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Police show taser video; community responds

URBANA -- Tasers have been a controversial topic in the city for years. The police chief wants the city council to approve them for ten of his officers.
URBANA -- Tasers have been a controversial topic in the city for years. The police chief wants the city council to approve them for ten of his officers.

People packed the city council chambers for Monday's meeting. They all got to see video from an incident a couple months ago, where a taser was used on someone in Urbana.

Urbana police say they're seeing more situations where they need to get involved with someone who has mental health problems. A couple months ago, dash cam video captured a man with blood on his clothes and a knife in his hand, in the middle of a road with people around. Chief Pat Connolly says that man refused to cooperate.  

"When innocent people's lives are at stake or someone dies because they are literally spurting blood from their wrists, at some point, we've got to take some action," said Connolly.

His officers did take action. One shot four rounds at the man with a non-lethal gun, which didn't even seem to phase the man involved. It did leave a few marks on his legs. It wasn't until a Champaign County deputy got to the scene and tased the man that they finally get him under control. Officer Dan Bailey was there that evening.

"I know it's easy to say we're paid to do this and be hurt but we're not paid to be hurt for our lifetimes," said Bailey. "We are human beings. We have kids. We have families."

But the video wasn't enough to convince everyone in the community.

"I would like my tax money being more to stuff that would be more preventative," said Julie Watkins, of Urbana.

Members of the NAACP read names of people who died after being tased. They said officers are more likely to use tasers on members of the African-American population. The president of Champaign County's chapter says tasers are not just inhumane, but also unnecessary.

"We have enough tasers in our community so we don't really need to invest in more tasers," said CCNAACP President Patricia Avery.

"I'm not saying the taser is going to be the answer to all of our problems," said Connolly. "It's going to be another tool available to officers."

As the debate continues in the city, a couple things are for sure. This decision is a big one and one people in Urbana aren't taking it lightly.

Members of the council didn't make any decisions about tasers Monday. Chief Connolly says they're expected to take a vote at a meeting next week.
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