Cover Story: Safer Tasers on the street? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Cover Story: Safer Tasers on the street?

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tasers are back in the hands of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.

CMPD officers now have a new weapon to help fight crime.  Officers got their new Tasers on Wednesday.

The department pulled about 1,200 Tasers from officers last summer after an officer shocked a man who later died.

The newer models allow you to shoot an electrical charge for only five seconds - markedly different from previous ones - which the manufacturer and police say makes them safer to use.

Their motto is "to serve and protect."  On Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police got a new tool to do just that.

The newest model of the Taser.. 1,600 stun guns.. were handed out to all sworn officers.  They were purchased by the city last September for $1.8 million.

It's called a 50,000-volt weapon.

The new Tasers, the X2, carry the same charge as the old ones. 

And when fired - two wire probes making contact with a subject and the trigger is pulled - it creates a circuit sending an electrical charge throughout the body.

"Five seconds what they have found out is really takes the bite out of people."

Officer Andy Wrenn told reporters what makes the X2 safer it won't send an electrical charge for longer than five seconds.

There's a four-second signal warning.  And even if the trigger is held down after five seconds nothing happens.

Said Wrenn:  "It's enough time to get the person on the ground and to get the officer in a position where they can start giving loud verbal commands trying to get the suspect to comply with what's going on."

Where police had trouble with Tasers in the past previous models wouldn't shut off their electrical charge after five seconds.

In the heat of the moment, under stress, fine motor skills go away.  An officer may forget to release the trigger after five seconds, which is the time recommended by the manufacturer.

It has led to hundreds of Taser deaths across the country.

Most recently at the LYNX light rail line last July in which 21-year old Lareko Williams was killed.

Williams' death came just a day after a federal jury awarded $10 million to the family of 17-year old Darryl Turner.  He had been shocked for about 37 seconds by a CMPD officer in a Taser incident in 2008.

The two developments together caused Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe to take Tasers off the streets.

How confident are police that it won't happen again?

Replied Major Sherie Pearsall:  "I don't think I can give you 100-percent certainty.  There's not 100-percent certainty but we're extremely confident in our efforts to make sure that we've brought a weapon forward that is safe for our officers and is safe for the community."

Patrick Cannon, chair of the City Council's Community Safety Committee says, "I don't believe what we've had in the past have been the best by any measure. With what we have today we're in much better shape."

What else makes the new Tasers safer?

There's a visible and audible warning officers can trigger that may convince a suspect to calm down without having to fire the Taser.

And they have a second cartridge that if the first five-second shock doesn't "take" police can send a second round.

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