After suicide attempt, police union says Tasers needed

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Berkeley Police sergeants Emily Murphy (left) and Chris Stines first publicly made the case for Tasers at a press conference in May (file photo). Photo: Lance Knobel

The Berkeley Police Association says Tasers could have helped prevent the near-death of a man who stabbed himself repeatedly last week in Berkeley, according to a statement released Wednesday morning by the organization’s president.

Last week, Berkeley officers responded to a home where a man was threatening to slit his throat with a knife. When officers arrived, the man had at least two knives and was saying he wanted to kill himself.

According to the statement, police made “every attempt” to negotiate with the man “to calm him down and get him to release the knives,” but the attempts were unsuccessful. “The man stabbed himself repeatedly causing massive trauma, and life threatening injuries. Police officers on the scene applied battlefield medicine techniques to stop the bleeding, ultimately saving the community member’s life.”

Had Berkeley officers had Tasers, the man could have been disarmed and taken to receive care, argued the association.


Berkeley is one of only three law enforcement agencies out of 113 in the Bay Area that does not use Tasers or is not investigating their use, according to the statement released Wednesday. In a survey of Berkeley citizens last March — which was conducted by the police association — 83% of respondents indicated they support the Berkeley Police Department investigating the use of Tasers “to deter and control violent individuals when negotiating will not work.”

Critics of Tasers argue that the weapons can be lethal and that their use can lead to increased brutality to the mentally ill and disabled. They also believe Tasers are disproportionately used on minorities.

Said Sgt. Chris Stines, Berkeley Police Association president: “If Berkeley police had Tasers, we could have safely disarmed this mentally ill man and prevented the multiple knife wounds he inflicted on himself. Tasers save lives and would have allowed us to take this man into custody unharmed so he could get the help he needed.”

Stines said, in the statement, that Berkeley officers are often on dangerous calls, when a person is threatening self-harm or to hurt others. Just last week, he continued, an officer received a broken hand during a confrontation on a call, and will be “out for some time as a result of the injury.” Stines said the use of a Taser could have prevented the injury and saved the city money.

In May, when the Berkeley Police Association presented its survey results about Taser use, Police Sgt. Emily Murphy said other data also supports the benefits. She cited a study by the federal Department of Justice in Florida’s Miami-Dade county, which showed 90% fewer suspect injuries in 2011 when Taser use was compared to other force options. According to Murphy, Hayward police also did an analysis following several years of Taser use that showed use of force was down 50%, injuries to officers were down 90% and injuries to suspects were down 50%. (BPA’s summary sheet on why it supports Tasers can be read here.)


Berkeleyside has requested a response from the city mayor, police chief, city manager and city council members, but no one was available for comment as of press time. We will continue to follow up with them to learn more about the city’s position on Taser use, and whether the council plans to consider adding the item to its agenda at any point.

Related:
Berkeley police union makes the case for Tasers (05.29.13)
Police union: Should Berkeley have Tasers? (04.02.13)

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