Tasers are Mount Shasta Police Department's newest tool

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Police chief Parish Cross displays one of the department’s two new tasers, which should be in service in the next month. Equipped with state-of-the-art audio and video capability that automatically begins working when the safety is turned off, Cross said the new equipment will increase safety for officers and provide a non-lethal way to subdue individuals in the rare instance a suspect becomes combative.

They might look like a  child’s plastic squirt gun, but the Mount Shasta Police Department’s two new tasers are not a toy.

Though MSPD chief Parish Cross doesn’t anticipate their use very often, he said the acquisition of the new tools will help ensure officer safety.

“We live in a very safe community, but on the rare occasion officers need to go hands-on, these will be very effective,” said Cross on Monday morning while explaining how the tasers work.

The bright yellow tasers are loaded with a cartridge containing cylindrical probes, which can pierce skin through clothing.

Electrical bursts can then be sent via thin wires connected to the barbs, but officers control when and if the bursts are administered, Cross explained.

Whenever the taser’s safety is turned off, an audio and video recorder is automatically engaged. Documentation of the incident will help hold officers accountable, Cross said.

The audio and video will be downloaded and kept as evidence, and a monthly audit of the weapon will be conducted, Cross said. Every time the safety is even flicked off momentarily, that action will be recorded.

Officer Chris Stock was recently sent to an extensive training in the new technology, Cross said. Stock is in the process of training the other officers, and the tasers should go into service at by next month.

All together, the tasers cost about $5,000, said Cross, including the equipment, warranties and training. All that cost was covered by Citizens’ Option for Public Safety program grant funding and approved by the Mount Shasta City Council.

Over the past few years, Cross said there has been a slight increase in officers needing to go “hands-on” to subdue a subject.

He pointed to one incident in particular last summer, in which a golf club-wielding suspect sent three Mount Shasta City Fire Department volunteers and two police officers to the emergency room with injuries when they attempted to physically subdue him.

“If we had had tasers then, that incident would probably have been a non-incident,” said Cross. “Often just letting them a subject know we have a taser will do the trick.”

A new lengthy section of guidelines and procedures pertaining to the proper usage of tasers has been added to the MSPD’s policy manual, which specifies when the weapons can be used, verbal and visual warnings, reasonableness of force, special deployment considerations, and when or if multiple applications of the taser can be used.

The officers will check out one of the two tasers when they go on duty, and return the weapon when their shift is over.

Cross said the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol already use tasers and have found them highly effective.