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Berkeley Police Renew Call for Tasers After Knife-Wielding Man Incident

The Berkeley Police Association, the bargaining unit representing Berkeley police officers, reaffirmed its call for Tasers today, Wednesday, following an incident last week when a knife-wielding man nearly killed himself.

A Taser electric stun gun. Patch file photo
A Taser electric stun gun. Patch file photo
The Berkeley Police Association reiterated its request for Tasers today, Wednesday, citing an incident last week where a knife-wielding man came close to killing himself with self-inflicted wounds.

A statement from the association – the bargaining unit representing all Berkeley police officers except the chief – said if police had been equipped with the electric stun guns in the encounter, the victim "would have been safely disarmed, taken out of harm's way and transported to a place where he could get help."

The incident occurred last Wednesday when police were called to a home where a mentally ill man was threatening to kill himself, the association said.

The association held a press conference in May to release results of a public survey showing support for Tasers. 

Berkeley is in a tiny minority of police agencies in Northern California not allowed to have Tasers, the association said. "Berkeley is one of only three law enforcement agencies out of 113 in the Bay Area that does not use tasers or is not currently investigating their use," the group's statement said.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the matter "is a Berkley Police Association issue" and that he cannot comment on it.

Patch also asked for a response from Mayor Tom Bates' office.

Here is the full statement from the Berkeley Police Association:

Victim Nearly Succumbs to Self Inflicted Knife Wounds
Berkeley Police Association President Says Community Member’s Near Suicide Could Have Been Prevented if Police Officers had Tasers

 
Berkeley-Last Wednesday, Berkeley police officers answered a call to a home where a man suffering from a mental illness was threatening to slit his throat with a knife. Upon arriving to the property, the man had possession of at least two knives, threatening to end his life. Every attempt was made to negotiate with the community member to
calm him down and to get him to release the knives. It became clear that the the suffering man was not going to release the knives, presenting a grave danger to himself, to members of the public at the scene, and to our police officers. 

If this had been been any one of the 100 cities in Northern California whose police officers are authorized to use tasers, this suffering community member would have been safely disarmed, taken out of harm's way and transported to a place where he could get help. That is not what happened. The man stabbed himself repeatedly causing massive trauma, and life threatening injuries. Police officers on the scene applied battlefield medicine techniques to stop the bleeding, ultimately saving the community member’'s life.

"If Berkeley police had tasers, we could have safely disarmed this mentally ill man and prevented the multiple knife wounds he inflicted on himself," said Sergeant Chris Stines, President of the Berkeley Police Association. "Tasers save lives and would have allowed us to take this man into custody unharmed so he could get the help he needed."

Stines said that Berkeley Police Officers often find themselves on dangerous calls when a person is threatening to hurt him/herself, another person and other innocent victims. According to Stines, last week an officer received a broken hand as a result of a confrontation on a call and will be out for some time as a result of the injury. The use of a taser could have prevented this officer's injury and suffering, and in the process, saved the City money.

"Being able to use a taser as an alternative to physical force, saves injuries to both the subjects and the police officers on the call, on top of protecting the public," Stines added. "It also lowers the costs to the City for injuries and lawsuits."

Berkeley is one of only three law enforcement agencies out of 113 in the Bay Area that does not use tasers or is not currently investigating their use. In a survey of Berkeley citizens last March, 83% of the respondents indicated that they support the Berkeley Police Department investigating the use of tasers to deter and control violent individuals when negotiating will not work.

"If our officer at the scene had the use of a taser, this community member would be getting the help he needed right now instead of fighting for his life at a local hospital because of his knife wounds," Stines said.  "I dread the day we say if only we had tasers we could have saved that person's life."

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For other police-related news on Berkeley Patch, see our "Police and Fire" section.    
Paul D September 27, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Berkeley cops ask for tasers after knife incident. Fast forward after Berkeley cops get tasers because of knife incident. Berkeley cops use tasers on person waiting for bus... "he was resisting.." Berkeley cops use tasers on bicycling student... "she was resisting..." Berkeley cops use tasers on elderly woman... "she was resisting..." Don't open the door to these things without fully understanding how they will ultimately be used.

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