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Shock & Awe: Monroe County sheriff answers critics to taser use
Terry Smith photo Monroe County Sheriff Dan Kelley is busy trying to secure tasers like this for his department-what he considers a safer alternative to guns.

In 24 years, Monroe County Sheriff Dan Kelley has seen anything and everything the county's criminals have thrown at him.

He has seen drunk drivers, meth heads and every kind of crime possible.

But he isn't intent to sit on his laurels and say nothing needs to be improved, least of all how his officers protect themselves.

This is why Kelley is busy trying to secure tasers for his department-what he considers a safer alternative to guns.

"I feel they are a very functional tool which will help us reduce our workman's compensation expenses," Kelley said. "A lot of these come from officers having to fight and wrestle with criminals, which would be unnecessary if we had tasers."

These electric devices that shoot electrodes charged with 50,000 volts have come under fire recently, due to the death last week of a Jerseyville, Mo., teen-ager after he was shocked. Tasers also have reportedly been connected to various other deaths around Illinois and Missouri over the last few years.

Recently in Columbia, a Red Bud man died while in custody, possibly from an earlier taser incident.

But Kelley thinks there are overriding factors to these deaths.

"A lot of these people die from other chemicals being in their system like cocaine that speed up the heart," Kelley said. "I don't think in any way, if operated properly, a taser was the only reason someone died."

He also cites the sterling legal record of Taser International, the company who supplies most police departments with the device.

"Taser International hasn't lost one lawsuit yet," Kelley said.

If Kelley wants to see how much they help or harm, he can look at the Columbia and Waterloo Police Departments, both of which have officers equipped with tasers. Each department is required to go through an extensive training program, including each officer being shot with a taser once, before they are allowed to use them.

Kelley just doesn't think ignoring technology will cut it anymore.

"I think in the future, everyone will have them," Kelley said. "There will be a point when it will seem stupid not to."