A state funded account to the city will be used to purchase an additional 22 Tasers and related equipment so that all officers of the Oakdale Police Department can be issued the less-than-lethal force tool.
According to Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins, the department has had the “Conductive Electrical Weapon” for over 10 years, but the four obtained at that time have been rotated between the on-duty officers shift-to-shift.
“This practice has resulted in them (Tasers) being in-service practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Jenkins “This constant use of our CEWs results in occasional failure and we are currently replacing them on a three- to four-year schedule.”
Jenkins also said another hindrance was when a Taser went down for repairs; there was a three- to four-week turn around period to get it back in service, resulting in the department not having all members of a shift fully equipped.
Jenkins said he has seen a rise in the number of subjects contacted by police being defiant and resistant since the passage of Proposition 49 which put many “low level” offenders back on the street.
The weapons, which administer a temporarily incapacitating electrical charge, are generally used when an officer is met with “a high level of active resistance” from a criminal suspect, as a means of keeping the encounter from escalating to the use of deadly force by the police.
The tool is part of the department’s “use of force continuum,” which matches police actions with the level of resistance offered by someone who has attracted police attention by officers.
“We have to use various levels of force to overcome resistance or subdue a violent attacker while performing our law enforcement duties,” Jenkins said. “We have even used Tasers to stop persons that were trying to kill themselves.”
Officer Walt Walsh, one of two certified instructors the department has, said Oakdale officers go through four hours of training before being authorized to carry the device.
Walsh said the new devices purchased would be “Smart Weapons” which compute the voltage administered with no interruptions. They also record the date, time, and duration of user actions related to the device.
The department anticipates spending $27,824 to purchase 22 Tasers, holsters, battery packs and extended four-year warranties
The department had $10,000 budgeted in its account and requested $17,850.
Jenkins said this is money the department has been receiving for the last two years to mitigate the impact of AB-109, the re-alignment bill. AB-109 moved lower level offenders from state prisons to county jails, which when resulted in early release of other inmates.
Lieutenant Keri Redd said the police department had 18 deployments of Tasers last year and nearly 200 other incidents that situations were safely deescalated just by officers displaying or warning subjects that it would be deployed.