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Common Council approves $1M in Tasers for Buffalo Police

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Buffalo is continuing to reshape its Police Department, with the Common Council on Tuesday approving the purchase of 85 Tasers and the training to go with them.

Paperwork sent from the Police Department says the overall cost for six years would approach $1 million. That is supposed to cover training time for 515 officers over time, while making sure every district will be ready to use the Tasers on every shift.

Council President Darius Pridgen said there is opposition to the Tasers, but he wants that alternative.

"The only thing after verbal commands and physical restraint has not worked, the only other tool that is there is the gun," Pridgen said. "And so we'll take heat regardless which way, but I would rather take heat on this side in keeping someone alive and not shot and not bleeding in our streets."

Actually, buying the Tasers is before the Finance Committee next Wednesday. Councilmembers said they voted last year to buy the devices and they were apparently not bought.

The Common Council also approved a federal grant for $746,000 to improve the way the justice system handles people who are mentally ill or substance abusers.

University District representative Rasheed Wyatt referred to the fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding Black man with mental illness in Philadelphia on Monday. Widespread protests in that city have been ongoing since.

Members also wanted to know more about police plans for the BolaWrap, almost a lasso, to be used in some cases rather than service weapons. Majority Leader David Rivera said weapons should be the last resort for officers.

"That's not what it's about. You're right. They're trained. That's a last resort. Any use of force is always a last resort and we have to make sure that all goes into training, that the use of these weapons or these tools that they have is a last resort," said the retired Buffalo Police officer.

Several Councilmembers said they also want more de-escalation training so problems can be handled with words rather than progressing to devices.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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