Tasers protect officers, victims

Chris Kemp

They may hurt a little at first, Eau Claire police say, but taser guns protect both the police officer and the taser victim.

A taser gun is a “conducted energy weapon,” Deputy Chief Brad Venaas said.

“It’s a way of using the electric energy to cause a dysfunction in the nervous system which stops someone from resisting,” Venaas said. “Hopefully (it) reduces injury not only to the officer, but also to the person.”

Last weekend, a man was tasered during a brawl with two Eau Claire police officers – which ensued after he allegedly attacked one of the officers on Water Street.

The fight spilled over into the middle of Water Street and resulted in one of the officers receiving five stitches in his head, Sgt. Travis Quella said.

Lt. Gerry Staniszewski said taser guns are deployed only when an officer faces resistance.

“When we’re presented with a situation where there is a threat of or act of resistance, we can use a level of force … to take that person into custody,” Staniszewski said.

The Eau Claire Police Department has had taser guns since fall 2003, said Venaas, a 21-year veteran of the department. Tasers can be used on a person within 21 feet of the officer.

“It’s the person’s behavior that’s going to cause someone to use something else that they have,” Venaas said.

David Sprick of Interim Chief of University Police said they do not carry taser guns but do carry other weapons to gain control, such as pepper spray and batons.

Venaas said the advantage of tasers over pepper spray is that the effects of a taser gun do not last as long.

“Once the energy stops, usually the person is OK,” he said. “With the pepper spray, you have the ongoing discomfort which could last for hours.”

For example, during last weekend’s incident on Water Street, the officers were forced to use the taser guns several times, Venaas said.

Not every officer is trained to use taser guns, nor does the ECPD have enough to supply every officer. Venaas said they try to have enough tasers to cover their general patrol areas, with around seven to 10 officers carrying taser guns per night.

Venaas said through training and past court cases, officers learn the proper situations to use tasers. Any misuse of tasers, which are illegal in Wisconsin for anyone other than police, by officers is dealt with internally.

“We have to make sure that we are using it in a matter that it is prescribed for,” he said. “And those types of things are defined through case law and through training.”

However, conflicts with police are typically solved through basic dialogue, Vasser said.

Sophomore Brian Feucht said taser guns and other means of force generally are good for police to carry.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” Feucht said. “Taser guns are definitely needed at times.”