Plaquemine Police Department adds new weapon to its arsenal

TOMMY COMEAUX tcomeaux@postsouth.com

Detective and uniformed officers with the Plaquemine Police Department have a new weapon they can use to fight crime, Tasers.

Chief Kenny Payne said the new electronic weapons were assigned to the officers he said were “usually the first ones to respond to the scene” of a crime or other situation where the Tasers might be used.

The department purchased 17 of the devices under a lease/purchase agreement that allows the department to stretch payments for the nearly $20,000 price tag over the next five years.

The Plaquemine Board of Selectmen approved the purchase before Payne made the agreement.

He said the Tasers came with a warranty that guarantees if anything goes wrong with one of the units, the company they were purchased from will either repair or replace them.

Before any of the new crime-fighting tools was issued, Payne put a policy in place for the usage of the Tasers.

“I wanted to have a policy in place for two reasons,” he said. “We needed a policy in place on the accepted use of them and we needed a use of force policy outlining when they could be used.”

“It (the Taser) is considered a use of force and it’s been deemed b the court system as being basically the same as pepper spray,” Payne said. “So we will had to restructure our use of force policy to line up with the same level as pepper spray.”

That policy was approved by legal council and was then added to the Police Department’s procedures manual which was then approved by the state Civil Service board, he said.

“All of those things had to come into play before we could get the Tasers,” Payne said.

He said in the process of drafting his department’s Taser policy, he got copies of the policies of numerous other law enforcement agencies, including the police departments of Baton Rouge, Zachary, Gonzales and the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The Plaquemine Police Department’s policy on Taser use is based on a compilation of those used by the other law enforcement agencies, Payne said.

“I had to customize the policy to our department’s needs and make sure our counsel could go over it and it would be in line with the liability side of it,” he continued. “You can’t just go out and buy Tasers and put them on the street and then go tase somebody.”

Payne said part of the training of his officers in the use of the Tasers is that they allow themselves to be tased.

“By doing that, it’s likely to make an officer think twice about deploying it,” he said.

The Tasers’ purpose is to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the chances of officers having to get into physical altercations with suspected criminals who are being arrested, the police chief said.

“You want someone (a suspect) to be compliant and you don’t want to have to wrestle with them and that’s the plus of these Tasers,” Payne said. “The chance of injury to the officer and the chance of injury of the person you’re trying to arrest goes way down.”

“Officers are more prone to be injured in a physical confrontation attempting to arrest someone that any other aspect of the job,” he continued.

“If you remove that physical confrontation then you’re going to have less injuries to your officers and less chance of injuries to the person that you’re trying to arrest,” Payne said. “They become more compliant as a result of being tased.”

Even if the Tasers are not deployed when an officer is trying to arrest a suspect, just their presence can be a deterrent, he continued.

“When you’re equipped with a Taser and you pull that Taser out, the threat of being tased makes a lot of suspects compliant,” Payne said. “So very few times should Tasers have to be used. It is an extreme deterrent to people resisting arrest.”

“That aspect of having the Tasers alone makes it worth it because it keeps my officers from having to be injured and it keeps the suspect that we’re trying to arrest from being injured,” he said.

Payne said he believed by letting the public know his officers are now equipped with Tasers would reduce the risk of one of them having to be involved in a physical altercation during the process of an arrest.

Suspects who are in the process of possibly being arrested can also see that an officer is equipped with a Taser and when one is pulled out of its holster, “they know what it is and become very compliant, very quickly,” he said.

When used, even if just pulled out of its holster, Payne said, officers have to file a report explaining why it was used.

“We have a use of force form that they have to fill out when you’re an officer that’s involved in anything where you have to use force, anything from a hands-on encounter, to a Taser to their service weapon,” he continued. “If you use force, you have to fill out a form that details what made you make that decision.”