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Officials eye use of Tasers at jail

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By David Giuliani

Some members of the County Commission expressed concern on Wednesday about using a type of stun gun at the county jail, but they decided to let two jail officials get training on how to use the weapons.

As it stands, the jail uses pepper spray on inmates who get out of control. They have to call in city or state police when pepper spray doesn’t work, and those agencies use Tasers, weapons that deliver electric shocks to immobilize people.

The jail requested to send Major Johnny Lujan and Lt. Antonio Padilla to attend training in the use of Tasers in late February in Scottsdale, Ariz.

After the training, the two would be certified in the use of the weapons.

Lujan told the commission that a half dozen other county jails in New Mexico use Tasers and that the local jail would require incident reports every time the weapon is used. The Taser marks the time and date it is used, and the jail could also get a camera attachment to record situations in which it is deployed, he said.

“It’s completely safe,” Lujan said.

County Commissioner David Salazar, however, said he was concerned with the publicity he has seen about Tasers. Critics have contended that Taser use has resulted in injuries and deaths.

“Liability is very high,” Salazar said.

Some people can withstand quite a bit of pain and in such cases, police have been known to repeatedly deploy their Tasers — to the point where it’s inhumane, Salazar said.

Commissioner June Garcia said she, too, had her reservations.

Commissioner Nicolas Leger said sometimes Tasers need to be used, but he urged great caution.

Patrick Snedeker, the jail’s warden, said the commissioners’ points were valid and that jailers carry much responsibility. He said use-of-force policies would be very strict.

County Manager Les Montoya urged the commission to approve the jailers’ travel, saying that he could discuss protocol with them once they got their certifications.

The commissioners unanimously approved travel for the two jailers.

In another action, the commission voted to allow Snedeker to take a trip to the other Las Vegas for a conference in jail health care.

He will be going as a co-presenter with Rita Torres, who heads Health Care Partners, which provides the county jail’s health care services. They will be attending the National Commission on Correctional Health Care’s conference for several days in late April.

Torres told the commission she selected Snedeker because she wanted to give recognition to San Miguel County.