City council considers tasers

By Gary Brode |, Anna Carrera

Published 07/16 2014 03:53PM

Updated 07/22 2014 11:30AM

Update: 10:07 pm, 7/21/14, Monday
URBANA -- Police are one step closer to getting tasers for officers. Monday night, the city council gave police the "go-ahead" to research costs and rules for tasers. Once that's finished, the council will vote whether or not to approve them. The police department has been pushing for tasers for years. The final vote is expected in October.
Update: 4:04 pm, 7/21/14, Monday
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Sometimes force involves using a taser, but investigators say just having it in their belts can help in most situations. University of Illinois Police and the Champaign County Sheriff's Deputies already use them. On Monday evening, Urbana's City Council will talk more about allowing them for city officers.

First responders say a lot of people cooperate when they see tasers. University of Illinois officers say 80% of the time, just showing it without using it is enough.

Sheriff's deputies first got tasers about ten years ago. Lt. Brian Mennenga says it's one more tool to use instead of lethal force. He says some people respond if his deputies show the arc made by the electrical force. Deputies also usually give warning that they plan to use it which gives subjects another chance to avoid it. But Mennenga says, just having the taser is a deterrent.

Urbana's police chief first brought up tasers after an incident this past winter. A man was trying to kill himself in the middle of a street and it wasn't until a sheriff's deputy got there and used the taser that they were able to get him to cooperate. Mennenga says the departments around Champaign-Urbana respond to mutual aid on a daily basis, so it helps when more officers have those kinds of tools.

University of Illinois Police haven't been using tasers as long as the sheriff's department. Officers there started getting them about three years ago, but not all of them have tasers; mostly crisis intervention teams, the narcotics unit and officers with search warrants.

If Urbana Police get tasers, crisis officers would be the first to use them.
Original: 5:53 pm, 7/16/14, Wednesday
URBANA -- City police officers may be getting closer to having tasers and the city may not have to foot the bill for them either. The department applied for a $14,000 federal grant which would cover the cost. But, that doesn't mean it's a done deal.

Chief Pat Connolly talked to the Committee of the Whole this week. But, the issue still needs to come before the full city council. Chief Connolly says he expects it will happen this upcoming Monday.

If the council approves it, Chief Connolly says his department would probably get five or six tasers.

"I was initially hoping for ten. Unfortunately, at about $1,700 or $1,800 a piece, we won't quite get there yet, but even if I can get a few on the street initially, it's going to save somebody's life," says Chief Connolly.

The issue was first presented to the council in April. The chief showed video of officers responding to a suicidal man who was hurting himself in the middle of the street. The man didn't cooperate until a sheriff's deputy used his taser.

Chief Connolly says crisis intervention officers, who deal with mental health situations, would be the first to get tasers. Chief Connolly is also planning to meet with the civilian police review board next week. It will start drafting policies and talk about the review process. If it's approved, officers could get tasers as soon as October or November.

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