Florence council considers funding taser guns for police

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Florence Township municipal officials heard a Police Chief Brian Boldizar propose funding for a vital piece of equipment that his officers lack compared to other municipalities–taser guns.

The Florence Township Council listed to the request of Chief Boldizar during a work session that was held on Feb. 13.

Boldizar pointed out to the council members that the Florence Police Department is one of few townships in Burlington County where officers are not equipped with taser guns.

Although Boldizar said he had presented the issue in the past about attaining them for the department, he noted at the meeting that this is something the council “seriously needs to consider” for funding this year.

In the event of an arrest, Boldizar said that officers equipped only with a hand gun instead and no taser gun can pose as a major, and sometimes fatal, threat to uncompromising suspects.

“In a life threatening situation, officers have to quickly make a decision as to whether they’re going to pull their handgun out or hold a taser, which is a tough decision,” Boldizar said. “We didn’t feel it appropriate to put the officers in that position where they have to make that decision, and it could ultimately get them hurt.”

In lieu of police officials being dealt with a fatal or non-fatal decision at the expense of the suspect’s life as well as an officer’s in the event of a violent, unruly arrest, Boldizar displayed example footage from other departments where police that fired a taser gun or had shown the very sight of it can prove to subdue altercations within moments.

“We want to give an officer the opportunity to deescalate a situation with a taser before it gets to a life threatening situation,” Boldizar said. “A lot of times, from what we hear from other departments, as soon as you pull that taser out, it deescalates the situation very quickly – even without firing it. What we’re allowing the officers to do is that prior to getting into a deadly, forced situation, we’re allowing them, by a taser, to deescalate it before it gets out of hand.”

Given that the Florence police are yet to be equipped with taser guns, Boldizar said that the added pressure of firing a handgun can not only pose as a fatal risk to suspects, but potentially post-traumatic stress on officers as well, sometimes compelling them to leave the force.

“The worst situation an officer can have is a deadly, forced situation. You have not only the liability of lawsuits, but the mental health of the officer [too],” he said. “You may lose that officer. If they use a deadly, forced situation – it’s a very rare situation that the officer comes back [to the force].”

After Boldizar gave his presentation, he was met with multiple questions from the council members.

Their questions costs for the taser guns, the exact amount/quantity the department would need and further explanation from Boldizar in regards to the training process for officers to effectively utilize the weapon.

Councilman Jerry Sandusky questioned as to whether or not each officer would be equipped with one or if multiple tasers can be transferred shift-to-shift.

Twelve tasers were requested by Boldizar, which would allow one for the department’s school resource officer, detectives and officers out on patrol to then be transferred shift-to-shift.

With further explanation in regards to training, Boldizar said that if the council were to grant funding for the taser guns soon, officers would go through several rounds of training and that he would anticipate the whole department to be trained by the fall of this year.

The council members thanked Boldizar for his in-depth presentation and explanation toward the benefits of the department having taser guns in order to better protect the officers as well as the people, to which township administrator Richard Brook said that the council will consider setting aside funds for the equipment in this year’s budget.

“It’s good for the community, and it’s an excellent tool for the department,” Brook said.