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Tasers safer than guns for police use: Rand

In light of the police actions during the Sean Bell shooting, an independent think tank, is urging the NYPD to rearm its officers with non-lethal weapons and continually check to see if officers are properly fir for armed duty.

The Rand Corporation released its study Monday on the NYPD's firearm tactics and recommended that the department change the way it trains and arms its patrol officers.

Last year Police Commissioner Ray Kelly hired the California-based organization to review the department's procedures following the Bell shooting in Jamaica. The 142-page report, examined various aspects of the Police Department, including its training procedures, firearm discharge investigations and need for non-lethal firearms.

Although the study gave the NYPD good remarks for its extensive weapons training, which includes a simulation test, it suggested that officers need additional follow-up classes to insure that they have adequate policing skills.

"Given the logistics of these workshops... retraining does not mean that the student was given the opportunity to try the simulation again," the report said.

The report never explicitly cites the Nov. 26, 2006 shooting in which five undercover officers fired 50 shots at the bridegroom after they mistakenly believed one of his friends had a gun.

The study strongly recommended that the Police Department emphasize the use of non- lethal weapons such as Tasers and stun guns. Officers are mostly equipped with Mace spray, according to the report, but its authors urged the NYPD to purchase and equip officers with more Tasers.

"Members of the expert panel... saw several situations in which they thought things might have ended differently if the officers had used less-than-lethal force rather than pointing a weapon and eventually either purposely or accidentally firing it," the study said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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