Mississippi Municipal Insurer Takes Aim at Taser Weapons in Training

February 15, 2011

A company that administers an insurance program for county workers injured on the job is discouraging the use of Taser shock weapons in training police officers.

The Mississippi Public Entity Workers’ Compensation Services Inc. says it has received several claims from injuries received from the devices during training.

The use of Tasers during police training is not required by law, the insurance group’s president, Richard Corkern, said in a letter to county sheriffs and county supervisors.

But the leader of the state sheriffs still thinks it’s a good idea to use Tasers in police training.

“I feel it gives officers more respect for the Taser,” Mississippi Sheriffs Association President Joel Thames of Lawrence County told The Clarion Ledger. “They know what it feels like.”

Thames said officers who feel the effect of a stun gun are better able to defend themselves in suits alleging excessive force. “When a lawyer asks if you know what it feels like, an officer can answer, ‘yes,”‘ Thames said.

Hinds County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Pickett said the weapon is a step officers can use before using potentially lethal force on an uncooperative suspect. All officers carrying Tasers must be certified, he said. About three dozen officers with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department carry them, Pickett said.

Pat Cronin, director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy, said the academy does not use the weapons in its training.

Lauderdale County Sheriff Billie Sollie said he made it mandatory only in his department for himself to be hit by a Taser. “It was the most difficult five seconds in my life, but when it was over there was no pain or discomfort,” Sollie said.

Sollie said when the training is conducted with willing deputies, safety precautions are taken. He said the officer being hit wears goggles and two officers are stationed behind each arm to catch him if needed. The officer is shot in the back area instead of the chest, Sollie said.

Sollie said the Taser is one of the best law enforcement tools in the last 15 years.

“It’s not only a tool to bring violent offenders to justice, it prevents police-assisted suicide,” Sollie said.

Corken said that he has received a lot of feedback from sheriffs– and most of the claims have been for minor injuries such as aggravation of a pre-existing condition or someone falling after being stunned and hitting their head.

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