Isle of Palms police have been authorized to purchase more than a dozen Tasers, gun-shaped devices capable of delivering an incapacitating jolt of electricity.
Mayor Dick Cronin said officers faced incidents in recent months that placed them in danger because of trouble restraining an individual.
Tasers have proven their worth to law enforcement during more than a decade of use, Cronin said.
When the Tasers might be deployed on the island has yet to be determined, he said.
Police will buy the Tasers in the spring. The department will have an officer in charge of Taser training who will work closely with the manufacturer, Cronin said.
On Thursday night, City Council awarded a contract to purchase 17 Tasers for nearly $16,000. The vote was unanimous, said Councilman Ryan Buckhannon.
Use of Tasers results in fewer officer injuries and lower insurance rates for municipalities, he said.
"People are getting more violent," Buckhannon said.
Councilman Mike Loftus said the Taser can be a useful tool for an officer facing a situation such as a struggle with a drug addict not in his right mind. The alternative could be use of a firearm, he said.
"This is a much better way to try to control someone. It's technology that has proven to be effective," Loftus said.
The Taser uses compressed nitrogen to fire two dart-like electrodes up to 35 feet. The electrodes are connected by wires to the battery-powered gun that transmits an electric charge resulting in loss of muscle control. Five seconds of being Tasered is on average equal to receiving less than one volt of electricity, according to the manufacturer's website.
In one study by Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 99.8 percent of 1,201 suspects who were Tasered received only bruises or scrapes, or they were uninjured, the manufacturer says.
Folly Beach has outfitted its officers with Tasers for several years, said Assistant Police Chief Andrew Gilreath.
"I find that they are a very viable, less-lethal option when confronted with combative subjects," he said.
"Each time I have deployed my Taser, the suspect decided that they no longer wished to be combative and they were taken into custody without further incident," Gilreath said in an e-mail.
Folly officers receive certified training in the proper use of the weapon before being allowed to carry it, he said.
Hand-to-hand combat with a person resisting arrest may result in an officer losing control of his gun or baton, he said.
Folly police have 18 Tasers, he said.
Sullivan's Island has trained its officers in the use of Tasers, but Town Council has yet to make a decision on whether to purchase them, said Town Administrator Andy Benke.
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