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Council Approves Taser Policy, Hires New Police Chief
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 • Posted November 23, 2012

At their regular meeting on November 13, members of the governing body of Blanco adopted a Taser policy for the Blanco Police Department, contingent upon review by City Attorney Eddy Rogers. Acting Chief Larry Feinstein gave council members copies of the policy, which he said is standard for many law enforcement agencies. The policy states, “The department recognizes that situations may arise where restraint of combative suspects is necessary to ensure the safety of the suspect, officers, and others. Our policy is to use specialized restraint equipment when necessary to prevent injury and maintain control of suspects exhibiting violent and disruptive behavior, when deadly physical force does not appear to be justified and/or necessary; or attempts to subdue the subject by other conventional tactics, have been or will likely be ineffective in the situation at hand.” The Taser X-26, which is the only electronic control device authorized for use, is a hand-held remote stun system that is battery-operated and uses one replaceable air cartridge. It fires two probes up to a distance of 15-18 feet from a replaceable cartridge, transmitting a 26-watt electrical charge into the body of the suspect. Each activation of the trigger by an officer gives a five-second charge. Officers will be trained in the use of this device prior to receiving deployment certification. After the device has been deployed into the skin of a suspect, paramedics will respond to the scene and remove the probes, providing any necessary medical treatment. After the suspect has been taken into custody and charged, the deploying officer will complete a Use of Force Report. Two Blanco police officers are already certified in Taser use.

Acting Chief Feinstein also gave his monthly report to council, urging the city to adopt a policy manual for the police department. He said it will reduce liability for the city and the department to have it on file. In his monthly report, Feinstein listed an increase in service calls, disturbance calls, and drug-related calls. He also announced that one police officer is leaving, and that the department has received six resumes from interested candidates for the position. Police department office manager Pam Nollet was removed from probationary status and given a salary increase after discussion by council members in executive session. As well, council voted to approve the hiring of a new police chief, Michael Ritchey.

Council members also approved a resolution supporting participation in a County of Blanco Water Supply Task Force. Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District General Manager Ron Fieseler explained to council members that participation in a regional task force may lead to additional water for southern Blanco County, and that, in his words, “It is prudent to be proactive.” Mayor Homan said, “Any time we can get more water, we should.” Council member Bobby McClung volunteered to serve on the task force, as did the mayor. Representatives from the groundwater district and the Blanco County Commissioners Court would also be part of the task force. One option is for water to be piped in from Gonzales County to Blanco, Hays, Comal, and Kendall Counties.

In the Mayor’s Comments portion of the meeting, Mayor Homan said that Blanco customers of GVTC who are having any problems with their service should contact Nicole Reininger at the Manager Service Center, 1-800-367-4882, or 830-885-4411.

Resident and dark-night-sky advocate Wayne Gosnell updated council on a letter he had received from Stripes Convenience Store president and CEO Stephen DeSutter thanking the City of Blanco for its proclamation commending Stripes for retrofitting its outdoor lights not to shine up into the sky. The letter called the new lights “a big win for everyone” giving residents a clear view of the night sky.

Finally, council voted after executive session to remove public works employee Josh Lake from probationary status and give him a salary increase.

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