Taser Pilot Program Approved

OCEAN CITY- After years of debate, the Ocean City Mayor and Council this week agreed to adopt a pilot program for the use of Tasers for the resort’s police department.

This week, Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino asked the Mayor and City Council for approval for the police department to purchase and implement electronic control devices (ECD), also known as a Tasers.

“This isn’t the first time that I have come before the Mayor and Council with the proposal to bring this weapon to the Ocean City Police Department,” DiPino said. “It is a device that we in law enforcement have studied for many years.”

DiPino pointed out that in the last two years, the majority of injury’s to Ocean City Police officers have occurred during confrontation during arrest. Injuries cost money in medical bills for indigent suspects and for the employers. It also cost money in worker’s compensation claims, time away from work, and in damages paid out in legal settlements.

According to DiPino’s presentation, the National Institute of Justice conducted a study in 2011 and the most significant finding was that while results were not uniform across all agencies, the use of pepper spray and ECD’s can significantly reduce injury to suspects and officers. The ECD that the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) has chosen to purchase is the TASERS X2.

The weapon’s high performance is rated in its dual lasers that help improve the accuracy and help take the guesswork out of aiming. Its improved power magazine provides 500 more firings then then other brands, weather proofing to better resist rain and humidity, it is colored in bright yellow so it is easy to recognize whether a police officer or subject, and self-diagnosis tells if the device is healthy or has a problem.

The X2 is more effective because it has a backup shot for multiple targets or miss recovery, there is a warning sound while loading to prevent conflicts from escalating, and current metering measures and accuracy delivers the precise amount of current to maximize both safety and effectiveness.

“I know officers in other jurisdictions that all they have to do is take out the Taser and warn people, and possibly even make the sound from it and it deters the suspects from approaching the police officers, hurting them, and maybe even give up a lot easier,” DiPino said.

The device’s quality and reliability is derived from more than six years of research and development, 3,000-plus hours of testing and validation, and 1,500 plus customer surveys collected, making the TASER X2 the most customer driven device in Taser history.

DiPino proposed for the police department to purchase 10 to 12 devices for an Officer Pilot Program. The Tasers cost $999 per unit, plus $25 per cartridge, $60 per holster.

“We will have an updated use of force policy that will include the ECD,” DiPino explained.

The Taser is a less-lethal weapon that emits an electronic energy charge which causes electro-muscular disruption that affects the sensory and motor functions of the central nervous system. It is classified as an “intermediate level” of compliance control and may be utilized to gain control of a subject who is violent, or will become violent.

“We will not use this device just any time that we arbitrarily think we want to,” DiPino said. “There will be specific training in place for our officers. They will go through what scenarios are appropriate and not appropriate, just like we use with our pepper spray, extendable batons, and any time of equipment we use in our police force.”

DiPino said the department will use forfeiture money that has been collected through criminal activity to pay for the pilot program and in the future the budget process will have to be involved to expand the operation.

Councilwoman Mary Knight said that a few years she was opposed to the idea of Tasers but after listening to her police scanner for last five years she agrees with DiPino’s proposal.

“Hearing some of the precarious positions are officers have been in and realizing that a Taser, or electronic weapon, would have saved them or kept them out of harm’s way…and protecting our citizens I am resounding- yes,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the Officer Pilot Program to implement the use of Tasers into the police department. The program effectiveness will be reviewed before next year’s budget process to prepare for future expenditures.

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