?Penn State and State College police add standard tool for campus and community safety
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State University Police and State College Police have purchased and trained police officers on Tasers, devices that use an electrical impulse to briefly immobilize violent or resisting suspects that provides a safer option for arresting individuals who are clearly at risk of harming themselves or others. The devices, commonly carried by police nationwide, will be carried by State College Police officers and Penn State University Park police officers effective today (Feb. 24). They will be carried at most of Penn State’s other campus locations beginning in the spring and summer. Officers at Penn State’s Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport already carry Tasers; all sworn officers at the University already carry firearms.
“The protection of our students, faculty and staff, as well as our officers, is the top priority for University Police and Public Safety. The addition of Tasers addresses a gap between our current options: chemical spray or a baton, and a firearm,” said Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for University Police and Public Safety. “It is always my hope that we never have to use any of these devices. However, if our officers find themselves in a situation where someone is violent and cannot be controlled, I would much rather they have the option of a Taser, both for the safety of the officer and of the subject.”
“The State College Police Department consistently evaluates how best to keep all persons in our community as well as our officers as safe as possible. Tasers have been proven to reduce injuries and save lives. Equipping our police officers with Tasers provides them with one additional less lethal option to resolve a potentially volatile situation,” said Tom King, Chief of the State College Police Department. “It would be a tragedy if a situation arose in which a Taser was the best use of force option but because one was not available, the officer had to use a firearm.”
Starting in January, Penn State Police and the State College Police Department held joint Taser training. All officers who carry Tasers are required to complete a rigorous course conducted by a certified trainer, and are required to complete annual refresher training.
With the joint announcement, Penn State’s University Park police and the State College Police Department are the last to add Tasers among all police departments in Centre County. Tasers are used by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Pennsylvania State Police
Shelow and King said the addition of Tasers to the department’s list of options came after years of consideration, including 18 months of a joint PSUPD/SCPD committee studying the value of Tasers at Penn State and in State College. Independent studies (see references below) have shown the use of Tasers to be as safe as or safer than other use-of-force methods available to law enforcement. The devices also have been shown to reduce the odds of injury for both officers and suspects who might otherwise be hurt in a physical confrontation. Often, just the existence of and presentation of a Taser is enough to de-escalate what could otherwise become a violent situation.
Both the University Police and State College Police officers will only be authorized to use a Taser on subjects who are resisting arrest or are threatening to harm themselves or others. Officers are prohibited from using the devices against compliant or passively resisting individuals. A subject will never be threatened with the use of a Taser unless the officer would be justified in using the device.
In all cases, the use of a Taser will require thorough evaluation of its use by a supervising officer. Emergency medical personnel also will respond to the scene whenever Taser probes are deployed to offer a medical evaluation to the subject.
The University has invested in 50 of the X26P Advanced Taser devices at a cost of $70,000 and the State College Police will have 20 Tasers for their officers. Each device functions as a small computer, and provides officers with a detailed activation record that will be referenced after each use. In accordance with University safety policy SY12, it is illegal for anyone other than a trained, sworn officer to carry a Taser on University property.