Duluth police credit Taser with saving life
Duluth police credited the use of a Taser with saving the life of an emotionally disturbed woman wielding a knife early Wednesday. Chief Gordon Ramsay said the woman appeared to be attempting "suicide by cop" -- in which a person takes actions th...
Duluth police credited the use of a Taser with saving the life of an emotionally disturbed woman wielding a knife early Wednesday.
Chief Gordon Ramsay said the woman appeared to be attempting "suicide by cop" -- in which a person takes actions that force police to shoot him or her.
"She was threatening to kill herself with a knife, and I think she was threatening officers, too," Ramsay said. "But she was tased and successfully taken to the hospital for mental health treatment."
The incident began shortly after
1 a.m. when police responded to the area of 46th Avenue East and Cooke Street on a report of a woman out of control and threatening to kill others. Officers found the woman holding a kitchen knife and tased her after she refused to drop the knife. According to police, the woman apparently was not injured during the incident.
Supporters say Tasers (a brand-name acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle) and similar electronic control devices give officers a non-lethal weapon for dealing with situations like Wednesday's.
"The Taser is not the answer for every situation -- it's another tool on our tool belt," Sgt. Jon Haataja, the department's use-of-force coordinator, said. "The Taser allows an officer to control someone with a minimum amount of force and injury to the person."
Ramsey said police departments that have used Tasers for an extended period of time "find that their officer injuries go down and the subject injuries go down."
Duluth police use Tasers that shoot probes out to 25 feet. When they hit a person, they deliver a high-voltage (1,200 volts), low-amperage (0.0021 amps) shock for five seconds. Haataja, who has been tased several times in training, compares the experience to grabbing an electric fence "except a whole lot worse."
"It's painful," he said. "Your muscles lock up. The Taser affects your motor nerves so you can't fight. Your muscle contractions won't allow it."
The use of Tasers has generated controversy in some quarters because of deaths that resulted after a person was tased. The increasing use of Tasers prompted the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health to begin a safety review of the devices last year.
On Tuesday, the AMA adopted a new policy titled the "Use of Tasers by Law Enforcement Agencies."
"An AMA report finds that Tasers, when used appropriately, can save lives during interventions that would have otherwise involved the use of deadly force," the AMA said in a prepared statement.
While Tasers can help law enforcement officers, the AMA said proper use must be ensured through specific guidelines, rigorous training and accountability.
Duluth police first began using Tasers in 2002. To carry a Taser, an officer must complete a six-hour certification course and pass an annual four-hour recertification class.