

State College police have purchased 20 tasers. King said that works out to about $30,000 because of additional costs associated with holsters and extra ammo cartridges.

Stephen Shelow, Penn State’s vice-president for police and public safety, said the university has spent about $70,000 to purchase 50 tasers for officers at University Park. He said the officers at Penn State’s branch campuses will also be equipped with tasers in the coming months.

King said every taser has an onboard computer that notes each time the taser is fired. Both Penn State and State College police will keep detailed records of how the tasers are being used as part of an ongoing commitment to analyzing how often officers have to use force in the line of duty.

Between the two departments, King said about 40 officers volunteered to be tasered to gain a greater understanding of their new tool. Moerschbacher was one of those officers.

“It was unpleasant,” he said.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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