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Gateway accepts donated Tasers for school police; county could give final OK Tuesday

Dillon Carr
| Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, 8:18 a.m.
An example of a type of Taser
An example of a type of Taser

The Gateway School Board has accepted a donation of 18 Tasers for the district's police force.

The Tasers, valued at nearly $20,000, are to be donated by the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office. The donation awaits county council approval that was expected Oct. 10. According to council legislation, the Tasers are to be used “in providing a safe and secure learning environment for the students, faculty and staff.” The legislation doesn't designate when or where the officers may use the Tasers.

The school district has its own police force of 12 officers, who currently don't carry the devices that can stun and incapacitate.

School board member Mary Beth Cirucci said recently the Tasers would only be carried during sporting events such as football games — not in the schools.

However, at a board meeting on Oct. 3, she said that decision would be left to Bryan Key, director of the school police.

“I think we hired a police force to determine where they best need to use them. ... I'm not going say whether I would dictate to our police chief how he sees fit to carry his equipment,” Cirucci said.

The district started its own police force in December and has been seeking equipment donations, Cirucci said.

“Once we receive those Tasers, of course I would meet with Chief Key and have a conversation how, where they will be used and report back to the board,” Superintendent William Short said.

Timothy Skoog, assistant director of police, said last week he retired from the sheriff's office last year and became aware that the department obtained new Tasers.

“So I thought why not ask the sheriff for some of his old (Tasers) because they're all in working condition, and the sheriff agreed,” Skoog said.

Skoog said six units would placed in storage until additional officers are hired. The district budgeted for 18 school police officers. The school board approved the hiring of one officer on Oct. 3.

“It's up to our school board on where they want us to use the Tasers. But there's been Tasers in school districts for years and years. All school resource officers around us have them,” he said, adding the district's original intent was to have school police carry the Tasers during sporting events.

The county's donation would be repealed if the department uses the Tasers for “any purpose not consistent with that delineated in this ordinance or sells, grants or otherwise conveys the Tasers ... to any third party,” the legislation says.

According to a document given to the school board last year, the district was considering paying $9,280 for Tasers and holsters but decided against it, Cirucci said.

“We're trying to save taxpayer money,” Cirucci said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting. Staff writer Theresa Clift contributed to this report.

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