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Taser contract, de-escalation training will fully equip Missoula police officers

Jaeson White
Posted at 2:00 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 16:00:41-04

MISSOULA — Citing an opportunity to save money and properly equip the city’s police officers, the Missoula City Council on Monday approved a contract with Axon to purchase 65 new tasers and the gear needed to train in de-escalation.

Chief Jaeson White said the department currently has 14 tasers more than 14 years old and 18 tasers more than a decade old. Given their age, the equipment is obsolete and can no longer be used.

“Those platforms have been discontinued,” White said. “We can’t get cartridges for us in the field. We can’t get cartridges to train with.”

While the department has a remaining inventory of 65 functioning tasers, those too are aging.

The agreement approved Monday permits the department to purchase 65 new tasers from Axon and a virtual reality program to conduct de-escalation training.

The entire package costs around $307,000, though payments can be made over five years, starting with $25,000 the first year and increasing to $70,000 in subsequent years. The cost is eligible for ARPA funding, White added.

“Every officer will be carrying a taser,” said White. “The other piece of this is an expansion into our detective division. None of our detectives carry tasers now. Their only force options are their OC spray and firearm, and that’s it. This provides another tool.”

The tasers give police officers a non-lethal tool while on the job and combined with de-escalation training, the purchase won easy approval from the City Council.

Making the purchase before July 1 provides additional cost savings.

“Having a non-lethal use of force is an important component of keeping our community safe while being as mindful with our taxpayers’ dollars as possible,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “I want to make sure we have all options available to our officers.”

Councilmember Jesse Ramos agreed, "our first and foremost duty to our citizens is to provide an adequate police force. We’ve made a lot of great strides as a body toward criminal justice reform and de-escalation. This is an excellent and very necessary tool.”