Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ft. Lee Cops Will Join List of Agencies with Tasers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ft. Lee Cops Will Join List of Agencies with Tasers

Article excerpt

Seven years after New Jersey became the last state in the country to legalize Tasers, no law enforcement agency in Bergen County was using them until this summer.

But now, the Fort Lee Police Department has said it will join a growing list of North Jersey agencies using stun guns. The Bergen County Police Department rolled out Tasers in late July, followed by Leonia last week. And the Fairview police may not be far behind.

Fort Lee will spend $193,370 in confiscated funds to purchase 58 Tasers and hardware. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office will train the 55 officers who will receive them in the next month or two, said Officer Justin Wanco.

"They'll be available on the road at all times of the day and night," said Wanco, the department's firearms range master. The department will keep on hand three spare guns.

The Fort Lee rollout apparently will be the largest in the area. Leonia spent $9,600 on four Tasers, but only one sergeant is carrying the device. The county police authorized two dozen officers to use Tasers. All three departments are using or plan to use Taser X2s, which come equipped with video cameras.

Law enforcement agencies long have expressed interest in Tasers - - guns that shoot barbed probes that electrically shock a person -- as an alternative to more lethal force. But previous restrictions, costs and issues over liability and training kept many departments from placing them in their arsenals. Since the state Attorney General's Office clarified training requirements this year, however, more agencies are coming onboard. "The trend will move toward departments purchasing them," Fairview Police Chief Frank Del Vecchio predicted.

For some time, Del Vecchio considered arming his officers with stun guns but was concerned about the hefty price tag. Each Taser and the necessary hardware cost about $2,000.

But earlier this month, a county SWAT team was called to a Fairview home when an emotionally disturbed man locked himself in a bedroom. After the officers broke in, the man lunged for a knife. They then shouted at him that he would be shocked with a Taser. That was enough to persuade him to surrender.

Del Vecchio now wants to equip his department with at least two Tasers, and he hopes the money for them can come from a technology grant. …

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