Tri-State police talk Tasers

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Top law enforcement officials from all over the Tri-state came together Tuesday to talk Tasers. For the first time ever, the stun gun manufacturer hosted a special seminar in the Queen City.

In October, Cincinnati attorney Al Gerhardstein reviewed the Taser policies of dozens of local police agencies and found many of them were not following best practices. After that, the Cincinnati Police Department reached out to Taser to have them come to town.

Organizers say there were so many responses from Tri-state departments they had to turn people away.

"It's very important to hear legal issues and risk management issues about deploying this kind of device," explained Captain Doug Wiesman.

Wiesman is in charge of training for the Cincinnati Police Department which updated its Taser police in the early fall of 2012.

"We are completely aligned with what the best practices are in the country right now," Wiesman said following the morning presentations.

With no uniform Taser policy in place across departments and controversial Tri-state Taser related deaths like the passing of Everette Howard who died after being tased on UC's campus, many recognize the need for agencies to get on the same page.

"There's always ways to do things better and a lot of times unfortunately we find out how to do things better through an incident, but it's ongoing," Delhi Police Chief Jim Howarth said.

Howarth says his department revised their Taser policy following the report released in October.

"We made some subtle changes because we feel like there are some good points in there and we were able to improve on our policy," he said.

Howarth says one of the changes included not throwing away the Taser cartridges even if the encounter occurred without incident.

"Difficult things happen unfortunately there's no explanation for them, but I will tell you that there's not a better system out there," argued former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher. "If this is the best system that's out there then what we need to do is to continuously study and evaluate the application of the system and take what we learn from those evaluations and apply it to future use."

Striecher spoke out on behalf of new Taser technology the department helped develop through a pilot program a few years back that puts cameras on cops. Streicher believes the new Taser camera technology is the future of law enforcement.

"This technology, it's going to take an investment on the front end of it, but on the back end of that its ultimately going to save the city money," he argued.

The cameras cost roughly $900 dollars each and have been adopted by a number of smaller to medium sized departments across the U.S.

"When you tie Tasers together with video you can not only increase safety of the individual incident but we can reduce a lot of the conflict between police and the communities they serve," Taser CEO Rick Smith said.

Smith referenced a university study that showed when police wear cameras it almost eliminates complaints and reduces incidents of violent resistance. He says while interest in the new technology is high, budgets are low. In the meantime, many departments are focusing on using the technology they already have as safely as possible.

"Nothing [police] do is low risk. They are going into the situations when everyone else is running out but it's about balancing and trying to minimize that risk," Smith said. "The truth about Tasers is they dramatically reduce the risk of injury in any community that's deployed them."

The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police reviewed the October report and has formed a committee to look at electronic control devices.

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