Tasers have joined the arsenal available to Marlborough police officers, giving an additional non-lethal measure that may reduce officer injury.
“Officers do not have to go hands-on with people who may be combative or assaultive and that would reduce injuries," said Police Chief Mark Leonard of the benefits of the Tasers. “Departments that have tasers; the officer injuries due to that type of event goes down."
The department has 10 Tasers that it put on the street a few weeks ago, he said. The process has been a long one — with the Tasers being purchased last year but training being required for every officer that will use one and policies needing to be approved.
“We were going through this process for a while," said Chief Leonard. “We just got them on the street."
With 10 Tasers, the non-lethal weapons are signed out to officers while they are on shift. The chief would like to see one assigned to every officer just like any other piece of equipment.
“I think the goal is to have more of them out there," he said.
These are right tools for certain non-lethal circumstances but they do not take the place of lethal response in the form of a gun, said Chief Leonard.
“They are a good tool in the right circumstance," he said.
In November, a Marlborough police officer shot a man who reportedly had a knife on him. In response to a situation where a suspect has a gun or knife a Taser will not be a substitute for lethal force, said Chief Leonard.
“If an officer is faced with a lethal force situation, be it a firearm or knife ... a Taser isn't going to be a first option," he said.
The Taser is not fool proof and it can miss or not go off, said Chief Leonard, and because of that you do not want to confront deadly force with something not lethal.
“They are a good tool in the right circumstance," he said. “(Officers) have to be careful and use their judgement. There are going to be times when the taser is not the appropriate tool to use."