Anchorage police say fewer than half of the department's officers have been issued with Taser stun guns -- including patrol officer Boaz Gionson, who was cleared of wrongdoing by state prosecutors in the fatal June 9 shooting of stick-brandishing man Shane Tasi during a Mountain View confrontation.
Police also point out that Gionson had four seconds to make a decision as Tasi came at him swinging a broom handle and the two men were only a few feet away from each other.
APD has 116 Tasers for its total force of about 280 sworn officers, about 200 to 220 of whom are on patrol duties. APD spokesperson Lt. Dave Parker said a Taser costs upwards of $1,300, while a service pistol costs about $450.
At a Wednesday press conference on Gionson's shooting of Tasi, APD Chief Mark Mew said a Taser can work well but has its limitations, especially when an officer is by themselves and their duty is to protect the public.
“The Taser is a good tool,” Mew said. “The Taser is effective for some things, but like all technology, it’s not perfect in all situations. I think some of the public thinks it cures everything and I don’t think it does.”
Police say that while Tasers work best when a target is standing still, they can still fail to incapacitate people. APD Sgt. Roy LeBlanc, who does have a Taser, said he has seen Tasers fail several times.
“I can recall a man was attempting to commit suicide and actively cutting his own neck, and the first Taser did not work,” LeBlanc said. “In that instance we used three different cartridges before it subdued the person and prevented them from killing themselves.”
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