MIAMI (CBS4) — “Don’t Tase me, ‘Bro!” That plea went viral after an encounter between Taser-wielding police and a protester at the University of Florida in 2007.
It is a plea that wouldn’t be necessary in the case of many City of Miami police officers.
The reason: They don’t have Tasers.
CBS4 News has learned the Miami Police Department is unable to account for hundreds of Tasers, and many officers have to hit the streets without them.
The department had acquired about 700 of Taser guns, but now they don’t have enough to equip the approximately 350 officers who pull patrol duty.
A Sergeant, who asked that his name not be used, told CBS4’s Gary Nelson Friday that “Somebody dropped the ball.”
“They don’t know how many Tasers there are, who has them, nothing.” the Sergeant said. “There are officers on the street who don’t have Tasers. Probably a third of the patrol officers don’t have them.”
Major Alfredo Alvarez of the department’s internal affairs unit told CBS4 News an effort is underway to determine what has become of the Tasers not accounted for.
“We are doing an internal audit to determine who has Tasers. It’s like an inventory,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said many officers may have moved out of patrol to other jobs in the department and failed to turn their Tasers back in.
“There are a lot of transfers, people moving back and forth,” Alvarez said, adding that “some Tasers get broken.”
One member of the department’s brass called the Taser debacle an embarrassment.
“The issue is we don’t know where the Tasers are, and that is totally unacceptable,” said the high-ranking official who asked not to be named.
The extent of the Tasers that are unaccounted for came to light when oversight of the devices was transferred from the training division of the department to the purchasing and property division.
A manager – called the quartermaster – put in a purchase order for 793 new Tasers. Department spokesperson Delrish Moss said the purchase would have amounted to about $700,000.
The purchase order was red-flagged by Assistant Police Chief Roy Brown, who said the department should attempt to account for the Tasers it had previously acquired before spending money on more.
Armando Aguilar, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union, said the Tasers are a “valuable” tool and that the safety of officers and the public is compromised when so many officers don’t have Tasers in their arsenal.