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Upton Police join Mendon and other towns with Tasers

It's been nearly a month since members of the Upton Police were equipped with the Department's first Tasers, and thankfully, the new purchases have yet to be utilized.

"We have not deployed a Taser, except for training," said Upton Police Chief Michael Bradley. All Upton officers began carrying the weapon on July 1.

In May 2012, the town approved an article to purchase the new Tasers totaling $15,000; the cost of each Taser ran approximately $950. Shortly after the funding was approved, members of the Upton police received specific training on how to utilize the weapons, part of which included reviewing the mechanics of the weapon, education on medical issues involved with use of the Taser, weapon proficiency, and more.

Upton is now one of a number of communities in the state equipping their officers with the weapon. "Many departments are adding Tasers as a less-lethal force option," said Bradley.

The Mendon Police Department has had Tasers for more than three years; other communities include Blackstone, Southbridge and Webster.

A Taser is an electroshock weapon which uses electrical current to agitate voluntary control of muscles. Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her nerves resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions. Mendon's Lt. Don Blanchette should know. As part of his training, he was voluntarily tasered in order to understand the effects of the shock. "Now that I know what it feels like, I will never volunteer to do that again," he said, explaining it felt like a sledgehammer to the back. Blanchette said the effects of the Taser last approximately five seconds. "Just enough time to incapacitate a suspect or possibly a suicidal individual."

According to Bradley, a Taser is only used by officers in very specific circumstances and include preventing persons from inflicting harm up themselves, an officer, or other individual; when attempts to subdue a suspect by other standard tactics have been or will likely be ineffective; when there is a reasonable belief that it will be unsafe for officers to approach a person and take him or her into lawful custody without the probability of injury to the officers, the suspect or any one else; and to control dangerous or violent subjects when deadly physical force does not appear to be justified and/or necessary.

Research has show there are benefits to using a Taser instead of other means of force. A 2009 Police Executive Research Forum study reported that officer injuries drop by 76 percent when a Taser is used. Many agree they also help reduce injuries to suspects.

Blanchette said he is aware of some of the controversy surrounding the use of Tasers but still favors their use when warranted. He said, "Now that I've seen it in action, it is an effective way to subdue someone when necessary."


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