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Electronic Weapon Training


The use of electronic weapons, such as stun guns and tasers, is under scrutiny from some members of the state legislature. Lawmakers want to focus on how city police departments train to use the devices. They are pushing for standardized training for officers using all stun guns, outlining what situations it should be deployed.


The Cedar Rapids Police Department says out of all the thousands of calls they received and responded to in 2013, the department used their tasers 29 times. They say though the percentage is small, they still take training, and the use of the devices, very seriously.


CRPD says the Taser is one of the most useful tools in the fight against crime.


"When you're taking somebody into custody, there is less chance of injury to the officer and the suspect, instead of going hands on," said Captain Bernie Walther with CRPD.


The device is easy enough to pick it up and shoot. However, it's one thing to know how to pull the trigger - knowing how to actually USE the taser is a another story.


Countless videos on YouTube show officers nationwide using stun guns, some in situations considered controversial.


Even with the legislative push, CRPD says they already have instruction and training in place for their officers. In addition to a four hour initial training on the tasers, officers are required to undergo additional training at least once a year.


"We'll set up some scenarios and have the officers work through that," Walther said.


It includes multiple situations - from dealing with a traffic stop, to approaching an intoxicated person.


Police say communicating with the suspect is preferred, but sometimes that's not enough.


"The person could be combative, could be argumentative, and the officer has to handle that," Walther said.


CRPD says they would accept new standards if they are adopted. Walther say it could help smaller, rural departments that conduct less training. However, the department says the already strictly follow the rules from the device's manufacturer, Taser International.


"Most police departments are going to have a good policy on use of force anyway," said Taser Training Specialist Chris Smaby.

 The group Amnesty International says nationwide, there have been more than 500 deaths related to Tasers since 2001.

Police tell us problems occur with people that are on drugs or people with medical conditions.

The state Electronic Weapon bill is currently on its way to the Iowa Senate floor.


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