The Palmer Police Department is going to be equipped with $25,000 worth of stun guns.
The Palmer Township Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Police Chief Larry Palmer for the police department to purchase Tasers, an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt the voluntary control of muscles.
The proposal caught Supervisor Bob Lammi by surprise.
"I'm kind of embarrassed," Lammi said. "I thought you guys had them. This is one of the tools of the trade."
Palmer, in submitting his proposal, was surprised to discover when he took over as chief this month that the department didn't have "an elemental basic piece of equipment."
Palmer said that Forks Township Police Chief Greg Dorney told him "it's a crime for officers not to have them in their arsenal."
Palmer provided supervisors with studies showing that the use of Tasers seriously reduces injuries to suspects and police officers. Stun guns were used when Palmer was police chief in Easton. Officers did not have to rely on pepper spray or their batons or hands in dealing with suspects.
Several Palmer police officers spoke on behalf of the chief, saying that Tasers would certainly benefit their crime-fighting efforts.
The chief believed the cost for about a dozen of the weapons would be $25,000 with in-house training and certification. The expense will be paid for by drug forfeiture money from Northampton County.
"I believe it would be a great tool," Palmer said. "It would level the playing field. There is a downside that it could be lethal in certain circumstances. But the alternative would be using force with a handgun."
He said annual maintenance costs and recertification could cost about $2,800.
"Taser" is an acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle. Developed in the 1970s, its inventor named it after a popular science fiction book, "Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle."