JPD Quarterly Report Released: Increase in Taser Use in Use of F - KOAM TV 7

JPD Quarterly Report Released: Increase in Taser Use in Use of Force


The Joplin police department releases its quarterly use of force report which now includes race information at the community's request.

But this report also showed a bigger use of tasers.

Sergeant Austin Wolf is an officer on the streets who says deciding to use force depends on a number of factors when trying to take a suspect into custody. He said, "The largest factor is the number of offenders versus  how many officers we have on the scene initially. Some of the other factors we're dealing with is the person compliant, does the person pose a threat of violent risk to the officers or the public."

The report includes a total of thirty-nine use of force incidents between July and September. Verbal direction was  used first thirty-two times,
the number times tasers were used went up to fourteen compared to five last year at the same time, while control holds went down from sixteen cases  to six.

Sgt. Wolf said, "My personal opinion with the taser is, if I can avoid the prolonged struggle, I’m going to use a taser."

JPD Chief Matt Stewart said, "It’s just that they’re using a taser as opposed to using something else. I think a part of that may go into the climate of law enforcement right now. Ambush killings of law enforcement are up one hundred sixty-seven percent this year compared to last year.  Obviously when you use a taser it’s safer for the officer and it’s safer for the citizen as well."

Officers say the key to making a choice to using a taser is avoiding injury.

Sgt. Wolf explained, “I've had a dislocated shoulder. I’ve had torn rotator cuffs and those are very common injuries among officers  across the nation when we have to go hands on with people.”

The report indicates force was used in cases with thirty-two white suspects, six who were black and one Hispanic.
Citizens asked race be included after a town hall meeting where racial profiling was discussed. Something the chief says the numbers disprove.
Chief Stewart said use of force is suspect driven. "It’s not based upon the color of your skin, religious background, what gender they are, it’s based on  their actions and that's when the officer makes the decision as to what type force to use."

The department also tracks how many times officers pointed their weapon at suspects. That was fifteen times this quarter.  The chief says there are different justifications for using a weapon or  lethal force, than non-lethal  force like a taser.

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