Penn State Berks police add standard tool for campus, community safety

Penn State Berks Police has announced the implementation of Tasers for trained police officers. Tasers, which use an electrical impulse to briefly immobilize violent or resisting suspects, provide a safer option for arresting individuals who are clearly at risk of harming themselves or others. The devices, commonly carried by police nationwide, were implemented by Penn State University Park police officers on Feb. 24, 2015. Penn State Berks is the first campus outside University Park to adopt the Tasers, and they will be carried at most of Penn State?s other campus locations later this year. Officers at Penn State?s Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport already carry Tasers; all sworn officers at the University already carry firearms.

?The protection of our students, faculty and staff, as well as our officers, is a priority for University Police and Public Safety. The issuance of Tasers addresses a gap between our current options which include chemical spray, a baton, and a firearm," states Penn State Berks Police Chief Kevin Rudy. "Hopefully, we never have to use any of these devices. However, if our officers find themselves in a situation where someone is violent and cannot be controlled, the option of a Taser is now available as a viable alternative both for the safety of the officer and the subject."

Starting in October, Penn State Berks Police held Taser training. All officers who carry Tasers are required to complete a rigorous course conducted by a certified trainer, and are required to complete annual refresher training.

Tasers are used by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Pennsylvania State Police.

Independent studies (see references below) have shown the use of Tasers to be as safe as or safer than other use-of-force methods available to law enforcement. The devices also have been shown to reduce the odds of injury for both officers and suspects who might otherwise be hurt in a physical confrontation. Often, just the existence of and presentation of a Taser is enough to de-escalate what could otherwise become a violent situation.

Penn State Berks Police officers will only be authorized to use a Taser on subjects who are resisting arrest or are threatening to harm themselves or others. Officers are prohibited from using the devices against compliant or passively resisting individuals. A subject will never be threatened with the use of a Taser unless the officer would be justified in using the device.

In all cases, the use of a Taser will require thorough evaluation of its use by a supervising officer. Emergency medical personnel also will respond to the scene whenever Taser probes are deployed to offer a medical evaluation to the subject.

Each device functions as a small computer, and provides officers with a detailed activation record that will be referenced after each use. In accordance with University safety policy SY12, it is illegal for anyone other than a trained, sworn officer to carry a Taser on University property.

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