Board of Education approves Tasers

Published 4:28 pm Friday, July 17, 2015

The Decatur County Board of Education voted Thursday night to equip the five members of the school system police department with conducted electrical weapons, commonly known as Tasers. Additionally, a school police department policy was adopted outlining the procedures of using the Tasers.

Board member Bobby Barber made the motion, with Kelvin Bouie providing the second. The motion passed with a 4-2 vote. Board members Keith Lyle and Winston Rollins cast the dissenting votes.

“I’m just concerned about our students,” said Rollins. “I think our officers need more training, not more weapons, to learn to deal with situations that come up. I just couldn’t vote in good conscience to equip them with Tasers.”

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During the work session held before the regular meeting, school police department chief Maurice Gaines told the board that his main concern is not students, but adults who might come onto campus during school hours or extracurricular activities.

Also during the work session, Decatur County schools superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield addressed some misconceptions about the purpose of the Tasers.

“This is not an issue about school discipline, this is an issue about school safety and the safety of our campuses,” explained Rayfield. “We would not ever entertain a policy that puts use of Tasers in the discipline plan for a school or the discipline plan for a child.”

Rayfield went on to say that other school systems in southwest Georgia, while not having an internal police department, contract with law enforcement agencies to provide security on campuses and at school events, and those officers are equipped with Tasers.

Three county school system principals — Tommie Howell from Bainbridge High School, John Wooden from Bainbridge Middle School and Roy Mathews from Hutto Middle School — were also in attendance and each voiced their support for the officers being equipped with Tasers.

“A Taser is a controversial weapon that has come under great scrutiny over its use as a nonlethal alternative,” said Lyle about his dissenting vote.  “I am just reluctant to introduce them into our schools.”

During the regular meeting, Brock Washington, president of the Decatur County NAACP, asked the board to carefully consider the potential impact of the Taser use before voting.

“Many in the community are opposed to these Tasers as a weapon of choice to be used on our children,” said Washington. “We ask the school board to carefully consider the ramifications of the use of a Taser on a student, especially if that student has an undiagnosed medical condition.”

The purchase of five TASER model X2 units, along with holsters and other accessories, would cost roughly $7500.