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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

As fists flew and bodies lunged downtown Thursday night, Gainesville Police Department officer Courtnay Roberts aimed his Taser for the first time.

Two men were fighting after they had left a nearby nightclub, and one was elbowing Roberts' fellow officer.

But as the man was warned of the pain that was to come, he quickly went limp and allowed officers to handcuff him.

"I had every intention that he was going to get Tasered, but he completely and immediately complied, so I didn't have to," Roberts said.

Thursday's incident is a perfect example of the service Tasers can provide to police officers, Roberts added.

"It basically creates less injuries for both the good guys and the bad guys," he said.

It has been less than a month since GPD distributed Tasers to its officers, said department spokesman Lt. Keith Kameg. Gainesville police are the last law enforcement officers in Alachua County to get the weapons.

So far, they have only been used once - in a domestic disturbance case. A man was Tasered while fighting with an officer, Kameg said. The gun deploys a five-second burst of electronic shock.

"After that, the guy's like 'I'm done,'" Kameg said.

On another occasion, an officer got out of his car and pointed his Taser at a suspect, who then began to comply.

"As soon as the guy saw it, he stopped in his tracks," Kameg said. "Half of Tasers is the mental."

Gainesville police waited to get Tasers in part because the weapons are controversial and in part because the delay allowed them to get improved Taser technology, Kameg said.

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The Tasers at GPD are equipped with audio and video recorders, which allow the department to monitor the situations in which the weapons are deployed.

As soon as the safety is removed on a GPD Taser, the recording begins, Roberts said.

For now, GPD has only purchased about 30 Tasers for the 283 officers on staff.

Before officers are given Tasers, they have to go through a 10-hour training session in which they run through potential scenarios and learn about how the Taser works.

During Roberts' training, he was even Tasered himself.

"It was interesting," he said.

As an officer who works on the SWAT Team and patrols the downtown area late at night, Roberts said he can envision many scenarios in which the Taser will be helpful to him.

"There are no drawbacks to the Taser, to be honest with you," he said. "It's an amazing tool for law enforcement."

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