Area police departments have similar policies for Tasers

Courtesy photoTaser model 7 CQ, typical of what might be used by a police officer.

NEWBURYPORT — Only moments before a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer fatally shot an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop Sunday, she could be heard shouting, "Taser! Taser!" in body camera footage released Monday. 

Identifying that an officer is about to use a Taser to stun a person is part of the Newburyport Police Department's four-hour training course required each year, according to Taser training Officer Shawn Eaton.

The white Minnesota officer, Kim Potter, killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center after shooting him with her handgun at close range instead of using her Taser. Potter, a 26-year veteran police officer, resigned from the force Tuesday along with Brooklyn Center police Chief Tim Gannon.

Tasers, which emit a high-voltage electrical charge that can incapacitate a person for several minutes, have been part of officers' gear for years. But each police department has its own regulations as included in its use-of-force policy. 

The same rings true at the three largest police departments in Greater Newburyport — but there are similarities, too. 

Officers in each department are required to undergo yearly training led by a certified training officer. Also, Tasers are worn well away from their firearms, forcing officers to "cross-draw" to grab the Taser.

And, like Newburyport officers, Amesbury and Salisbury police are trained to announce when they are about to use a Taser. 

There are some differences in the Tasers used by area police. Salisbury officers are equipped with yellow Tasers, while Amesbury and Newburyport police use black Tasers. In Salisbury and Newburyport, Taser holsters are located on utility belts, while in Amesbury the devices are attached to the chest area of vests each officer wears. 

Salisbury police Lt. Richard Dellaria called yellow Tasers "highly visible."

"Not only so officers but the public can differentiate them from firearms," Dellaria said. 

Officers new to using a Taser are often shot with one so they understand its properties and learn methods to remain effective if shocked. 

Amesbury police Chief Craig Bailey said police officers receive training from three officers annually – a use-of-force officer, a firearms specialist officer and a certified Taser officer. Officers practice shooting Tasers twice a year, which include a trip to a nearby firing range.

Newburyport police train in the Green Street station's basement. The basement also features a Taser range, albeit it is smaller than an outdoor one, according to Eaton. 

Eaton said officers use training cartridges and shoot at stationary targets as well as at fellow officers wearing protective gear during what he called "scenario-based training." 

In Minnesota, Wright's killing sparked immediate outrage and led to protests that harkened back to May when thousands took to the streets to protest the police-involved killing of George Floyd in neighboring Minneapolis, only a few miles away. 

While Bailey and other area police officials declined to comment on the tragic event near Minneapolis, Bailey said if any new Taser recommendations arise as a result, he would embrace them. 

"I'm very comfortable with our training," Bailey added. 

Newburyport City Marshal Mark Murray said ever since his department began using Tasers, there have been no reported problems or incidents that would lead to a change in their use. 

Dave Rogers is a staff writer with The Daily News. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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