EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene Police Department has used Tasers nine times since January. Officers have also threatened to deploy the devices more than 30 times.
Is that too often? And should the police even have Tasers at all? The use of a Taser at a protest on Friday in downtown Eugene seems to have crystallized the issue for some local residents.
"I don't like seeing Tasers or any kind of weapon on the EPD when they treat the citizenry like this,” said Tim Lewis.
Others think Tasers lower the bar for police to use force.
"When you bring weapons like tasers that are not lethal, they can be used excessively because they're not lethal,” said Marlon Korver. “So the police starts losing track of what kind of people they should use them on and what kind of not to."
But the police said everything has been done according to protocol. Officials said nine uses of a Taser in about four months isn’t that many. And officers can only use the Taser under certain conditions.
“When subjects are assaulting them, threatening to assault them, or taking a proactive stance toward assaulting them,” said Capt. Pete Kerns of the EPD.
When the Taser is used, officers need to write up a report.
"We review every single application of the Taser to ensure that it's within policy,” Kerns said.
So far, police say the Tasers have been an effective tool and every usage has been justified. Even so, some worry about the unintended consequences.
“An epileptic person could go into a really bad seizure, heart attacks, things like that," said one resident.
A police spokeswoman said that carrying Tasers is still a pilot program. The department will decide if the Tasers should become permanent after there's enough data on Taser use. But no one is sure when that will be.