OCEAN CITY – The resort’s latest crime fighting tool, Tasers, has proven to be safe and effective, according to the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD).
Last February, the Mayor and City Council approved the OCPD’s Taser X2 Program, which is a pilot program to have trained officers carry the Electronic Control Device (ECD) while on duty.
According to the Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino, to date there has been a total 19 Taser “displays”. This is when the ECD is intentionally removed from the holster and displayed to an uncooperative subject or displayed at a potentially volatile scene in an effort to gain voluntary compliance.
“We have been able to eliminate any type of fight from the individual and take those people into custody without anyone being injured,” Chief DiPino said.
Out of the 19 incidents, there were 10 “warning arcs”, which is when the ECD is displayed, armed and the “arc switch” is depressed to activate an electrical charge along the front of the device. This technique is used to demonstrate and display the audio and visual effects of the ECD in an effort to gain voluntary compliance.
“In all of those cases, it was enough to settle the people down and they cooperated with the police officers,” DiPino said.
There were also eight “targetings” when the ECD is removed from the holster, armed and directed at a subject. When armed, the device’s flashlight and laser targeting system will illuminate and appear on the target. By policy, this is considered a “use of force.”
“Out of all of those cases, all of those people also complied with the police,” DiPino said.
There have been six “deployments” when the ECD is removed from the holster, armed, directed at a subject and fired. When fired, two probes leave the device and penetrate the subject. The electrical charge travels down insulated wires to the probe and enter the body. The introduction of electricity to the body causes an uncooperative subject to submit to comply with commands and submit to authorities.
“To date, we have had no serious injuries to our police officers,” Chief DiPino said. “I am quite pleased with the success of the program. We have received very positive comments from the citizens of the community as well as business owners. As a matter of fact one business owner actually donated money towards us to allow us to have 16 officers carrying Tasers on the street to date.”
The chief furthered that there have been seven other incidents that would have been appropriate to use a Taser but the officers were not equipped with them and officers have received injuries associated with those incidents.
She requested the Mayor and City Council “speed up the implementation strategy” and asked for the approval to purchase 10 additional Tasers to be put into place by September of this year. The department will use forfeiture funds to purchase the Tasers, which cost about $1,300 each, including all equipment.
The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase.
At the conclusion of the chief’s presentation, Councilman Brent Ashley brought up the possibility of establishing some type of a police motorcycle program.
Ashley has found that other police departments, including smaller ones, find motorcycles to be an excellent additional tool for enforcement and community policing. Other accolades included the ability to weave in and out of traffic to get anywhere, 35 miles per gallon and a higher trade in value than a patrol car, as well as the ability to hide better to catch speeders, more residents will approach police officer on motorcycle with concerns than they will in a police car with the windows rolled up, and they are found to be an excellent community relations tool.
Ashley also believes a police motorcycle will help address two local issues.
“With the proliferation of scooters and scoot coups and the related complaints about speeding, reckless behavior and no helmets, a police motorcycle, with much greater maneuverability, would certainly have the advantage over a patrol car in addressing such issues. In my opinion, just the presence of police motorcycles would certainly curtail/limit unsafe behavior by scooter/scoot coups operators and greatly add to public safety. Of course, this same theory would also apply to unsafe bicycle practices,” Ashley said. “As we all know, there have been several tragic accidents this year involving pedestrians. While certainly not a cure all, I believe an officer on a motorcycle might be able to better spot and stop a potentially dangerous pedestrian road crossing situation before it happen.”
Council President Jim Hall said he would schedule a discussion on the matter for the fall.
DiPino responded that she has tasked a lieutenant with looking into the project and anticipates a presentation to be given in the fall.
“In the past we have had a Harley Davidson brought down here to see about the functionality but at that point we didn’t move forward with the purchase to it,” DiPino said on Monday night. “There are pros and cons to motorcycles.”