The Berkeley Police Association publicly released results Wednesday from its survey given to residents regarding possible future Taser use by the Berkeley Police Department.
The department is one of only three law agencies in the Bay Area out of 113 that does not use Tasers.
The survey was conducted in March and given to 598 Berkeley residents. The results indicated:
- 83 percent of residents support the city’s further investigation of Tasers
- 80 percent of residents prefer use of Tasers over physical force or guns
- 74 percent of residents are concerned of potential injuries that can occur due to police baton use or physical force and their cost burdens on taxpayers
- 85 percent of residents are “greatly concerned” by the possibility that use of a gun could cause death
There is a history of debate surrounding the use of Tasers. Critics argue that high-voltage devices can cause cardiac arrhythmia in medically fragile subjects, leading to cardiac arrest and even sudden death. It has also been argued that access to Tasers could lead officers to quickly abandon other, less violent methods of dealing with a subject and resort instead to the Taser before considering alternatives.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr was recently faced with a proposal to equip some of his officers with Tasers. He rejected it on April 10 due to high levels of opposition throughout the community. San Francisco remains the largest Bay Area police organization without Tasers.
Proponents believe that Tasers are useful tools that can keep officers and the public safe in dangerous situations and reduces the risk of officer-related shootings.
According the Berkeley Police Association, Berkeley officers support Taser use because it can provide an alternative to gun use in violent situations.
Association Board Member Sgt. Emily Murphy said, “If we can save one person’s life by deploying a Taser versus a firearm, then Berkeley’s city leaders have a responsibility to at least look into Tasers for our police officers.”
The decision on whether or not to further investigate Taser use for Berkeley officers ultimately rests with Chief of Police Michael Meehan and with Berkeley’s mayor and councilmembers.