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Jonesboro police chief: ‘Our tasers are malfunctioning’

City council approves purchase of 12 stun gun replacements

— JONESBORO — Eight of the Jonesboro Police Department’s 12 tasers are in various stages of breaking down because they are getting too old, according to police Chief Franklin Allen.

Some of the devices won’t recharge, he said. He added others won’t hold a recharge long enough to last through a police officer’s shift. Still, others jam and won’t discharge a shock when needed to subdue an uncooperative suspect.

All but one of the city’s tasers are at least seven years old, according to Allen, and some have been in the city’s inventory for a decade. The newest taser in the inventory is a year old, said the chief. He added Taser International, the company which makes the devices, warns police departments that the tasers have a shelf life of five years before they begin to break down.

“They’re just old and they’re starting to malfunction,” said Allen. “We don’t want to get into a situation where we need it and it doesn’t work properly.”

The Jonesboro City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve spending a total of $12,732 in funding provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to replace 10 tasers for the police department.

The group of new tasers requested was higher than the number of reported malfunctioning tasers because there are two bought a decade ago which — while they are not yet malfunctioning — could begin to break down soon, according to Allen. He added Taser International is conducting a buy-back drive, where they will buy old tTasers back from police departments.

Jonesboro will get $260 for each taser the company buys back, if the city participates in the program, said Allen.

Allen said the department took stock of the age of its tasers after a recent incident where an officer tried to use his device on a suspect who tried to physically resist arrest. During a fight between the officer and the suspect, “the taser malfunctioned,” he said.

While not outright endorsing the purchase, Mayor Joy Day did express support for the idea of updating the department’s taser inventory on grounds that it would improve safety.

“It keeps our officers safe, and it keeps them from having to shoot someone,” said Day.

Council member Randy Segner told Allen the request piqued the curiosity of some residents who believed the police department bought several tasers last year.

“Was this not attended to last year?” said Segner.

Allen told Segner the only request he took to the council in 2011 was only for one additional taser because the department had one officer who couldn’t be assigned a device because all of them had already been assigned. “Never before have I bought a mass order like this,” the police chief said.

Allen also told Segner there were only “six to eight” recorded instances where Jonesboro officers deployed their tasers on a suspect between July 2011 and July 2012.

Council member Pat Sebo said that was more than enough to justify the officers having tasers.

“One time is sufficient if it saved a life,” said Sebo.