Waveland aldermen eye whether to re-issue Tasers to police dept.
By Dwayne Bremer
Mar 22, 2013, 16:54
Members of the Waveland Board of Aldermen said Wednesday they may consider reinstating Tasers to police officers, but first, they want to see a new policy and more accountability.
The Waveland police department is the only law enforcement agency on the Mississippi Gulf Coast whose officers do not carry Tasers.
Shortly after taking office in 2010, Waveland Mayor David Garcia stripped the police of their Tasers in response to more than a dozen lawsuits which claimed excessive force and unnecessary use of the stun gun.
In the past three years, the city has resolved all but two of the lawsuits and no additional suits have been filed under Garcia's watch.
Additionally, most of the officers who were named in the Taser lawsuits, are no longer working for Waveland.
Discussion about the Taser Wednesday was prompted when Waveland resident Mikelle Williamson asked the board of aldermen to consider giving the Tasers back to the police officers.
Williamson asked the board of aldermen what they thought of the Tasers and why they have not been reinstated.
Ward Three Alderman Shane Lafontaine said the board supported pulling the Tasers in 2010, and that is the last he had heard of it.
"We all were in agreement at that time," Lafontaine said. "We cannot vote on anything unless it is presented to us. If the chief wants to present us with something then we will look at it."
Ward Four Alderman Mark Kidd said he would like to see more accountability if the Tasers are given back.
"We need to have more oversight and a better policy," Kidd said.
Garcia appeared to be adamantly against giving the Tasers back to police.
"I have been named in 14 lawsuits and I was not even the mayor at the time," Garcia said. "If y'all want to give the Tasers back, then I want the entire board to share the liability. I have had a lot of sleepless nights, worried that I am going to lose my home and everything I worked for."
Williamson said that regardless of whether its a Taser, pepper spray, or a gun, liability is always possible.
"I listen to the scanner app," she said. "I have a newfound respect for what police officers have to do. They need to have this tool."
Ward One Alderman Lili Stahler said she believes the police department has improved its image and accountability in the past three years.
"We had a bad reputation," Stahler said. "It's not the same anymore."
Police Chief Kenny Hurt said he feels the Taser is one of the best tools an officer can have.
He said he will soon be rewriting the department's policy on the use of the Taser.
He said he is unsure if he will ask the board to reinstate the weapon.