POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 21, 2010
The law now allows state deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to carry Tasers, but they won't immediately get them because of a lack of funds.
A state law that banned the possession of the electronic guns except by police officers was amended this year to exempt law enforcement officers of the Department of Public Safety and Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The exemption reflects the growing popularity of the electronic gun, which was first used by Honolulu police in 2002. Maui police began using them in 2004, Big Island police in 2007, and Kauai police in 2008.
Honolulu and the other counties now have nearly 1,400 Tasers, including more than 400 issued to all Big Island officers.
Maui police reported using Tasers the highest number of times in 2009. A majority of their 350 officers had Tasers and they fired the guns 73 times, more than a third of the 163 firings by all police departments that year.
But funding for training and the purchase of guns is a problem in expanding use to the other agencies because the Legislature did not allocate funds for either.
Police estimate the current price tag for a Taser to be about $900, not including cameras, cartridges and other related equipment that add several hundred dollars more to the cost.
Clayton Frank, director of the public safety department, said he also must determine who among the 230 sheriffs, about a dozen state narcotic enforcement officers and seven internal affairs officers would get them.
He said he might wait for Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie's administration to take over in December. "I shouldn't be rushing into something now and burden the next administration," Frank said.
The amendment requires the departments' law enforcement officers to undergo training on the weapons. It also requires the DLNR's Conservation & Resources Enforcement Division to first meet law enforcement accreditation standards of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies on the use of electronic guns.
Land department officials said the division is in the first year of the accreditation program estimated to take three years.