COHASSET – Selectmen say it’s not up to them whether Cohasset Police should get the Tasers they’ve asked for. Officials and citizens agreed, however, that the request should be granted.
Capital Budget Committee took a contingent vote last week supporting the purchase, provided that selectmen were in favor. Now that the community and selectmen have given their blessing, the decision is made: like their neighbors in Hull and Marshfield, Cohasset police will be equipped with Tasers.
A Taser can create distance and de-escalate a violent situation. The nitrogen-propelled probes can hit a subject with perfect accuracy from 25 feet and deliver a five-second shock, disarming the subject and giving an officer time to move in and subdue them.
This is useful if the subject has a knife, as may be the case if domestic violence or drugs are involved. These kinds of calls are more common than people think because, to protect the identity of the innocent, domestic and mental health calls are no longer shared with the press.
“I was surprised to hear that police have been in situations where their life was endangered and they had to draw their weapons, even since January,” said Steve Gaumer, chairman of the board. “Somebody suffering from a variety of issues may act in a way that is irrational.”
Current non-lethal options – pepper spray or a nightstick – can only be used at close range, putting officers and criminal subjects at greater risk. Communities across the state have already equipped their officers with Tasers, and statistics show reduced harm to both officers and criminal subjects.
Police Chief Bill Quigley first pitched the idea to selectmen at their March 29th meeting. The board followed up on April 6th after giving the public an opportunity to speak up about any concerns.
Selectmen received written correspondence and phone calls over the course of the week. Some questioned whether Cohasset needed to give law enforcement officers such a dramatic weapon.
Many of these fears, however, seemed to be based on the over-dramatization of Tasers on TV. The majority of citizens who reached out favored the proposal, as long as appropriate training would be provided.
Last week, Chief Quigley assured the board that officers would be trained to use the weapon appropriately – and just as importantly, they would be trained not to use it unless absolutely necessary, just like a firearm.
Selectmen decided on April 6th that they would not take any action or vote regarding a policy on Tasers for Cohasset police, saying that police and fire policies have never been their purview and it would be inappropriate to treat this matter any differently.
Instead, they said, it should fall to the Advisory Committee to determine whether the purchase makes financial sense, and to the Town Manager and Police Chief to determine the town’s true need. It also falls to those parties to regulate use and training surrounding the new weapons.
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