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Illinois state troopers to get video-equipped Tasers

Updated: October 19, 2013 7:20PM



Illinois State Police troopers who pull over motorists will soon carry state-of-the-art Tasers equipped to capture video of each encounter, officials said Tuesday.

For the first time, the agency is preparing to outfit every patrol trooper and sergeant with the so-called “non-lethal” weapons, which can immobilize a person with a high-voltage charge.

“Troopers generally patrol alone and in remote areas throughout the state,” Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. “Tasers are a valuable resource when confronted with combative and/or intoxicated offenders.”

In the past, the state police used Tasers on a limited basis. Troopers carried them at the State Fair, for example, and special weapons and tactics teams had them. Tasers were deployed twice this year during SWAT missions, Bond said.

The state police have purchased about 800 Tasers for about $1.4 million, Bond said. In addition, the tollway authority is preparing to buy 118 more Tasers for up to $245,000. They will go to troopers who patrol the tollways in northern Illinois.

Asked why the State Police are expanding their deployment of Tasers, Bond said recent research by the agency supported their use. The decision was “based solely on safety,” she said.

State Police Director Hiram Grau “wants to make sure his officers are armed with the necessary equipment they need to keep themselves and the public safe,” Bond said.

The tollway is paying more per unit because its deal includes a four-year warranty and more cartridges, a tollway spokeswoman said.

The new Tasers will be distributed after officers undergo training in the coming months, Bond said. The state police paid $1,668 per “package,” which includes the Taser, a camera, a holster and servicing, she said.

Only four states — New Hampshire, Nebraska, West Virginia and Tennessee — don’t equip their state police officers with Tasers. San Francisco, Detroit, Boston and Buffalo are the only major cities whose police departments don’t use them, Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

The Chicago Police Department has used Tasers since 2004. Late last year, the department upgraded to the X2 version, purchasing about 700 of them, Tuttle said. The state police and tollway bought X2s, too, officials said.

They disable a targeted person by delivering a high-voltage charge through wires tied to barbs fired out of the device, which looks like a handgun.

The X2 has new features that can scare an uncooperative person into complying with an officer before the barbs are discharged, Tuttle said. The officer can now push a button to create two large “warning” sparks at the front of the Taser and can also focus lasers on the targeted person, he said.

In 2012, Chicago Police officers discharged Tasers almost 727 times, compared to only 183 times during the first six months of 2013, according to the Independent Police Review Authority.



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