More NJ police departments adding Tasers to their belts
WAYNE — Becoming the first local law enforcement agency in Passaic County to make the move, about a third of the township's police force are now equipped with stuns guns that can immobilize a subject with an electrical current from as far as 25 feet away.
More than $100,000 was spent to provide Tasers for 40 officers. Each is equipped with a camera that would record every discharge.
"Considering that it gave us another level of force on that use-of-force ladder, before you actually end up going to the firearm, we think that it was a good decision," James Clarke, Wayne's chief of police said.
New Jersey became the last state in the country to approve the use of stun guns in late 2011. The first recorded police-use of a Taser took place on Nov. 4, 2012, in Hudson County.
Starting in March 2016, cops in New Jersey were granted less-restrictive stun gun guidelines that let officers deploy them in more situations — not just when they feel like their life is in danger.
As of February 2016, when the last survey was conducted by the state, 138 police departments were carrying stun guns in some capacity, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.
"Certainly there are many more departments with the devices at this point, but we do not have an official count," a spokesman said.
In the 2016 survey, many departments — including several in Middlesex County — reported having just one "conducted energy device" on hand.
At 74, Camden County's police department reported the highest number of stun guns. Cherry Hill, Evesham and Gloucester Twp. each were in possession of more than 50. The State Police had 30.
Every stun gun discharge is reported to the Attorney General's Office. Since January 2013, there have been a total of 153 discharges, including 55 in 2017. From 2015 and 2016, the annual count decreased from 34 to 32, despite the looser usage rules.
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