The Houston City Council has approved the purchase of 3,700 Taser stun guns to give police officers a nonlethal means of subduing unruly suspects, reports the Houston Chronicle. Mayor Bill White said the devices, which immobilize suspects with a 50,000-volt electrical shock, could reduce the frequency of fatal shootings by police officers. Officers’ use of deadly force has long been controversial, and community leaders were outraged last year when Houston police shot and killed two unarmed teenagers. “Right now, (officers) have nothing besides their fists or a gun, or withdrawing from the scene,” White said. “We have not given our officers enough options.”
Councilwomen Addie Wiseman and Ada Edwards voted against the five-year, $4.7 million contract with GT Distributors Inc. to provide the Tasers and related equipment. They said the money would be better used to hire more police officers. Use of the Tasers has been championed by Police Chief Harold Hurtt, who in Phoenix was the first major metropolitan police chief in the country to arm all his patrol officers with the device. Phoenix experienced a 31 percent drop in fatal police shootings after Tasers were introduced there in March 2003.