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Police order 102 Tasers and body cams

Courtesy photo Medford police are spending more than $1 million on new Tasers and body cams.

Medford police will spend more than $1 million on an arsenal of next generation Tasers that fly straighter and are more effective at penetrating loose clothing.

Police will order 102 Tasers and 102 body cameras after July 1, when the city’s new budget takes effect.

The new Tasers will replace 85 existing Tasers and cameras in the police armory and will also be issued to code enforcement and community service officers, who currently don’t have them on their belt.

“The new Tasers are going to be yellow instead of black now,” said Medford police Chief Scott Clauson.

Having a yellow color will help identify them as Tasers as opposed to handguns, particularly useful if there’s a scuffle and they drop to the ground.

Another feature of the new Tasers is less chance of ricochet.

Taser 7, the latest iteration of the nonlethal means to take down an unruly suspect, sends out two darts that attach to a target and briefly render the person incapacitated. The new models also have two cartridges instead of one in the current versions.

Medford police use Tasers an average of 53 times a year.

Clauson said officers use Tasers far more frequently than handguns on most calls, particularly if a suspect doesn’t have a gun or doesn’t have the ability to inflict injury on the officer.

“It’s a less lethal option,” Clauson said.

Officers generally don’t like using pepper spray because the spray can be inhaled by officers.

Apparently suspects prefer Tasers even though it is an overwhelmingly shocking experience.

“People have commented they prefer to be Tased rather than pepper-sprayed,” Clauson said. “I would generally agree with that.”

If the darts in a Taser touch skin, it will generally subdue most people, Clauson said.

The problem is that the darts don’t always hit their target or don’t penetrate thick clothing. Clauson said it can also be difficult to hit a moving target.

Along with the new equipment, police are going to get a lot of cloud storage for all the video data that is accumulated by officers in the field.

The cost for the Tasers, body cameras and video storage is $1,072,239.84.

The videos, which also capture sound, are used by lawyers, the courts, the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office and help determine the accuracy of someone’s account of an arrest.

“We have found citizen complaints have dropped significantly because of the videos,” Clauson said. “It helps verify somebody’s story.”

Medford police were one of the first agencies in the state to use body cameras back in 2016. Clauson noted that Portland police still don’t use body cameras.

Axon, the company providing the Tasers and body cameras, will hold on to the video for as long as necessary.

In the case of a murder investigation, the video must be retained for 99 years, but most cases require three years, Clauson said.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.