After suicide attempt, police union says Tasers needed

Sgts etc

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.

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

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  • Anon

    DUH. Should have had them long ago.

  • bgal4

    “Stines said the use of a Taser could have prevented the injury and saved the city money”

    Berkeley needs PRACTICAL and affordable solutions to problems, drop the ideological fears and be realistic, give the cops the tools they need.

  • Iceland_1622

    Make it * mandatory* that PBD has over the ear and body and car* mounted video if they are given tasers. At present their entire department has zero video of anything in the year 2013 forward. BART has been mandated to have this now at all times. My sources tell me that the younger officers all want this and then the old school knuckle-draggers and lifers do not. Time to update this department frozen in 1962 and it will keep everyone honest and save the millions in lawsuits that are sure to come as the sun rises in the east.


  • charles wong

    Not just the police…the people should be able to carry them as well.

  • Woolsey

    The police should also have police dogs. I think Berkeley outlawed them because they were used by police in Birmingham in the 1960s. The silliness in Berkeley never ends. Just like our esteemed leaders believing that peace marches in West Berkeley are the way to deal with violent crime.

  • Guest

    Tasers can be easily abused by law enforcement — I have witnessed it. And if you have ever had to watch someone you love be hit with a taser, you never forget the agony. They are not the solution.

  • Anon

    So it is better to let a distraught man stab himself to death or be shot by the police if he threatens them than to allow the police to have tazers? You would rather see a man DIE than give the police tools? Sick.

  • Paul Kealoha-Blake

    Only two options from Police Association representative Chris Stines? We should be supportive of his expansive about and thoughtful consideration of this? Interestingly enough there are documented incidents in which tasrers have led to the death of the individual tasered. How is Chris so positive that would not have been the case this time? I am grateful that the officers had been trained in “battlefield” medical techniques. Thank you very much to the officers who applied those skills in this case.

  • guest

    What are some of the other options for dealing with non-compliant crazy people? Pepper spray? Professional psychologist negotiators, social worker interventions? The taser is abused too much. It is used on children. It is used on non-compliant or argumentative people who could be ignored. Just google “child taser” or “drive stun” and start reading.

  • The_Sharkey

    This guy died because the Police weren’t able to intervene. If your argument is that in a minority of cases the outcome of a situation like this might be exactly the same as what happened I fail to see how that’s supposed to convince anyone that BPD shouldn’t have tasers.

  • The_Sharkey

    Pepper spray wouldn’t work in a situation like this because they don’t sufficiently incapacitate. Instead of being stunned, the suicidal man would have just been blind and in pain, and might have come at the officers with his knife forcing them to shoot him.

    Pepper spray is used on children. Should we take it away from PBD?

    Batons are used on children. Should we take them away from BPD?

    Guns are used on children. Should we take them away from BPD?

    Just because something can be abused is not a sufficient argument for why BPD shouldn’t be allowed to use it.

  • Doug F

    Obviously, opponents would rather force the police to shoot anyone who becomes unmanageable by all other methods.

    “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.” And the alternative guns can’t be lethal? Any weapon is subject to abuse; avoiding it is a matter of proper training, attitude, & supervision. I have no objection to in-car & chest video cameras–those would not only show any police abuse, but the vast majority of the time, provide good evidence of why a criminal should be convicted.

    They should be allowed to have K-9 teams too. A properly professionally trained police dog & handler reduce trouble for everyone. This isn’t Montgomery in ’62 any more. Those opposed seem to think violent criminals have more rights than crime victims. Here’s an example of how a good dog can take care of a problem that would’ve otherwise been fatal for at least the perp, if not one or more police officers too.
    Would any local pacifists like to volunteer to run unarmed straight into gunfire so the police don’t have to shoot the guy?

  • G

    I take it that you are not aware that BPD currently has officers n the street with over the ear cameras. I noticed one on acop last week and was talking with one this morning that had one on. Also the article you link to is from two years ago and may no longer be relevant.

  • Stan

    Any implement or technique can be abused if abuse is the intent. But most cops in most situations are just trying to do the right thing. Denying the good guys useful tools because they can be misused by bad guys hardly makes sense.

