Taser weapons have been getting a lot of adverse news coverage lately, but police around northwest Florida continue to add the weapon to their arsenals.
At least two Bay County Police Departments are considering tasers for their officers. They are non-lethal guns which shock a suspect with 50,000 volts. They've garnered lots of negative attention nationally. Some multiple deaths have been blamed on tasers, although very few autopsies have listed tasers as a direct cause of death.
John Van Etten is Panama City’s police chief and says, "While there has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding tasers, they have saved lives, and that's why Panama City police are looking into getting them. The taser is a very effective tool, very effective."
Chief Van Etten says his department is exploring the possibility of buying tasers. He says they're one highly effective way to solve situations, like when someone has a knife and is threatening themselves or others.
"Those are situations where if you have some alternate means to end that situation without killing someone, that's the way to go."
Right now, Van Etten would like to buy six tasers for his department, primarily for the SWAT team, but before any money is spent, more time will be invested, he says, to make sure they're right for the department.
"We still have some more evaluating. We want to look at some of these other cases that have come up in some of these deaths and see if maybe, you know, were these deaths directly contributed to a taser, or were they contributed to the individual's health?"
If approved, Van Etten would like to buy the tasers before October.
Calhoun County sheriff's deputies are the only area officers currently using tasers, but the Panama City Beach Police Department is also looking into possibly adding tasers.