More tasers could be assigned to Biloxi patrolmen

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi has fewer tasers assigned to patrolmen than another other department in Harrison County. But that may change as soon as Tuesday. Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan will go to the city council and ask for money to buy about three dozen new tasers.

Dunagan admits he wasn't a very big fan of the electroshock weapon when departments first started buying them. Now that he's seen the training his officers go through before they carry tasers, he's convinced they work.

One of the seven Biloxi officers assigned a taser is Doug DeGeorge. To show how it works, he disconnected the main cartridge that produces a jolt of electricity that can shoot 21 feet in the air. A much more moderate two inch current sizzled out of the taser's barrel. "This isn't going to harm them. But it will get individuals to comply with us when they've refused to," DeGeorge said.

In the 13 months DeGeorge has been assigned his taser, the Biloxi officer has pulled it out of his holster five times. But he's never had to fire it. "Every time I've pulled it out, the individual automatically complied because he knew he was going to be tased," he said.

Part of every Biloxi officer's taser training is a chance to be tased himself. "It basically locks up your entire body, your muscles," explained DeGeorge.

The X-26 model used in Biloxi is just like the taser used in Ocean Springs.  It has a timer on it. So five seconds after the electroshock is fired, the taser shuts off. "It's the longest five seconds you'll probably ever experience," noted DeGeorge. The bright yellow weapon also has a camera on it. So once it's engaged, police can record audio and video to see how it's used.

Jim Adamo is with the Biloxi Police Department. He monitors weapons usage records. "The whole idea, and the whole purpose of it is to gain compliance," said Adamo.

Biloxi bought its first seven tasers last year. Now the police chief is asking for $40,000 from the city council to buy up to 40 more.

Whatever concerns Chief Dunagan originally had about taser usage have been eased by the restraint his officers have shown with their new crime fighting tool. Since Biloxi purchased the seven tasers, officers have threatened to fire them 15 times. So far, this use of active resistance force has only been needed once.

"It's not our job to go out there and discipline people," said Adamo. "It's our job to go out there and make sure people are complying with the law."

Taser usage is becoming more and more common. For instance, a D'Iberville officer had to use his taser over the weekend to apprehend a convicted felon. Harrison County deputies have tasered people 36 times this year. And Waveland police officers have fired their tasers 87 times since last November.