|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced that the Attorney General’s Office is providing $1 million in funding to assist law enforcement agencies in purchasing stun guns, which can serve as a lifesaving alternative to deadly force in certain crisis situations.
While there currently are more than 400 conducted energy devices – commonly known as “stun guns” – deployed by law enforcement agencies across New Jersey, including police departments in most counties, county prosecutors and police chiefs have indicated that the high cost of stun guns is a primary reason why the devices are not being utilized in greater numbers. The cost of a state-approved stun gun, with accessories and related equipment, is approximately $2,500.
By distributing $1 million to qualifying agencies over the next year through the county prosecutors’ offices, the Attorney General’s Office will effectively reduce the cost of stun guns so police departments can increase the number of devices available to their officers, and more departments can acquire them. The $1 million is being provided by the Division of Criminal Justice using criminal forfeiture funds.
“A stun gun can save a life when an officer can safely use it as an alternative to deadly force to control a person who is threatening violence against himself or others. That is why police and the mental health community have long urged deployment of these devices,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By providing a million dollars in funding, we will greatly increase the number of these devices in the hands of officers and the likelihood that lives will be spared.”
The Attorney General’s Office also is taking steps to make it more convenient to train and re-qualify officers in use of the devices by making more trainers available, easing re-qualification requirements and allowing use of a Firearms Training Simulator, or FATS machine, for training. Officers will be required to re-qualify with the device just once a year, rather than twice a year as previously dictated.
“We are working hard to provide law enforcement officers in New Jersey with every tool available to carry out their crucial mission of protecting lives,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Police departments face serious demands on their time and resources, and this funding and these new rules will ease the burdens involved in equipping and training officers with stun guns.”
County prosecutors will have until Dec. 31, 2014 to submit requests for funding on behalf of law enforcement agencies within their counties, with funds per county capped as follows: $30,000 for counties with up to 200,000 people; $40,000 for counties with up to 400,000 people; $50,000 for counties with up to 600,000 people; and $60,000 for counties with more than 600,000 people.
For each department requesting funds, the prosecutor must provide information about the crime rate in the locality, the need for stun guns, and the department’s plan for deploying the devices. All equipment purchases utilizing the Division of Criminal Justice forfeiture funds must be made by June 30, 2015.
Funding under this program will not cover the full cost of a stun gun. Instead, the funds will offset the cost of stun guns and related equipment on a sliding scale, consistent with funding goals. One goal is to reward departments that previously invested their own funds to buy stun guns. A second goal is to address the needs of agencies that bought Karbon Arms stun guns that no longer are certified for use in the state. Currently two devices are approved for police in New Jersey: Taser International X26 and Taser International X2.
Stun gun purchases that are approved for funding will be offset as follows: agencies that purchased Karbon Arms stun guns will receive 75 percent of the price of each new stun gun, up to the number of Karbon Arms devices purchased, after which they will receive 66 percent of the price of additional stun guns; agencies that previously bought the Taser models and want to buy more will receive 66 percent of the price of new stun guns; other agencies making an initial purchase of stun guns or purchasing cartridges will receive 50 percent of the price; and agencies buying related equipment, such as data recording devices, holsters, etc., will receive anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of the price.
The Attorney General’s Office is more than doubling the potential pool of “certified CED instructors” who are authorized to conduct initial CED operator training and qualification for officers. It is authorizing each county prosecutor’s office, the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police and the State Parole Board to increase the number of certified instructors they utilize from two to five. To facilitate that expansion, the Attorney General’s Office is allowing those agencies to utilize properly trained police officers and sheriff’s officers to serve in those positions. Moreover, additional officers can be trained – consistent with the training requirements for certified CED instructors – in order to act strictly as “CED re-qualification instructors” to administer CED re-qualification.
As previously mentioned, the Attorney General’s Office also is reducing the frequency with which officers must re-qualify with the device from twice a year to just once annually. All of this will ease the burden on individual instructors and make it easier for officers throughout the state to obtain the required training and re-qualify on the devices. Allowing officers to train on the FATS machine also will increase training opportunities and reduce the cost associated with firing the actual device, subject to the requirements of the manufacturer for re-qualification and recertification.
The Attorney General’s policy on use of stun guns by officers in New Jersey was developed in 2010 in consultation with the law enforcement community. It restricts use of stun guns, for the most part, to situations where an officer seeks to prevent a suspect from causing death or serious bodily injury to an officer, to another person, or to himself or herself. Officers may not use them against a person who is only offering passive resistance to commands. The policy requires that all officers who carry stun guns receive a course of training on stun guns approved by the Police Training Commission, which includes training on how to recognize mental illness and deal with an emotionally disturbed person.