  • Pattie Wall

    I posted this 4 months ago here and it made the usual suspects’ heads explode. Again:

    Tasers kill people. Tasers actually increase in-custody deaths six-fold in the first year of
    implementation before leveling off at years 2-5. We just had an awful in-custody death a few months ago. With tasers this could become commonplace.
    (Lee BK, Vittinghoff E, Whiteman D, Park M, Lau LL,
    Tseng ZH. Relation of TASER(electrical stun gun) deployment to increase
    in in-custody sudden deaths. Am.J.Cardiol.103(6), 877–880 (2009)

    Taser manufacturers have funded most of the studies on Taser safety.
    When not funded by the taser industry, studies are substantially more
    likely to conclude that tasers are safe. (Funding source and author
    affiliation in TASER research are strongly associated with a conclusion
    of device safety American Heart Journal, Volume 162, Issue 3, September
    2011, Pages 533-537
    Peyman N. Azadani, Zian H. Tseng, Simon Ermakov, Gregory M. Marcus, Byron K. Lee)

    Let’s not reinvent the wheel in Berkeley. Tasers kill people.

  • Julie

    It’s refreshing to see a voice of reason here. Thanks for posting. When subsequent posters reply I hope they have read the information you cited in your post.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I believe we already agreed that BPD should have dogs armed with tasers in helicopters.

  • George Beier

    Tasers are a less lethal option then guns, right? It seems like a reasonable option to me.

  • guest

    Actually the guy did not die. “Police officers on the scene applied battlefield medicine techniques to stop the bleeding, ultimately saving the community member’s life.””

  • Woolsey

    And, don’t forget the cameras!

  • You can. Taser has the C2 which is the consumer grade version. It’s a great product, has laser sighting, and fits in your pocket.


  • guest

    No, you can’t have them. Stop asking.

  • guest

    “Hayward police also did an analysis following several years of Taser use that showed use of force was down 50%”. I think that means use of force other than taser, such as hands, batons and guns. How many times did the Hayward police use the taser during that time?

  • guest

    who are you to make that decision? let’s put it to a vote

  • guest

    >put it to a vote
    Hmmm I wonder whose idea that is.
    Didn’t work last time, man.

  • guest

    taser use has never been on the ballot, t-man

  • ozzie

    Tasing should be very rare, and probably should be investigated with near the same scrutiny as a shooting. Too many people have been repeated Tased and sometimes killed after they were already in custody. Tasing anybody after they have already been restrained or cuffed should be criminal.

    If BPD had and used Tasers at the national average rate, Berkeley would have one death every 66 years (based on 544 deaths in all of USA since 2001). Since Berkeley officers are better educated and better trained than officers in other jurisdictions, I think the actual rate would be considerably lower. Probably during that same time period, half a dozen lives would have been saved if BPD
    also had Tasers to use as an alternative to guns.

    Officer injury is a major issue. One officers told me that he get assaulted on average once a week. In Oakland, about 8% of officers are out due to job related injury at any given time. This is a
    huge personal burden for officers and a large financial burden for the city and eventually us.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    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.

    Any progress? On any number of other topics, Jesse and Kriss would have been very vocal from the outset. Anthony Sanchez would be chiming in too. Why so quiet? And where are these guys on the pension shortfall?

  • emraguso

    I heard from two council members later on Wednesday, and that was it. I have sent second requests to the rest.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Thank you very much.

  • guest

    During this crime wave…

    Things BPD needs urgently:

    1) “Non-lethal” Tasers

    2) Attack dogs

    3) More lethal firepower of every kind and ammo to go with it

    4) Surveillance Drones

    5) Armored Response Counter Attack Trucks ( nice euphemism!)

    6) Surveillance cameras (privacy be damned!)

    7) More cops hired (you can NEVER have too many police — there’s always more crime to prevent and perps to collar)

    8) Hefty salary increases all around BPD (they are so underpaid now!)

