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Massachusetts State Police arm troopers with Tasers

In an effort to find alternative solutions to the use of firearms, the Massachusetts State Police announced Thursday that they will outfit their troopers with Tasers. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA
In an effort to find alternative solutions to the use of firearms, the Massachusetts State Police announced Thursday that they will outfit their troopers with Tasers. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

The Massachusetts State Police announced on Thursday the purchase of 895 electronic control weapons in the form of Tasers to immediately equip state troopers in the Division of Field Services, according to a Thursday press release.

According to the release, the MSP will begin arming troopers with Tasers in an effort to reduce gun usage to control violent, non-compliant suspects. Prior to this distribution, only members of the Special Tactical Operations Team were allowed the weapons.

“The department has conducted extensive training in the use of ECWs for those department members to whom they will be assigned,” the release stated. “… Troopers are trained to deploy only the level of force required to end a threat to their own lives and safety or the life and safety of another person.”

Tasers deliver an electric charge to suspects who pose “immediate and serious” threats to officers or others, according to the release. The ECW interferes with the suspect’s to move, offering officers the opportunity to take custody of the suspect without using firearms.

Felix Browne, spokesperson for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said Tasers have been used before in different departments.

“The secretary of Public Safety and Security actually began authorizing training programs for electronic control weapons in 2005,” Browne said. “Any police force could request training programs and, when completed, [officers] would be assessed and authorized to carry ECWs.”

By 2015, 236 of the commonwealth’s law enforcement agencies had ECW training programs in place and approval to use the weapons, Browne said.

MSP Col. Richard McKeon discussed the decision to equip state troopers with Tasers as well as other ways troopers are trained to avoid violence.

“It’s a less lethal option that will hopefully end aggressive confrontations before they can escalate and end in more deadly use of force,” McKeon said. “We also have created other programs to educate on how to deescalate situations without excessive force while still ensuring safety of all those involved, and to recognize signs of mental illness or autism in suspects.”

McKeon also discussed specific policies that will remain in place to protect those around the weapons.

“Any officer that will be carrying the weapon will undergo a training program and be approved for usage,” McKeon said. “Any time that one of the weapons is deployed, even if it’s just taken out, the officer must report it. It’s part of our use of force policy and strengthens accountability.”

Several Boston residents expressed support for the MSP’s move toward more prevalent use of Tasers and other non-lethal weapons.

James Ellard, 52, of the West End, said Tasers are a good alternative to lethal weapons and should be more commonplace in law enforcement.

“Tasers are an accessible alternative to guns, less lethal and can deescalate situations with less violence,” he said. “For situations that require less than a gun but more than nothing, Tasers should be readily available to officers.”

Lisel Thompson, 33, of the South End, said the ECWs are just another way police forces can offer protection and ensure the safety of themselves and suspects.

“I think Tasers are another important resource for officers to use for protection for both themselves, civilians and to subdue suspects,” she said. “Killing or shooting isn’t always needed to ensure the safety of others, and guns don’t always deter violent retaliation.”

Angel Rivera, 37, of South Boston, said he believed the State Police are taking an important step toward decreasing the number of deaths during police stops.

“I always assumed that Tasers were already in use by every police department, so it’s a shock to know the State Police didn’t use them,” he said. “But I think this will be a good move towards fewer fatal officer-involved incidents.”

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