The RCIPS purchased 36 of the weapons from USA-based Taser International in September 2012 after receiving close to $5 million in additional funding from the Cayman Islands government in October 2011. The weapons, including mounted video cameras for each Taser weapon, cost about US$71,000.
The weapon, which is considered by US police forces and Taser International to be “less-than-lethal” in terms of the force it can administer, fires two wires charged with 50,000 volt shocks at targets – incapacitating them for a brief period.
Police forces in the US and UK use Taser weapons typically in close-range encounters with criminal suspects where the use of a firearm would be considered excessive. They are also often used to subdue violent or mentally-ill individuals who might do harm to themselves and others.
“It is incumbent upon us to offer less-than-lethal options [to our officers],” said RCIPS Inspector Ian Brellisford. “All officers are routinely issued with baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, but there’s nothing…for want of a better word…the gap that allows for close-quarter dealing with individuals who are violent.
“Taser is designed to give instant incapacitation, and afterwards, instant relief,” Mr. Brellisford said.
A total of 59 police officers from the Uniform Support Group [armed officers], as well as the police Operational Support Group and police officers at the Cayman Brac station have been trained in the use of the devices. Police Commissioner David Baines said they will be used as a specialist weapon, much like firearms, within the police service and that there is no current plan to arm all RCIPS officers with Tasers.
“There’s no immediate plan for that and there’s no funding for that,” Mr. Baines said.
Each Taser weapon records every time it is fired into a computer system which is monitored by police and the records for which are kept by the RCIPS Professional Standards Unit and the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office. Mr. Brellisford said each Taser use is recorded by cameras attached to the weapons to show how they were used in every situation. The computer records cannot be altered, he said.
To demonstrate how the Tasers are used, RCIPS officer Gabe Rabess was used in a demonstration Friday where he acted as a criminal suspect armed with a knife and approached another officer armed with a Taser.
After a series of voice commands, which he ignored as part of the demonstration exercise, Officer Rabess was shot in the back with a 50,000 volt charge from the weapon.
“The only way I can really describe it is experiencing a cramp, imagine that times 1,000 – over your whole body,” Mr. Rabess said.
There have been incidents recorded in the US where individuals have died after being shocked with a Taser, however none of those deaths have been determined to be from direct electrical shock. Rather, those deaths have resulted from heart attacks or respiratory issues, according to coroner’s reports done on the incident.