The Tasing incident that took place at the University of Florida last week incited national outrage and provoked many questions as to whether or not the UFPD used excessive force.
While UF administrators work out the details on the appropriateness of using the Taser in subduing Andrew Meyer, USF students can rest assured that Tasers will not be used inappropriately on them, as USF University Police do not carry them – at least, not now. Their officers carry only 9-mm guns, expandable batons and pepper spray.
UP officials say budgetary constraints are partly to blame for the delay in getting Tasers – a popular tool lauded for its ability to control subjects while reducing injuries for both the officer and the subject.
“I don’t think there’s a reason for not having them – we just don’t have them,” UP Major John Withrow said. “We’re in the research and development phase right now. They’re not cheap, they’re very expensive.”
Others within UP echoed that sentiment.
“To provide a Taser and the necessary training to every officer would be a good chunk of money,” Lt. Meg Ross, UP Public Information
Ross said she has seen data
indicating that officer injuries and subject injuries decrease when officers are provided with the weapon.
“From what I understand, it would be beneficial with regards to reducing injuries,” she said.
Major Withrow agreed and said Tasers are a key component in reducing struggle without using physical force.
“If you don’t have to use force, it’s likely you’ll reduce injury. If there’s no struggle, there’s no injury. It’s an intermediate weapon,” he said.
Local law enforcement agencies,
including the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office,
“Most of the other local agencies have them. We’re just behind. We’d have to find a way to pay for them … they’re expensive,” Withrow said.
Given the controversy at UF, Withrow said that USFPD is researching advanced Tasers with built-in surveillance technology.
“Some of the models that we’re looking at include an onboard camera on the Taser itself so you have a record of the audio and visual of what happened leading up to the Tasing,” Withrow said.
Lt. Ross said she was unaware of any active research being done on purchasing Tasers and did not believe it was part of any current budget negotiations taking place between UP and the
However, Ross expressed the need for all necessary tools available to them.
“We have had officers involved in shootings, we’ve had officers get shot at and we’ve had officers who have had suspects try to take their guns. Everything that happens at Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office happens here,” she said.