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February 26, 2014

In Our Opinion: Tasers make sense for Oneonta police

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The Daily Star

---- — Let’s hearken back to a Daily Star story from just last July:

A Taser helped prevent a fight during the weekend from turning into a deadly situation, the Oneonta police chief told the Common Council on Tuesday night.

Five local men were arrested at about 2:30 am. Sunday, according to a police report, and two knives and a box cutter were found on the ground after the fight. Chief Dennis Nayor said he would be requesting more Tasers for the department.

At last week’s Oneonta Common Council meeting, he got ‘em … or at least approval to acquire 14 Tasers equipped with cameras at a cost of $28,000.

It says here that it will be money well-spent. Another incident — this one from September — illustrates why.

Sgt. Christopher Witzenburg, who might otherwise have been faced with a life-or-death situation, used a Taser to subdue a college student who threatened officers with a large knife.

An investigation revealed that the student was under the influence of mushrooms, or psilocybin, a hallucinogen, and the dangerous situation carried high potential for injuries, Nayor said.

Several members of the police force were present and tried to calm the student down, but he allegedly threw a cup of liquid at officers, then picked up a kitchen knife with a 12-inch blade.

“The Taser got him to drop the knife, which was very fortunate,” Nayor said.

After a struggle, the student was subdued and taken to a hospital, where he was so combative that he had to be restrained and sedated.

Nayor said officers would have been justified in using deadly physical force if a Taser hadn’t been available.

So, it is possible that being Tasered, while certainly an unpleasant experience, just might have saved the young man’s life.

Right now, the department’s five sergeants, the lieutenant and chief are equipped with Tasers, which deliver a temporary incapacitating electrical jolt. Soon, they will be available to every member of the force who needs one.

The Tasers have been used by sergeants for about two years and “they have proven very useful in some highly critical situations,” Nayor said.

There have been comments about whether the police could be trusted with the weapons, but let’s get serious here. If we are trusting cops with guns, we should be able to trust them with Tasers.

Officers have already received training on the equipment, Nayor said, and having a camera attached to the Tasers will mean that every use will be documented.

We are for any logical step that helps ensure not only the safety of the public but of the officers themselves. Arming our cops with the best equipment just makes enormous sense.