“The mere fact the officer says (he has a Taser) quells the whole situation. It’s amazing,” said Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew.
More than 300 officers trained with the Tasers for about a month before being equipped with them in late March.
Each time a Taser is pulled from its holster, the deputy must file a Use of Force form through the Internal Affairs department. Reports show Tasers have been drawn 68 times.
“We tell them if they don’t comply we’re going to have to use the Taser,” Chew said. “Some still don’t comply.”
In 32 cases, the weapon was shot, and in five the officer used a “drive stun,” putting the Taser against someone’s body instead of firing. There was one case of accidental discharge at a deputy’s home.
During training, each officer had to be shot with the Taser to understand the amount of electricity they would be using.
Chew said there was an initial fear that officers would make the wrong decision when choosing between their firearm and Taser, but so far officers are making good decisions. Use of Force reports show that most of the time the Taser is replacing hand-to-hand combat.
“If I’m pulling out my gun, it’s because I’m using deadly force,” Chew said. “Tasers are
one tier below deadly force.”
A few weeks after getting the Tasers, a deputy used one to thwart a suicide attempt.
A woman at an Augusta apartment was armed with a gun and threatening suicide. One deputy fired his Taser, causing the woman to drop the gun, while two others covered him with their firearms.
Because of budget constraints, only one-third of deputies have Tasers. The sheriff’s office’s goal is to equip all officers.