The introduction of Taser electric shock weapons among specially-trained officers within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has raised some questions about what the 50,000-volt “stun guns” will be used for.
Inspector Ian Brellisford, who is in charge of firearms training for the police Uniform Support Group, said the decision to “go live” with the electric shock weapons on Monday was the result of several months of intense training and preparation for officers in the USG, as well as special operations and Cayman Brac officers.
The idea, Mr. Brellisford said, was to give local police an option “in the gap” where use of pepper spray or batons would not resolve the situation, but the use of firearms would be considered excessive force. In no situation would an police service officer try to take down a suspect holding a firearm with a stun gun.
However, there have been a few fairly recent incidents where the use of a Taser weapon might have saved local police some trouble and helped to resolve the situation better, Inspector Brellisford said. He gave examples of those cases, as well as other incidents where Tasers would not have been deployed. One Sunday morning in 2010, the Uniform Support Group was sent to a report of a domestic assault.
“There was a male threatening with a knife,” Mr. Brellisford said. “He’d taken a 5-month-old child and he was threatening the wife in the apartment.”
This situation was happening inside a home at close quarters, not giving police much room to manoeuvre. At one point, the armed suspect left the child behind and came at police officers with a knife, Mr. Brellisford said.
It worked. The man with the knife was incapacitated and taken down by police.
“Unfortunately, cross-contamination affects a 5-month-old-child, the woman and the police officer who ends up lying on the ground vomiting,” Inspector Brellisford said. “The end result is that there’s a successful conclusion to that particular incident. But … that would have been an obvious deployment where a Taser could have been used.”
In early 2009, officers were confronted with another touchy situation in West Bay.
A schizophrenic man waving a machete around had taken a few swings at a K9 officer, Mr. Brellisford said. After a lengthy search for the suspect, police with the Uniform Support Group were dispatched.
“Eventually … we found him and USG officers again deployed,” the inspector said. “We were faced with a situation with a male who would just not engage us in any form of negotiation. We had a crowd of bystanders who had gathered to watch what was going on.”
The day was too windy use pepper spray and police were concerned the man could “break out” of his contained position toward the crowd of on-lookers. If he had done so, Mr. Brellisford said it was possible that USG officers may have had to shoot him.
Fortunately, the man was kept contained and what might be described as “plan B” used.
“We were able to find another way of dealing with it; some judicious use of the helicopter which flew very low and provided a distraction,” he said. “We were able to rush the individual at the end. The incident went on for four hours in WB, caused disruption to the community. Had we had Taser it could have been sorted … very quickly.” This doesn’t mean that in every incident from now on, USG or special operations officers will use Taser “stun guns” simply to end a situation quickly.
Mr. Brellisford said police officers certainly haven’t been trigger happy with firearms in the past; in fact the last police shooting incident to occur in Grand Cayman was in October 2008 during a chase when police tried to shoot out a suspect vehicle’s tyres. Similarly, with Taser weapons, Mr. Brellisford said police will always prefer the “non-lethal” route of negotiation when dealing with suspects.
“I would much rather … try and talk someone down than just go in there and end it quickly,” he said.
One example of armed officers’ restraint occurred last year on Shedden Road, when police were confronted by a man waving around what turned out to be a toy gun.
“[USG officers] were given the authority to deploy with [rifles],” Mr. Brellisford said. “From my understanding of that particular incident, it was immediately obvious that [the gun] was a replica.”