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Baltimore approves $1.1 million more for Tasers

Despite concerns, Baltimore police have spent $3.7M since 2013 on Tasers and related equipment.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved $1.1 million for Taser International to continue supplying city police with the company's stun guns and related equipment.

The contract renewal — which comes amid questions about how Baltimore police officers have used the devices in recent years — brings the total cost of Taser's contract with the city to $3.7 million since 2013.

Former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts moved in 2013 to equip the entire 2,900-member police force with Tasers, an increase from the 400 Tasers in circulation in 2012.

The initial contract was for $1.5 million. The latest payment to Taser extends the city's deal with the company until Oct. 29, 2017.

In April, an investigation by The Baltimore Sun found that Baltimore police officers exceeded widely accepted safety limits for Tasers more than any other force in Maryland, and in nearly all cases fired the weapon at suspects who were not complying with police orders but did not pose a threat.

Most of the suspects hit by Tasers in Baltimore were black, and more than two-thirds of the incidents from 2012 to 2014 took place in ZIP codes with the city's lowest median incomes.

This month, the U.S. Department of Justice found that Baltimore police use of Tasers is often "unnecessary and unreasonable," including against juveniles and people with mental health problems.

The 163-page report — the result of a months-long civil rights investigation — recounts a number of instances since 2010 of Baltimore police using the electro-shock weapons on individuals who posed little or no threat, or who were already detained. Federal officials also found that the police used Tasers as retaliation.

Proponents of Tasers credit the stun guns with saving lives because officers can avoid using lethal firearms.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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