WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita’s new police chief thinks newer Tasers could help police officers avoid pulling their guns.
“We’re always going to be open to looking at any type of new technology that gives our officers another opportunity to keep themselves safe, to keep the public safe, and to not have to transition into lethal or deadly force,” Chief Joe Sullivan, Wichita Police Department, said.
On Tuesday, he invited members of the department and other departments to see what a newer Taser could mean for the Wichita Police Department.
Wichita officers currently use the Taser X2, a model released in 2011. In January, Axon, the company that makes it, released its latest version, the Taser 10.
Axon representatives say its newest Taser holds 10 probes at a time. The X2 only has two.
“This deals with a lot of the negative side of the existing Taser, which is that you basically have one shot, and if that doesn’t work, often officers have to quickly transition into a lethal option,” the police chief said. “This gives us the ability to have multiple opportunities to control a violent individual.”
Axon said the Taser 10 has a range of 45 feet, compared to the Taser X2 range of 25 feet.
“It … gives us the opportunity to be even farther away from the subject, and that’s what we impress upon our officers, to find cover, to maintain your distance, to take your time, to utilize talk and sound tactics before resorting to the use of deadly force, and this increases the officers’ ability to do all of those things,” Sullivan said.
The company said the Taser 10’s single probes are also more effective.
“I have fired this weapon in Washington D.C. at the Major City Chiefs Conference, and I was very impressed with its accuracy and with the distance from which you can fire it,” Sullivan said. “Anything we can do when we have a citizen in crisis to maintain that distance and give officers additional options to use a less lethal means of force, we’re going to do that.”
He does not know how much it would cost to arm officers with newer Tasers. But, if the Police Department wants them, Sullivan will have to take the idea to the city manager and the Wichita City Council.
“For today, we just wanted to see it for ourselves to ensure that it’s consistent with the values of the department and, so far, I’m happy with what I’m seeing,” he said.
Sullivan also liked the virtual reality training option that Axon offers.
“It’s not enough to simply buy technology,” he said. “The virtual reality has the potential to give us the opportunity for officers to train while still in their primary assignments, meaning the ability to bring officers in off the street for regular but very short training, vignettes if you will, and then they’ll be able to return to service.”
Axon representatives said VR training allows officers to practice hundreds of times without the cost of buying hundreds of probes.
“Repetition is important, and this again would give us the opportunity, without really having a negative impact on manpower on the street, to be able to quickly pull officers off the street, run them through a quick but important training scenario and allow them to return back to their assignment,” Sullivan said.
He said the VR training scenarios include essential lessons for officers.
“It speaks to dealing with people in mental health crisis, and people with PTSD, so everything is very synergistic in that it works together.”
Sullivan said officers use Tasers frequently and, for the most part, successfully.
“But there have been incidents here and in other cities and even where I come from in Philadelphia where … they’ve fired that single cartridge unit, and you don’t, you’re too close, you’re too far away, you don’t get the correct spread, one of the prongs misses, then it’s really not an option to remove a cartridge and replace it. You don’t have that kind of time,” he said.
Sullivan said he does not have a timeline on when the department might get the newer models.
“At this point, we’re considering it,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate it. It would require intense testing to make sure that the products function as designed and function as promised.”
The chief invited other departments to watch the Axon demonstration. So, members of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement officers from St. Charles County, Missouri, attended the event.