Joliet orders 50 Tasers; chief wants one for every officer

JOLIET – The city of Joliet is ordering 50 new Tasers as the police department gets closer to its goal of having every officer equipped with the device.

“We’re going to outfit all uniformed officers with them,” Police Chief Brian Benton said.

Joliet now has 169 Tasers, although 31 are not used because attached video cameras are not working. The additional 50 will bring the Taser total to 219. The city has 270 police officers.

The City Council approved Tuesday buying the 50 additional Tasers equipped with cameras at a cost of $110,000 from TASER International.

Joliet has been equipping its police with Tasers since 2010, when the first order was placed for 25 of the weapons, also called stun guns because they disable with an electrical charge.

Benton said the police department has always bought Tasers with video camera attachments. Even though the stun-gun feature still works on the 31 Tasers now out of use, Benton said, the department does not allow Tasers to be used without working cameras.

“When we started the program, we wanted to make sure we had video on them because we wanted to defend the officer,” he said. “We wanted to show what the officer saw.”

Police have faced increased public demand for use of video since the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014. Benton said Joliet has always seen camera-equipped Tasers as a way to protect against misuse of the weapon.

“We owe it to our citizens to have that captured on video,” Benton said. “We’re only going to issue Tasers that have the video functionality.”

The camera has proved useful in defending police against complaints of misconduct, he said.

“The videos helped us on internal complaints against officers,” he said, “and it helped us in litigation in that it shows the officer’s perspective.”