New Jersey AG Approves Stun Guns For Officers

The state lifts its ban on the less-lethal weapons, and releases guidelines for officers. It had been the only state in the nation with the prohibition.

New Jersey's attorney general has approved the use of stun guns and other electronic-control devices for law enforcement officers, according to the office.

Along with the approval, Attorney General Anne Milgram also issued a supplemental use-of-force policy that allows the stun guns to be used in limited circumstances involving emotionally disturbed individuals.

"This is the first time in this state that officers are going to be authorized to carry and use stun guns in any capacity," Milgram said in a statement. "Given this important shift in policy, it is prudent to have a limited initial deployment that provides for adequate controls, training and accountability measures so that we can evaluate the use of such devices."

State Police Benevolent Association president Anthony Wieners, who represents 33,000 police officers, told that the policy is too restrictive and fails to give the state's police officers enough access to nonlethal force.

"With proper training, it should be able to be used like any other tool the officers are provided with, like a baton or pepper spray," he said.

The policy also limits the number of patrol officers per agency which could carry electronic control devices. There is no limit on the number of devices for SWAT and other emergency response teams.

Officers who wish to carry a stun gun must also complete a Police Training Commission-approved course and obtain authorization from his or her department's chief executive.

Milgram's office also issued a litany of restrictions about how the devices can be used.

Stun guns can't be used as a "pain compliance" device or in a situation where a person refuses to comply with an officer's order to move, or get on the ground, or exit a vehicle.

The use of the electronic devices is also prohibited if an individual is handcuffed or in a moving vehicle and should not be used to prevent someone from committing property damage or fleeing a scene, accordign to the policy.

The devices also "should not be directed against a person who is situated on an elevated surface, such as a ledge or near a precipice, unless reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or minimize a fall-related injury."

And lastly, the stun guns also could not be used with the gun in direct contact with a person, a condition known as "drive stun mode."

Even with these restrictions, TASER welcomed the approval by Milgram's office.

"This is a huge step forward for law enforcement in New Jersey," said Tom Smith, TASER's chairman and founder. "The expectations during this initial phase are that New Jersey law enforcement agencies will begin to experience reductions in officer and suspect injuries, and municipalities will reduce their risk liability with savings in working compensations and legal costs."

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