By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
FARRELL, WHEATLAND, SHENANGO TOWNSHIP —
Southwest Mercer County Regional police patrolman Matthew Langdon aims his Taser, two laser beams dotting his target.
He pulls the trigger and two barbs attached to 35-foot cords rocket from the gun, lodging in the ceiling of Farrell council chambers.
“I’ll figure out how to get those out later,” he tells the Southwest police commission.
Langdon is demonstrating the differences between the new Tasers police bought with a series of donations and those they replace.
Tasers, which deliver electric shocks to incapacitate people police are trying to arrest or control, have changed police work since they came out some years ago.
Southwest Police Chief Riley Smoot Jr. said Tasers have increased the safety of police and those they arrest because they give police the chance to subdue someone who doesn’t want to go quietly without having to use muscle.
“Tasers have saved the department injuries, which saves money as far as workers comp,” he said.
As with any piece of equipment, there is a useful life, and the Tasers Southwest police had been using were getting long in the tooth. However, money has been tight for the department.
“It’s kind of hard to budget for these items that you need, especially when you can’t really increase your budget from year to year,” Smoot said.
Thanks to four social organizations, Southwest has eight new Tasers. The Slovak Home, American Legion Post 160 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5286, all Farrell, and American Legion Post 432, Wheatland, all gave the department money so it could buy the Tasers for $13,748.
John Galicchio, president of the Slovak Home, said philanthropy is the club’s “main goal.”
“We always help out locally,” he said. “We just helped the (Farrell) firemen with their helmets.”
The group runs small games of chance and must donate 70 percent of the proceeds to charity, he said. Other beneficiaries have included Little League and high school seniors through a scholarship fund.
The Slovak Home was made aware of the need for Tasers by some of the policemen who are club members, he said.
Smoot said he is “ecstatic” about the donations.
“It keeps us where we should be as far as equipment is concerned,” he said. “It keeps us in the same century.”
Without the donations, “We would have struggled to buy one and it probably would have been an old one,” Smoot said.
“These are blessings to small departments,” he said of such donations.
The new Tasers can shoot one or two cartridges at a time; have laser sights for both cartridges; can “arc” – deliver an electric shock directly from the device to the body of a suspect – while the cartridges are loaded; and are not set off by static electricity, all advances on the old models, said Langdon, who trains the force in the use of Tasers.
“Improved technology,” he told the commission.
With firm tugs, the barbs released their hold on the ceiling. The police aim for clothing when they fire a Taser, and always have medical personnel remove any barb that penetrates the skin, he said.