Recent attacks prompt Rogersville BMA to equip every officer with a taser

Jeff Bobo • Aug 10, 2017 at 7:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The entire Rogersville Police Department has been sharing two Tasers for the past three years, which has led to dangerous situations in which officers who weren't carrying a Taser at the beginning or end of their shift found themselves in a violent confrontation.

On Tuesday, however, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to purchase a new Taser for every officer so that when they need a Taser, they'll have a Taser.

Currently, the two  RPD officers on duty turn in their Tasers at the end of their shift so the next officers can carry them.

This past March, officer Joey Maddox was on his way into work one morning when he responded to a complaint of a person sleeping or passed out at McDonald's.

What seemed on the surface like a routine call escalated into a life-threatening situation when the sleeping man attacked Maddox.

It turned out that the man was on drugs, and Maddox required the assistance of three restaurant patrons and one employee to subdue him.

RPD Assistant Chief Travis Fields told the Times-News Wednesday that assistance probably wouldn't have been necessary if Maddox had been carrying a Taser at the time.

In another recent case, Officer George Henry had turned his Taser in for the day and was on his way home when he stopped as a gas station. During that time a domestic assault occurred there.

"A vehicle pulled in, a guy was assaulting this girl, and George was in a marked unit and went over to intervene," Fields said. "He and the guy got into a confrontation. It just so happened that two off-duty sheriff's deputies were nearby mowing and saw it. They (Henry and the assailant) were fighting and he (the assailant) was on drugs, so it wasn't affecting him."

Fields added, "Luckily, we had two county guys, Mark Harrell and Gary Lawson, who came over and helped him. Had they not been there, I don't know how that would have gone. He didn't have a Taser."

Fields has been serving as acting chief during Chief Doug Nelson's illness.

On Tuesday, Fields presented the BMA with a proposal to purchase 10 Tasers for $12,000. It will require five annual payments of $2,400, although Fields noted that the payments are interest free. The Tasers are also under full warranty during that five years.

The purchase will give every patrol officer a new Taser full-time, as well as the Rogersville City School SRO, and the two older Tasers will stay at the police department as backups, or in case they're needed by a detective or the chief.

Fields said Tasers have proven to be the most reliable type of non-lethal force, particularly when the suspect is on drugs and isn't feeling pain.

"I know several of our officers have deployed their Tasers, and we've had a 100 percent success rate," Fields said. "I’m guessing our officers have deployed a Taser about 20 times since we’ve had them, and every time they've used the Taser it has done its job."

Fields added, "There's usually only two RPD officers on duty, so its not uncommon for an officer to answer a call by himself. People who are on narcotics, whether it be meth or whatever, don't feel pain like normal people. Sometimes the mace is not even effective on them. Tasers are definitely our best defense against that."

The BMA voted unanimously in favor of purchasing the 10 new Tasers.                                                                                

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