    9) Better benefits (they are so crappy currently)

    10) Earlier retirement options with full pensions and benefits (no one
    should work past 50 in police work — it’s so stressful, unlike any
    other job)

    11) Carte blanche (excuse the expression) to racially profile and harass minority community members (round up the usual suspects)

    12) Bigger and more modern jail facilities to lock up all the perps
    awaiting arraignment whom the new, beefed up, better armed and equipped
    BPD project rounding up during preventive violence suppression sweeps

    13) Name the new zero-energy, solar roofed mega-detention facility in Berkeley after Martin Luther King or a CopWatch founder

    Things Berkeley as whole does NOT need:

    1) A booming private sector business community with more broad based
    economic opportunity (how and why many minorities came to settle in
    Berkeley around WWII to fill decent paying jobs)

    2) A stable jobs base for non-university graduates offering a living wage

    3) Better job opportunities and education for low income minorities

    4) Less racial profiling, prejudice and stereotypes

    5) Fewer jail cells and more real job opportunities in the private sector

    6) Better, more effective and well funded jobs training programs

    7) Better, more effective and well funded drug treatment programs

    8) Better, more effective and well funded mental health services

    9) Legitimate employment opportunities for ex-cons and felons

    10) Decriminalization of homelessness or other petty, non-violent crimes

  • Citizen Bovine

    No cattle prods please.

  • Paul Kealoha Blake

    Liability with the rising deaths due to tasers may be of concern to Berkeley Police Association. But their promotion of tasers for virtually every challenge they face may ignore those statistics. Everything is better with tasers.

  • guest

    Your post is just a list of 23 straw man attacks. What a joke! Is this the best the anti-taser people can come up with?

  • joeschmeaux

    It’s disturbing that the BPA feels its officers need tasers. While I don’t know the circumstances behind this particular incident of self stabbing, I do know that people who truly intend to harm themselves usually succeed. The idea that police “need” tasers to prevent rare incidents like this from occurring in the future is ridiculous. The only reason I can imagine for them wanting tasers is so they can be thugs, like their counterparts in other departments.

    Tasers were originally only supposed to be used in situations which would otherwise call for lethal force. Yet cops regularly use tasers to intimidate law abiding citizens and often to inflict cruel and unusual pretrial corporal punishment on the very people they are paid to protect and serve. Ever since the days of August Vollmer, Berkeley has had a mostly humane and fair police force, which is sensitive to the needs of both individuals and the community at large. Tasers would change that, because they will be abused.

    Don’t tase Berkeley, BPA!!!


  • Andrea Prichett

    The tone of BPA’s response to a person who was in so much emotional pain that he stabbed himself is ghoulish and weird. Why doesn’t this incident activate a reassessment of how mental health services are delivered? The City cut the Mental Health emergency crisis and assessment budget in half in the last two years. You could fund four or more full time counselors for what it would cost to outfit police with tasers and train them and set up an accountability system. There is virtually NO EMERGENCY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE that can be accessed without the police being involved. How the hell are tasers going to help except to give the police yet another way to inflict pain on poor people? Berkeley is years behind other cities in the delivery of mental health services. Its because we give most of our city’s money to the police.

  • Andrea Prichett

    Hey Sharkey,

    If the cops had had tasers, they probably would have still killed Kayla Moore. She was very obese, smoker and escalated to full panic. They never had a reason to even touch her, but adding electric shock to someone who could be assumed to have delicate health is a bad idea. Remember, there are over 500 ACLU documented deaths associated with tasers. What we need are civlians who can actually provide services instead of roping a distressed person as if it restraining a human was some kind of rodeo stunt. Facedown on a futon, handcuffed and hogtied. How would the taser help?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Well not quite. Most cities rely on county mental health services. Berkeley has its own staff at considerable expense. We even serve Albany for some reason. The result of having this disproportionate level of service is that we attract a disproportionate number of people wanting those services.

    As a Berkeley taxpayer, I would like to step down our overreaching and instead see Berkeley partner with other cities to boost county services with less geographical concentration. This would free up tax revenue for other truly local needs.

    Let’s solve regional problems regionally. We can’t afford to go it alone.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Still misrepresenting the facts, eh CopWatch? She was morbidly obese and high on meth and codeine resulting in death from acute combined drug intoxication. The cops didn’t kill her; she killed herself. And yes, they had probable cause for an arrest and 5150 hold, which she arrested.

  • emraguso

    We spoke with some officials about the Taser issue. See what they had to say: