HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts became the 49th state to allow police officers to carry stun guns in 2004. Seven Massachusetts police departments reported their use of stun guns in 2014 to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
In the report, Massachusetts police officers reported 1,037 stun gun contacts in 2014. A stun gun contact is defined as an individual police officer either using, or threatening to use a Taser, or stun gun.
Many residents, including Pamela Dods of Southampton were shocked to learn that the number was that high.”When do you use it, you know? And how quick are you to use it? That seems a little excessive,” she said.
Holyoke was the only western Massachusetts police department in the report. They said they had 27 stun gun contacts in 2014, the fewest amount on the list. New Bedford had the most at 105.
Jessica Harvey of Easthampton said she still supports the decision of police departments to arm their officers with stun guns. “I think it’s a first means of protection in getting someone to kind of stop hurting someone or themselves rather than using a gun,” she said.
Police departments using tasers increased tenfold between 2000 and 2013. Taser-use supporters, like Steven Baj of Hadley, say when a situation escalates quickly tasers are a less than lethal alternative to using a gun. “If someone is just being obnoxious or out of control, but you don’t think they’re in any serious, grave danger, it may be the best way to keep them from hurting themselves or someone else,” he said.
State law requires departments to receive approval before buying stun guns, but each department sets its own policies for when they are allowed to use them.