The Kearny Police Department will soon be partially outfitted with tasers after the mayor and town council voted last week to approve the purchase of 10 of the weapons from the Axon Company at a cost of $36,000.

The council unanimously voted in favor of purchasing the tasers, but not before a discussion on the need for less-than-lethal weapons that many departments in New Jersey have begun to turn to for implementation — and that many departments out of state already use.

The company that makes the tasers, Axon, coordinates taser use with body-worn cameras, which all police departments in Jersey are now required to use. So it makes sense the Kearny PD waited until now to begin using the tasers.

At the onset, higher-ranking police supervisors will wear the tasers and be trained by Axon how to use them. Axon will also teach an in-house officer to be a “Master Trainer,” according to King, and that will be Det. Sgt. Mike Gonzalez.

He will then be responsible for training future officers who are outfitted with the tasers.

King said the timing for getting them is right.

“We all saw the tragedy that happened out west,” King said of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Police Officer Kim Potter, who says she mistook her firearm for her taser, and who shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright. “Our officers will have extensive training and the positives of the tasers will far outweigh the negatives.”

Third Ward Councilwoman Eileen Eckel asked King if there’d been any recent incidents with the department that might have called for the use of tasers. King instantly recalled an incident not too long ago in the Kearny Walmart where a woman experiencing a mental-health crisis went to the mega-store, set some clothing on fire, and then pulled a knife out whilst Officer Anthony Oliveira worked to diffuse the situation.

Though that incident ended safely, with no one being injured, had that woman, perhaps, lunged at the young officer, the only remaining viable option would have been deadly force at that time. A taser could have been used, had the officer had one, in that hypothetical situation.

And, King says, “They can be used at a distance of 20 feet,” he said, noting tasers are not the same as stun guns, which require a weapon to body contact to be useful. “This is a much safer option before escalating to a deadly-force scenario.”

Second Ward Councilman Peter Santana, the council’s police committee chairman, lauded King for the way he’s rolling out the tasers.

“I commend you for using senior officers first,” Santana said.

Mayor Alberto G. Santos asked King what other departments in Hudson County are doing with tasers.

King says towns like North Bergen and Union City are also implementing tasers in those departments, also because of the new mandated use of body-worn cameras.

“It’s growing almost daily,” King said.

e-bike safety

In other police-related news, King took time to note that use of e-bikes and e-scooters do not require licensing, but riders must still follow the rules of the road — and motor-vehicle statutes — while on the town’s streets.

This was all prompted by a serious accident last week involving an e-bike.

Helmets, he says, should be worn by all riders, not just those who are required to do so.

“Anyone under 17 must wear a helmet,” he said. “But all riders should for your own safety.”

And, he noted, these e-vehicles are designed for one rider only, so no one additional should ever be permitted to ride along.

“Parents should always encourage their kids to wear the helmets,” he said. The bikes, he said, should be “driven like a car.” And, motorists should be very weary of the bikes, “even if they have the right of way.”

Santos chimed in, nothing the electric assists of the bikes should be turned off when riding downhill, to which King concurred.

Both noted the brakes on these units are designed to stop with only one rider, as well.

Going back to in-person meetings in September

Meanwhile, the council also approved returning to in-person council meetings at council chambers, 402 Kearny Ave., beginning Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. The council’s single July and August meeting will still take place using Zoom, though it appeared Santos is more than ready to end the Zoom meetings after several speakers at the remote meeting had technical issues of their own, including former mayoral candidate Sydney J. Ferreira, whose connection appeared to be less than ideal.

Ferreira was cut off several times as he spoke, but not by the folks running the meeting. It appeared from this onlooker he was somewhere where his connection to the Internet was not very strong. Ferreira, however, did accuse the mayor of attempting to make it appear otherwise. Santos scoffed at that notion, saying it was Ferreira’s connection — and nothing else — that kept knocking him offline.

Santos allowed Ferreira to re-connect and to continue to speak at least three times.

The council’s waiting until September to return to in-person meeting because the chamber is currently COVID-configured for the municipal court. It will take time to return the chamber to its pre-COVID configuration.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.