Police still push for tasers as they gain support

By Lindsey Gordon

Published 06/05 2014 10:18PM

Updated 06/06 2014 10:35AM

URBANA -- One city council member says he would support tasers, but with a few conditions to prevent abuse. He watched Thursday night as the Citizens' Police Academy held a demonstration to see how they work. WCIA-3's Lindsey Gordon has more.

Police say tasers are a less dangerous way to get people to comply. They say, in many cases, it could eliminate the need for using guns. Tasers are deemed a less-lethal weapon. 

"The taser actually incapacitates the person. It constricts the muscle and allows the police to then be able to control the person and hopefully the weapon will be dropped from his hand," explained Urbana police chief, Patrick Connolly.

But not everyone wants Urbana officers to have them. 

"It's a controversial issue and I recognize people in the community are not comfortable with that," said Connolly. 

The Champaign County NAACP has spoken out at recent council meetings about how tasers can be abused and potentially deadly. That's why people were encourage to watch them in action Thursday night. They tased Robert Ogden, who is training to be a police officer. It was his first time.

"It didn't feel that good, but I feel great now actually," said Ogden, moments after getting the shock. 

Councilman Eric Jakobsson came out to watch. 

"I was glad to have actually seen it in person," he said. He was the only council member in attendance. 

At first, he says, he wasn't sure about police using tasers, but now he thinks it's better than the alternative.

"It's actually better than being beaten with a police baton, which has a higher incidence of death or disability," he said.

But he has a few conditions for supporting tasers for officers. A taser takes video when it's used. Jakobsson wants that video to be made public.

"It's a safeguard against potential abuse," he said.

The demonstration was put on by the University of Illinois Police Training Institute as part of their Citizens' Police Academy program.

The council is waiting on a vote. Chief Connolly hopes it will happen around mid-summer. He expects abuse in Urbana would be very rare, but, he says, you can't rule it out.

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