EMU police officers to be equipped with Tasers; move supplements other safety measures

Weapon shown to help ensure the safety of police officers and criminal suspects as well as students, faculty and staff

by Geoff Larcom, Published December 10, 2012

YPSILANTI – The Eastern Michigan University Police Department has purchased 33 Tasers, a move that police say will reduce the chance of violent incidents on campus and further ensure the safety of police officers and criminal suspects as well as students, faculty and staff.

Every on-duty officer at EMU will begin to be equipped with Tasers on campus in January 2013. Tasers will be distributed following completion of a comprehensive training program that addresses the mechanical aspects of how to operate the devices safely, as well as detailed guidance on appropriate and reasonable scenarios in which a Taser might be used.

 "Our adoption of Tasers is further evidence of Eastern Michigan's ongoing focus on protecting the welfare of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus," says Robert Heighes, executive director of public safety and chief of police at Eastern.

Research has shown that Tasers offer a highly effective deterrent to aggressive physical encounters between a police officer and a potentially violent suspect, dramatically decreasing the odds of injuries to both suspects and police officers. It is illegal for anyone other than a police officer to carry a Taser on campus, even if they have a concealed weapons permit.

"Tasers are a non-lethal option for dealing with violent or potentially violent criminal activities," Heighes says. "They offer a step between use of a baton, which can inflict serious injuries, and the use of deadly force with a gun."

The University has scheduled several forums to offer further information and answer questions on the implementation of Tasers. The forums are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 in Room 352 at the EMU Student Center.

The Tasers acquired by Eastern Michigan University represent the latest in technology and safety. The device comes with a warning red light beam, which alone often deters further incidents by indicating to suspects when they are targeted.

The Tasers also include a data port to download a detailed activation record following utilization of the device, as well as a camera that will create a video record as soon as a Taser is turned on and capable of being fired.

"The recording technology of these Tasers helps assure appropriate usage and guarantees accountability as incidents are reviewed," Heighes says.

Eastern will join a wide variety of Michigan universities and communities that have integrated Tasers into their policing approach.

Michigan universities and colleges that now use Tasers include Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Saginaw Valley State, Wayne State, Western Michigan, Kalamazoo Community College, Lansing Community College and Schoolcraft Community College.

Mid-American Conference universities utilizing Tasers include: Ball State, Miami of Ohio, Ohio U., Akron and Toledo. Every police agency in Washtenaw County uses Tasers, except the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety and the Saline Police Department.

The Eastern Michigan University Police Department is a professional department with full law enforcement capabilities. All officers are certified through the Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards and are sworn by the Eastern Michigan Board of Regents and also by the Ypsilanti City Police Department, thereby allowing them to enforce city ordinances as well as state laws.

As sworn officers, EMU's police are empowered to investigate, arrest or take other necessary action to address any criminal or other public infraction in the vicinity of campus. The officers work closely with all area agencies, including the Ypsilanti City Police Department, Michigan State Police and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department.

EMU's focus on public safety has produced a variety of positive results, including that fact that burglaries, among the most frequently reported of all crimes on America's college campuses, have continued to drop at Eastern.

Campus burglaries decreased by 55 percent from 2010 to 2011, falling from 29 to 13, according to the Eastern Michigan University 2012 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

The most recent decrease in burglaries continues a trend that began in 2008, when burglaries dropped 61 percent from the previous year. In fact, since 2007, when EMU reported 123 on campus burglaries, reported incidences of that crime have dropped nearly 90 percent. 

Heighes notes that the majority of the decrease stems from EMU's extensive crime prevention efforts, which include increased staffing, assembling a network surveillance cameras around campus and enhanced residence hall security.

In fall 2009, Eastern opened a state-of-the art headquarters for the Department of Public Safety on the northwest end of campus. The $3.9 million facility is a money-saving conversion of the former Hoyt Conference Center.

For more on Eastern's crime prevention efforts, please visit http://www.emich.edu/univcomm/releases/release.php?id=1349379709




Geoff Larcom



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