The Westminster Police Department has been a leader in Colorado in utilizing the "less lethal" Taser weapon, having first acquired them in 1999. The department has gradually expanded their arsenal of Tasers, manufactured by Taser International, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The department took possession of the M26 when it first came available in early 2000. The trend in equipping police officers with these devices has continued by purchasing an additional X26 Tasers since they were introduced in May 2003. The newer X26 is 60 percent smaller and lighter than the M26 and is five percent more powerful.
The department currently is equipped with a total of 144 Tasers, which are assigned to officers in the Patrol, Traffic and Special Operations Division. The department utilizes the X26 Taser.
Tasers are electrical incapacitation devices, which are considered "less lethal" or "non-lethal" weapons. They are designed to incapacitate dangerous, resistive suspects from a safe distance (up to 25 feet away). The X26 Taser fires a cartridge that propels two small darts at approximately 160 feet per second (fps). A capsule of compressed nitrogen in the cartridge is the propellant. The darts (probes) are attached to fine wire so the electrical charge can be delivered to the target. The Tasers operate at 50,000 volts, which may seem high, but voltage is not in and of itself dangerous. A static electric spark from walking across carpet and touching a metal doorknob can generate twice that amount of voltage. Amperage is the key ingredient, and both Tasers operate at very low amperage (less than 0.004 amps). They operate at very safe energy levels, and tests have shown the charge does not affect heart rhythms and that they are safe to use even on persons with pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. The X26 operates at 0.36 joules per pulse. Conversely, a cardiac defibrillator operates at 150-400 joules per pulse.
In addition to firing darts (probes), the Taser can be used as a stun gun. This is where the Taser is driven into a person and used in stun mode. This can be done with an expended cartridge in place so an officer is not defenseless once the cartridge has been fired.
The department has had great success with using Tasers. We have had several situations which would have likely ended in the use of deadly force, but were diffused safely by the use of a Taser instead. One situation, in which the use of a Taser saved a life, was when a suicidal teenager charged officers with two butcher knives. In this event, if an officer had not been equipped with a Taser, he would have had to use a handgun and the teenager's life may not have been spared. The sergeant who used the Taser was awarded a life-saving medal for his actions.
The Westminster Police Department has seen a significant drop in injuries to officers, as well as suspects, since deploying the Taser units. It is no longer necessary in most situations to go "hands on" with resistive suspects because the Taser can be deployed at a safe distance. This is one of biggest benefits to using Tasers, as injuries to everyone can be minimized. In 2008, officers used Tasers 43 times. If this equipment had not been available or acquired by the department, lethal force may have had to be used in some of these cases. A big advantage of the Taser is its deterrent effect, and many times just displaying the Taser or performing a spark demonstration (this is where the officer can trigger the unit to show sparks but nothing further) is enough to gain compliance.
The Taser program is coordinated within the Patrol, Traffic and Special Operations Division and is headed up by Sergeant Kevin Sailor, who is a Senior Master Instructor for Taser International. This title of Senior Master Instructor is held by only 26 instructors in the world. For additional information please contact us.