Despite a request from a spokesman for the city's minority population, the Layton City Council Thursday declined to reconsider arming its police with electronic stun guns.
"I see the good and the bad in the police department," Nathaniel Johnson told the council Thursday. "There's not a lot of trust in the police department" among members of the minority community, he added.Johnson, an engineer, also disputed the safety of the stun guns, saying he believes they could be fatal to people with heart conditions and open the city to criticism and lawsuits.
And Johnson believes officers armed with the devices will grow to rely on them, using them when they aren't needed.
Mayor Richard McKenzie disputed Johnson's claims, saying the department will be carefully trained in the use of the devices. They are also safe, the mayor said, citing engineering and safety test data submitted by Police Chief Doyle Talbot in his request.
The stun guns give a police officer an option besides a gun or club in dealing with a violent or resisting offender, the mayor said. The devices, when used properly, do less harm to a person than a club, he said.
The council approved use of the stun guns, which generate a 50,000-volt electric shock, at its Dec. 13 meeting but has not appropriated any money to buy them yet. The devices cost $150 each and it would cost the department about $4,500 to equip each officer with one.
Layton policeman Dave Nance, who has been trained and is certified as an instructor in use of the stun gun, told the council Dec. 13 that tests show the stun guns are not lethal, even to persons with heart problems.
Held on a person for one second, Nance told the council, the stun gun will cause him to drop an object he is holding or cease a violent attack. Held on for a full five seconds, the person falls to the ground through loss of muscle control and is disoriented for about 15 minutes, Nance said.
The stun guns are currently in use in Farmington, Riverdale, and Brigham City, Nance said.
City Attorney Mark Arnold told the council the city's liability insurance will cover use of the stun guns as long as they are used properly.