By Sharon Holliday, ENTERPRISE CORRESPONDENT
RAYNHAM — After a graphic demonstration of a Taser stun gun earlier in the afternoon, special town meeting voters approved the purchase of the weapons Tuesday, making the town one of the first communities in the state to approve the use of the nonlethal weapons by police.
Deputy Police Chief Louis Pacheco, supported under each arm by Raynham patrolmen Thomas Clark and Edward Reilly, allowed himself to be shot by Patrolman Michael Haggerty with a Taser X26 stun gun in a demonstration in the cafeteria of the Raynham Middle School Tuesday afternoon.
Armed with a Wiffle Ball bat, Pacheco said he would attempt to attack a dummy placed a few feet in front of him while Haggerty stood about seven feet behind him, aiming the Taser at the top of his back. The weapon emits 50,000 volts and .004 amps of electricity.
As soon as he raised the bat and started toward the dummy, Haggerty fired. Pacheco visibly stiffened, emitted a few cries and slumped to the ground.
Pacheco told selectmen in January that each officer trained in the use of the guns is required to be shot by one. All the officers involved in Tuesday's demonstration said they had been shot by a Taser as part of the training requirement.
Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation July 15 that allows law enforcement agencies to use the weapons, revoking a state ban enacted in 1986.
Until the ban was lifted, Massachusetts was the only state in the country where police departments were barred from using of the guns.
About 6,000 law enforcement agencies in the country use Tasers as a nonlethal alternative to firearms.
The weapon fired by Haggerty at Pacheco emitted two small darts, connected with thin wires, that penetrated the top of Pacheco's back and his waist.
Haggerty said the two darts strike at an 8 degree angle, with a spread of 1 foot for every 7 feet of distance between an officer and a suspect. He noted the Taser can only be used effectively within a 21-foot range.
Looking a little pale and walking away without help a few seconds after the incident, Pacheco said, "There was some pain, but there's no pain now. It's was a lot like a nightmare, where you feel like you want to move, but you can't move."
Asked if he had been nervous before the demonstration, Pacheco said he would be "more nervous in front of the town meeting" later that night when the request was made for the purchase of the guns.
About 80 residents unanimously approved a transfer of $12,000 from free cash to buy 12 Tasers that will be used by the department beginning this July by the town's 24 officers.
Pacheco said the price includes officers' training.
Before the vote, Finance Committee Vice Chairman Dwane Wheeler voiced strong objections to the timing of the request.
"There's going to be a significant increase in the operating budget in May," Wheeler said. "And we all know that we can't hold expenses a third year in a row in this inflationary economy.
"I'm having difficulty voting for any capital items," he said about another request, also approved that night, to transfer $113,000 from free cash to be used toward a new aerial ladder truck for the town's Fire Department.