Macon City Council Members discuss lack of tasers on police force
Public safety is still in the spotlight nearly a month after a reportedly unarmed man was shot and killed by a Macon Police Officer in broad daylight in a busy grocery store parking lot.
Just recently, some Macon City Council members say they were shocked to find out Macon patrol officers do not carry tasers, especially after the incident.
Public Safety Committee Chair Virgil Watkins says the incident opened his eyes to improvements he could make.
"Looking into it, just immediately, i think we're all finding some things we can improve upon," Watkins said.
Watkins says tasers are an important tool for police officers, but looking into the budget books for the last three fiscal years, he was surprised to see, tasers are not something the Macon Police Department has a lot of.
"Giving the officers the basic things they need to do their jobs effectively and safely for our citizens is a priority for us," Watkins said.
Watkins says the MPD usually gets what it asks for, but according to the budget books, the department has only asked for tasers beginning in Fiscal Year 2012 when it requested $78,000 for 25 tasers and ammo.
While the department is asking for more tasers for it's officers beginning in FY 2013, Watkins and fellow council member Henry Gibson were surprised to hear the tasers received so far were given to the SWAT team instead of patrolmen.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to say that it would be best for him to have a taser, then to pull his glock out," Gibson said, in regards to Officer Clayton Sutton, the officer involved in the deadly grocery store shooting.
Gibson, a former police captain himself, says he ran for city council to help reform the police force, and while he's been on the Public Safety Committee for roughly 2 years, the Kroger shooting opened his eyes to the problems plaguing the MPD..
"The public trust is on the way to crashing," Gibson said.
Watkins says his committee has stepped up it's oversight of the force after the shooting , and he hopes the details of the incident will soon be revealed, but every second the shooting remains under investigation, the public trust is compromised.
"We're doing an extreme injustice at this point in trying to be cautious to this family who continues to mourn, and just is very unsure of the circumstances," Watkins said.
According to MPD Spokesperson Jami Gaudet the department requested 60 tasers in the 2012 budget. The budget furnished by Virgil Watkins showed it requested $78,000 for 25 tasers and ammo in FY 2012. The books showed in FY 2013 the department requested nearly $100,000 to buy 30 tasers and ammo. The books also showed the force had plans to budget $100,000 a year for the next five years to purchase 30 tasers and ammo a year.