The Wilmington Police Department will be getting 145 new Tasers to replace the ones the agency has in use after city council approved a resolution and an accompanying ordinance appropriating funds for the purchase.
According to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, the department has 115 Tasers, also called electronic current devices, assigned to officers. The model currently in use is no longer being serviced or maintained as they are no longer being manufactured, hence the chief’s request for new ones.
“We continue to look at the latest technologies in crime fighting and service in our community, but we also need to be cognizant of the fact we have to update and upgrade our existing equipment that we have,” Evangelous said.
The ordinance passed by city council appropriated $138,890 from the city’s general fund undesignated fund balance to the police department’s capital outlay for the purchase of 104 devices and $49,494 from the special purpose fund federal forfeiture for the remaining 41 items. The total cost of the Tasers is $188,384.
According to Evangelous, the WPD has been using Tasers since 1999 as a less lethal alternative to guns.
“They’re usually used on non-compliant subjects, trying to prevent serious injuries,” said Evangelous. “We also use them as de-escalation devices during incidents so we don’t have to escalate to a greater use of force.”
The updated version of the devices, called the X26P model, has a safety mechanism that the older ones don’t have.
“It provides a charge meter which regulates the amount of electricity to a maximum of five-second activations,” Evangelous said. “On the older Tasers, as long as you hold the trigger, it will continue to activate. In a highly emotional, adrenaline-driven incident, sometimes it’s difficult to determine how long five seconds is.”
The new devices also collect data on each use, recording the date, time, length and number of deployments that can be stored and used for future reference.
New officers will have to undergo six hours of training before being allowed to use the device. Previously trained officers will get two hours of review on the upgraded Tasers. The department’s goal is to have all sworn personnel trained on the new devices by spring of 2016, thought not every officer will carry one while on duty.
According to the chief, the Wilmington Police Department saw a 15 percent decrease in the overall use of force from 2013 to 2014, including a 55 percent decrease in the use of Tasers.
“A lot of times what happens is the mere display of a Taser gets people to comply,” Evangelous said, pointing out that it also works as a deterrent.
The council passed both the resolution and the ordinance unanimously.