An armed student was shot and killed by an officer on Sept. 17 on the campus of Georgia Institute of Technology. The 21-year-old student was a part of the LGBT community and an engineering major. After his death, several suicide notes were found in his apartment. The officer that took the fatal shot claimed to only be doing what he felt was necessary in the situation.
When news started circulating about the incident, many people were confused. The 23-year-old officer has only been a part of the department for 16 months and didn’t feel prepared for the situation he faced. People talked about how the officer could have done something different. But there is something many people didn’t know. Georgia Tech police officers aren’t equipped with tasers. A taser could have been used as an alternate option.
Depending on the training and the equipment that an officer is given, his or her preparedness will be affected. The equipment given to an officer is meant to serve and protect. In this situation, an officer felt the need to use his firearm that resulted in the death of a student. However, there isn’t any proof stating that the outcome would have been different if the officer was equipped with a gun.
An investigation performed by Reuters revealed 1,000 deaths since the year 2000 connected with police officers using tasers. Depending on the physical size of the person it is used on, the jolt of electricity can be fatal. Drug use and medical conditions also play a role in how being tased can affect someone. Even with that risk, the probability of someone dying from taser is considerably lower than that of someone dying by gun. According to ProCon.org, 6,234 deaths can be traced back to guns and legal intervention. So why not supply officers with tasers and allow them to use the same judgement they have when it comes to wielding a gun?
Even though some people voiced their concerns with the new campus carry law at University of West Georgia, a committee of key staff members put together the plan that they felt would best ensure the safety of everyone on the UWG campus.
Tom Saccenti, Director of Public Safety and the new Chief of UWG’s Police Department, began his first semester at the University of West Georgia this fall. He has yet to see a situation where a weapon had to be used on a student, on or off campus.
“The department [Campus Police Department] recently went through a national accreditation process, during which the National Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies reviewed our policies and inspected operations to ensure we are following those policies,” said Saccenti.
At the University of West Georgia, the University Police Department is equipped with tasers. “At UWG, we have the funding, training and ability to equip officers with this tool [tasers],” said Saccenti. “We feel it gives more resource to use in a time of need.”
The situation at Georgia Tech involved a student dealing with depression and dealing with a depressed student falls under “a time of need.” Officers have to make split-second decisions which can result in someone living or dying. They can only use the equipment and training that they have been given.