Onalaska police train to make using Tasers safe

Although rare, Taser errors by police happen

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) — The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a Black man during a weekend traffic stop has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Investigators believe that Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, who resigned Tuesday and was charged Wednesday, made a fatal error by confusing her gun with her Taser — a fatal mistake that claimed the life of 20-year old Daunte Wright. 

Video from Potter’s body worn camera is raising questions from the public and police officers.

“We all think about it internally, like how would we handle that situation, what would we do differently?” says Onalaska Police Chief Charles Ashbeck.

The Onalaska Police Department has its own taser training officer who re-certifies officers annually. “We need to be proficient of this equipment,” Ashbeck says.

Tasers are designed to look and feel different than a handgun. Officers are taught to wear them opposite of the side they holster their gun. Onalaska spends most of its Taser training time doing hands-on drills, going through the correct procedures, over and over.

“When we are in a stressful situation, we need to know who to innately use our equipment without stopping or even thinking about it, because we only have split seconds to use those decisions,” Ashbeck says.

Although rare, Taser errors happen. Between 2001 and 2012, there were nine instances in which officers shot a suspect with a handgun when they meant to fire a Taser, according to a monthly law journal,

The Minnesota shooting is still under investigation. Its not clear whether the officer needed more training, but weapons experts say it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. 

Most Onalaska officers have black Tasers. The department is replacing them with yellow Tasers to further reduce the possibility of human error.