University Police Department officers patrolling the campus and surrounding areas may soon carry electroshock weapons.
These devices, commonly known by the brand name, Taser, are designed to generate an electric current that can disrupt a person’s muscle control. The University Police Department is drafting plans for their use after the California State University Chancellor’s Office approved the weapons throughout the CSU’s UPD system, according to Ellen Griffin, University spokeswoman.
Officers went through training Thursday, Sept. 12. The next step is a review of the proposed policy by the University president’s cabinet.
“Since that program proposal has not yet been presented to cabinet, and cabinet has not yet had a chance to weigh in on the specifics of the proposal, there are no details to release at this time,” Griffin said.
Questions such as deployment dates, unit cost and the number of weapons deployed will have to wait until a final decision is made, according to Griffin.
Commonly referred to as non-lethal, the devices are often added to a police department’s arsenal as an option to prevent the use of deadly force.
UPD’s counterparts, the San Francisco Police Department, haven’t been so lucky.
SFPD applied for Taser approval in 2004 and 2010 and was turned down by the police commission, which determines policy for the department, each time.
While these weapons have been associated with controversy wherever they’ve been deployed, the University isn’t the only campus to use them. Other state universities like Cal State Monterey Bay and Cal Poly Pamona have had them for the last seven years.
SF State Criminal Justice Studies Department Chair Jeffrey Snipes said he believes that as long as officers are properly trained in their use the new weapons should be deployed for use on campus.
“I think that after years of controversy surrounding the evidence on the cost-benefit effects of Tasers it’s pretty well established that it is better for law enforcement agencies to have them than to not,” said Snipes. “Provided the UPD is trained as such, I think it is appropriate for the department to have them. The SFPD should have them as well. To my knowledge it is the largest city that does not have access to them.”
Business administration major Shema Khidir agrees that stun guns are a step in the right direction.
“I think definitely, UPD carrying Tasers will make us more safe, if they’re used properly,” said Khidir, 24. “Especially for students who have night classes. If used wisely — not recklessly, violently, or just because they have it— then yes, it makes us much safer.”
However, other students like sophomore Gregory Ruiz are against the idea of the UPD carrying stun guns. He said he believes officers should not be allowed to carry the electroshock weapons.
“I feel less safe knowing UPD will have Tasers,” said Ruiz, 19. “I don’t see how they can be used in a helpful way.”
Ruiz referred to the arrests of the six non-residents from Mary Ward Hall last semester as an example.
“Just look at what happened in the dorms last semester,” Ruiz said. “Less harm could have been done to those people. It really doesn’t make sense for them to have Tasers when SFPD doesn’t.”
The safety of electroshock weapons has also been questioned by some non-profit groups like Amnesty International which found that since 2001, 540 people in the United States have died after being struck by police Tasers.
Other groups like the American Civil Liberties Union also question the categorizing of Tasers as “non-lethal” weapons. In a brief from their Criminal Law Reform Project, the ACLU’s Rebecca McCray said that most training materials on Taser deployment come from Taser International, the private company making the weapons.
The Xpress will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.
The article has been corrected from “Police applied for stun gun approval…” to “Police applied for Taser approval…”