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Lewis Sheriff’s Department adds Tasers amid bath salts craze

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Sheriff’s Department is adding Tasers to its arsenal in reaction to rising synthetic marijuana use.

“The violence in the people is just doubled, it seems, when they’re on that stuff,” Undersheriff James M. Monnat said.

Local police agencies are seeing a sharp increase in use of synthetic marijuana, also known as bath salts, and those under the influence of the drug often cannot be subdued with pepper spray, Mr. Monnat said.

“It’s getting worse every day,” he said.

In response, the department has purchased a pair of $945 Taser units, one covered by the county’s capital equipment fund and the other by forfeiture funds provided by the district attorney’s office.

“It’s going to be a very good investment, I think,” Mr. Monnat said, noting the units would be less costly than extended leave for injured officers.

Like other weapons, Tasers fit into holsters that are attached to officers’ belts.

“My intention is to keep one north and one south,” Mr. Monnat said.

The Tasers, which incapacitate via electric shock, would allow officers to stop a bath-salt-fueled person without resorting to weapons such as nightsticks and pistols that could cause more permanent damage to the victim, he said.

“It’s one quick burst. A couple of seconds and it’s all done,” Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli told county legislators Tuesday evening as they considered the expenditure.

Those high on synthetic marijuana “claim to see a number of people coming after them all at once,” even if nobody else is actually present, the sheriff said.

Such incidents may be very dangerous for responding police officers, as the person also could view them as additional threats, he said.

“I think it’s much better for us to stop the incident right away,” Sheriff Carpinelli said.

The sheriff said he believes no Lewis County businesses still sell synthetic marijuana, but the substance is being brought in from establishments outside the county and is available on the Internet.

Legislator Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, asked whether Lewis County General Hospital has seen any bath-salts-related cases.

“In the ER, yes, we have,” hospital CEO Eric R. Burch said.

Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, questioned the sheriff about possible complications when the stun guns are used on people with heart conditions.

Sheriff Carpinelli said that he doesn’t believe that would be an issue and that the units are safe to use.

“I will be taking a hit with it before we put it on the street,” he said.

Sheriff’s Department officials plan soon to begin training deputies with the units and establish a policy on their use, with the intent of having them operational by the time the moe.down music festival returns to Turin in mid-August.

State police in the region added Tasers to their arsenal a few years ago.

Lewis County legislators on Tuesday also allocated $4,500 from contingency to fund the Sheriff’s Department’s boat patrol, which was left out of the 2012 budget owing to fiscal constraints, just in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

They also authorized an application for up to $1 million from Empire State Development’s Direct Assistance to Business program to help construct a dialysis center at the county-owned hospital. A groundbreaking on the project was held earlier this year, but work has yet to commence.

The county Legislature’s next regular meeting Aug. 7 will begin at 9 a.m., rather than the usual 5 p.m., to accommodate the legislators’ annual golf outing and dinner. This year’s event will be held at Cedars Golf Course on East Road near the Lowville-Denmark town line.

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