Tasers to hit Tupelo's streets soon as law enforcement tool

TUPELO – If you get out of line with a Tupelo police officer these days you may be shocked with the consequences.
Tupelo has joined the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and other area departments in arming its officers with tasers. Police Chief Tony Carleton researched the controversial device for months and decided it is necessary for his department.
The taser pumps out 50,000 volts of electricity that jolt the muscles of the person it’s used on.
“It’s a dangerous job our officers do every day and they are involved in physical confrontations on a daily basis, so the chance of injury is very high,” said Carleton, who has been shot with the taser twice voluntarily.
“Studies have shown that by carrying tasers, injuries to officers and suspects decrease dramatically. This is just one more tool we’ll have to help to protect the public and ourselves.”
Deputies and jailers in Lee and Prentiss counties, as well as the Oxford Police Department, have been using tasers for a couple of years and have been pleased with the results.
In Lee County, Sheriff Jim Johnson said he recommends the tasers for all law enforcement agencies.
“For our deputies, safety is very important and the fact that they often work in areas where help isn’t always right around the corner makes having tasers even more beneficial,” said Johnson. “It’s a great tool in subduing a suspect and not having to wrestle with him. Those are instances where officers are very vulnerable and a suspect could get a hand on the officer’s firearm. Tasers decrease the chances of that happening.”
Ricky Peebles, assistant jail administrator for the Prentiss County Sheriff’s Department, has benefited from a taser as well. He said as a jailer he has been involved in many scuffles with unruly inmates and hasn’t always come out on the good side of them. But since the tasers were issued to jailers, Peebles said the jobs of the jailers have been 100 percent easier and safer.
“There was a time when we went into the cells we knew we would have to get into a physical situation with an inmate,” he said. “With the tasers, inmates now comply to our commands without us having to keep asking because they don’t want to be hit with them. It’s not a good feeling and they know it.”
Peebles said usually jailers have to use the tasers within the first hour someone is brought into the jail, but after initial use on a person it is rare to use it again.
There have been mixed reviews from the public on taser use by Tupelo’s police. Some people fear officers will abuse them and use them too freely.
“If an officer uses his firearm then the results are clear and final and he has to be able to explain shooting someone,” said Tupelo resident James Lewis. “And no reasonable human being wants to take a life. But officers know they can use the taser and not worry about killing or seriously injuring a person, so I think they will be more likely to abuse it.”
Richard Mason of Tupelo said he has been shot with a taser once and even though he never wants it to happen again, he agrees with its use.
“I’ll tell you this, if you ever get hit by it you won’t ever want to go through it again,” he said. “I think it is definitely a tool that will deter people from giving police problems. I’m a witness.”
Before all tasers are used on the streets, officers have to go through scenario training where they go through the types of situations where a taser may be used. Those who carry the taser are urged to be shocked with it. Carleton said by knowing how the 50,000 volts feel it gives officers better judgment as to when to use them.
“It’s not a good feeling,” he said. “I think the officers should see for themselves. Then I think they will be a little more reluctant to use them when they aren’t needed.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal