Seven months after their introduction, Tasers are seeing steady use with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
At the same time, the sheriff’s office has seen a decrease in injury to officers and civilians, Lt. Calvin Chew said.
“Usually, (the officers) would have to fight with the individual to subdue them, but with the Tasers, the injuries for both the officers and the suspects have gone way down,” he said.
Chew said the sheriff’s office has used the stun guns in the Augusta-Richmond County Jail and the Charles B. Webster Detention Center since January. The nonlethal device was made available to more than 300 deputies on patrol in March.
As of Tuesday, 156 Use of Force forms have been filed with the office’s Internal Affairs department in regard to Taser use. Chew said that deputies are required to fill out the forms any time the weapon is drawn.
According to the forms, deputies have shot Tasers 85 times, missing their target on three occasions. The “drive stun” function, which allows the officer to use the Taser against someone’s body instead of firing the gun, has been used 13 times.
The weapons don’t have to be discharged to be useful, Chew said. Officers have drawn Tasers 56 times in Richmond County without firing the weapon.
“The officers are trained to draw the Taser and advise the subject that they will use it unless they comply with their commands,” Chew said. “Just the thought of being tased is enough to stop some people.”
The use of Tasers by the force hasn’t been without incident. In July, George Harvey, 39, of Augusta, died while police attempted to apprehend him at the Chevron Food Mart at 1501 Gordon Highway.
Officers used a Taser on Harvey, who later went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to Georgia Regents Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Deputies Matthew Sanderson, Prizette Presberry and Chadrick Scott were put on administrative leave while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigated the death.
GBI Special Agent in Charge Pat Morgan said Friday that the investigation has concluded, but the results have not been made public. The case is being handled by the district attorney’s office.
“(Deaths) are very rare,” Chew said. “Usually it’s attributed to some other factors. Sometimes they’ll have a medical condition or they’ll be on drugs. They happen, but it’s very rare.”
Tasers have been used to prevent death. In April, The Augusta Chronicle reported that deputies used a stun gun on a woman with a .22-caliber revolver pointed at her face, threatening suicide. The woman dropped the gun after being stunned.