By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Sheriff Roger Hatcher is concerned about a bill moving through the state Legislature that would certify a taser as a deadly weapon, meaning that deputies could only use the device to counter deadly force by a subject.
If passed, Hatcher said Tuesday, his department would have to go back to using compliance tools like pepper spray and batons, he said.
“It’s (tasers) a very good tool that limits the probability of someone dying,” Hatcher said.
Backed by the attorney general and sponsored by Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, the bill would redefine “stun guns” in the criminal code as a deadly weapon.
Hatcher said he voiced his opposition to the bill in Santa Fe. Ingle proposed an amendment to grant immunity to law enforcement officers “while acting within the scope of their duties.” According to officials at Ingle’s office, the bill is up for a vote today in the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill already passed the Senate 34-2.
The Curry County Detention Center also uses tasers, which use high voltage to subdue a suspect.
Even with the amendment to the bill, if passed the county jail would not be able to use the tasers, jail administrator Don Burdine said. Jail personnel aren’t considered law enforcement officers and the amendment wouldn’t apply, he said.
“The taser is a tremendous tool for us in the Adult Detention Center,” Burdine said. “Anytime we have an incident with an inmate, it is much less dangerous to the officer and the inmate to use the threat of a taser for compliance.”
The legislation comes on the heels of an excessive force charge leveled against a sheriff’s deputy in February for using a taser during a December 2002 arrest.