Sheriff's Office to Use Tasers
Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said the department is looking for grant funding to buy electroshock weapons, but the move does not result from recent officer-involved shootings.
It’s not recent officer-involved shootings that led Bartow County Sheriff’s Office officials to seek funding for non-lethal weapons, but another regional development — the closing of a state-run mental health hospital in Rome.
“The main reason that we are going to try to use Tasers now is the fact Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital is closing down,” Sheriff Clark Millsap said. “Those who have some type of mental problem are not going to have a place to go. We will probably have to house them and they could be violent and in a jail environment, officers while they’re around inmates do not have weapons.
“Instead of trying to come up with some other plan of shackling and chaining them down if we can’t get them to Milledgeville or Georgia Regional [in Atlanta] because there’s no openings, we’re going to have to find some other less lethal way to deal with those inmates and a Taser will allow us to be able to — without harming them — control them for the 5 seconds that we need to in order to get them in some type of restraints.”
But it would not be just jail deputies equipped with the weapons that use electrical currents to briefly incapacitate a person.
“Eventually, we hope to have enough money, if we can find a good grant, to allow some of the patrol officers access to [Tasers] in case we run into a situation with a subject wielding a knife, threatening to do harm to himself or others,” Millsap said. “We have less lethal shotgun rounds that have been tested and have shown they will not do any lasting damage but the Tasers — we’ve done a lot of research and have two officers who are certified instructors — are really effective.
“I know first hand because I rode it — the worst 5 seconds of my life. You cannot move. You will comply unless you just really don’t have your faculties and don’t know any better.”
Millsap added the department now has about five Tasers and recently began training law enforcement officers how to use the weapons. Cartersville police already use Tasers, but Millsap until recently was not a proponent of the weapons, citing concerns stemming from reports across the country about the subsequent deaths of suspects who had been tased.
“I think it’s going to be a very effective tool. It has been proved to be effective in other agencies that have used them,” said Millsap. “I think [for] what we’re going to use them for — control and restraint and things like that — so that we don’t have to hurt anybody if they have some type of mental [problem].”
Tasers do not cause deaths, Millsap said. He added that an increase in the use of deadly force by local law enforcement was not a factor in the decision to use them.
Officer-involved shootings led to three local deaths in 2010. According to published reports, a Cartersville police officer in November fatally shot Joseph Adam Bowlen, a burglary suspect who allegedly attacked an officer responding to the call.
In December, 34-year-old Holly Gooch, who allegedly wielded a hammer injuring one deputy on the hand, was shot and killed by two deputies attempting to serve a warrant on an armed robbery suspect. Wesley Alan Doyle, 27, was shot and killed by a BCSO deputy during a March foot chase. Doyle allegedly turned on the law enforcement officer with a gun.
“There’s situations where deadly force is going to have be used. There’s no other way around it. This Taser is just another less lethal version like pepper spray. But when you pepper spray one person, everybody in the room gets pepper sprayed,” Millsap said. “We don’t ever want to have to use deadly force and the instances that we’ve had to use deadly force, we’ve done everything we could do up to that point to not have to, but there’s always going to be situations where [we have to]. Anytime an officer has to use deadly force, it’s a tragedy.”