AN OFFICER WRITES: My opinion of Attorney General Dow’s authorization for New Jersey law enforcement officers to carry Tasers? On balance, it’s a good thing. Why? I was a young cop back in 1984 when the tragic case of Eleanor Bumpers came to play out in New York City….
Ms. Bumpers was a rather large and violent woman who had many run-ins with the New York City Police Department over many years when she would go off her medication. When Bumpers stopped paying rent, the City of New York decided to evict her from her rent-subsidized apartment. But she threatened violence and barricaded herself inside.Sgt. Michael P. Barry
When the NYPD arrived, the sergeant in charge followed protocol and requested the ESU (Emergency Services Unit). Officers from ESU responded, along with a heavy weapons team, as is required by the patrol guide. Mr. Bumpers attacked them with a chef’s carving knife, knocked one officer to the floor, then straddled him as she raised the knife to stab him.
ESU police officer Steve Sullivan fired two rounds from his shotgun, killing her.
The ensuing trial against the officer was a farce, as the District Attorney’s Office argued that PO Sullivan should have fired only once, seeing as how that first round took off the hand that was holding the knife.
Jurors listened, however, when the officer explained that we are instructed to ALWAYS fire two rounds and that it was not clear which round took off her hand and which was fatal. The officer was properly acquitted, as he should have been, but one salient fact remains: Had a Taser been on scene and IF the officers were able to deploy it, Eleanor Bumpers may be alive today.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and Tasers do not work on all people. So deadly force may, in the end, have been necessary even with the Taser. But the real point is that it is preferable to have an additional weapon on scene to deploy in the hope that the subject you are Tasing is one of the 99.9% of the population that it works on.
As with any tool, training is the key. Part of that training is to direct the location of the Taser on an officer’s gun belt. Recently I reviewed the sad case of a police officer who was in a violent confrontation with a suspect in Chicago when the officer reached for his Taser and inadvertently drew his handgun — then discharged the weapon at the suspect.
The officer was ultimately convicted of criminally negligent homicide — clearly a tragedy for all.
For that exact reason, Port Authority Police Officers are trained to carry pepper spray on the OPPOSITE side of their gun belts as their firearm.
In a recent Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) meeting, we were informed that the Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Department was planning to issue Tasers to supervisors and to mandate that the weapon be present at all calls for EDP’s (Emotionally Disturbed Persons.) I believe this is an excellent idea, because many EDP’s are armed or have access to weapons in close proximity to where the incident takes place and are often in a provoked mental state at the time law enforcement intervenes.
ALSO SEE: State Attorney General Paula Dow has finally given New Jersey police the authority to use Tasers as a “realistic” alternative to deadly force – provided the weapons have digital cameras. But, realistically: How often can officers use them? READ MORE….
Having a sergeant on scene, with a Taser, while officers attempt to ameliorate the situation or “talk the subject down,” gives us an added tool BEFORE we employ deadly force, should that become necessary.
The application of any weapon that can bring a violent incident to a successful conclusion, absent a deadly weapon, is a win-win for all.
That’s just my opinion…
Sgt. Michael P. Barry #195
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department
SBA Delegate – PATH