Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies have a new tool to help them keep the peace – state-of-the art Taser devices.
Sheriff Steve Levorchick used Furtherance of Justice funds from 2011 and 2012 to buy 12 new X-26 Taser to equip in road patrol cruisers. The cost was about $800 for each device.
Levorchick said he considered the addition of Tasers a crucial element in crime fighting prevention locally.
The X-26 electronic control device uses a replaceable Tasers cartridge containing a compressed nitrogen propulsion system to deploy two small probes, according to the company website. The Taser X26 transmits HEMI impulses through the wires tethering the probes into the target individual to provide incapacitation. The Taser can reach up to 35 feet away.
“It’s just something that I have always believed in … I want Tasers on every gun belt,” said Levorchick, who took office in the fall following the resignation of former Sheriff Bob Bratton. “Before deputies had pepper spray and their gun belt. If the pepper spray doesn’t work the next step is lethal force. There was no step in between.”
“I saw it as a tool we needed. Their job is already difficult enough with all the apprehension there is out there.”
His next goal is to arm all the corrections deputies with Tasers and then the civil deputies. Corrections deputies man the Ottawa County Detention Facility at the Ottawa County Courthouse and the misdemeanor jail at the City/County Government Building off Perry Street. Civil deputies distribute warrants and other paperwork across the county.
Currently, they have older Taser models in the jail that were donated to the sheriff’s office more than five years ago by the Toledo Police Department. But only supervisors were trained to use them and rarely carry them, the sheriff said.
All training will be conducted in-house. There are currently staff members who are certified to instruct the others. Training has already been completed for this first distribution of Tasers, he said.
Deputies will have to recertify their Taser status annually.
The deputies also settled their contract dispute with the Ottawa County commissioners. The unions represent the dispatchers, the corrections deputies/sergeants as well road deputies/detectives.
The deputies approved a three-year contract in January. Their wages are frozen for a year but there is a wage re-opener on years two and three of the contract, said Jackie Wegman, the union representative from the Fraternal Order of Police bargaining unit in Columbus.
The deputies also agreed to pay more for their health insurance as commissioners asked. That takes them up to the current rates now paid by other county employees.
Commissioners increased the share the other county workers paid as of Jan. 1, 2012. In that new rate, the county portion of a single policy is $504.69 per month and the employee portion $42 per month, according to county commissioners’ minutes. The county portion of a family policy will be $1,186.31 and the employee share $99 per month.
The health insurance hike was a sticking point for several months.
“I think the deputies realized they have enjoyed a lower rate than most of the other employees for a while,” Wegman said.