Trained members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force were armed with stun guns and pepper spray yesterday, according to Police Information Officer Diane Drayton.
Ms. Drayton said the two weapons are being introduced as non-lethal options for subduing or restraining violent, combative or aggressive offenders. Trained officers of the Tactical Unit and other first-response officers will be the first to receive the new equipment, she said.
Ten officers received training on operating the stun guns, she added.
To ensure the stun guns will be used in proper situations, Ms. Drayton said, each one is equipped with a video camera that will automatically activate when the weapon is turned on.
The cameras will allow authorities to review the circumstances surrounding an incident to determine whether the officer acted appropriately, according to Ms. Drayton.
Ernest Gumbs, head of the Police Armory, said the RVIPF is now in compliance with provisions laid out by the United Nations Congress.
“The UN resolution of the Use of Force and Firearms requires governments and law enforcement agencies to develop a range of options, as broad as possible, for equipping law enforcement officers to carry out their duties,” he said. “These should include the introduction of less-than-lethal options for use in appropriate situations.”
Previously, officers had no more than two weapon options: a metal extendable baton or a firearm.
“In a community where officers are generally unarmed, the TASER and pepper spray are welcomed additions to their list of equipment,” he said.
Police Commissioner David Morris said he expects the new weapons will enhance the force’s ability to respond to potentially violent incidents, while at the same time reducing the risk of injury to police, offenders and bystanders.
“My officers from time to time have to respond to situations where they must tolerate violence from an assailant in order to either prevent further injury to a member of the public or to remove a potentially violent offender from a public space,” he said. “Now they have an option that restrains a suspect and at the same time reduces the chances of injury to all parties.”