The head of the union that represents Berkeley police officers said today that a suspect's alleged attack on an officer on Monday illustrates why officers in Berkeley need to have Tasers.
Sgt. Chris Stines, the president of the Berkeley Police Association, said, "In violent situations, where lives are in danger, Berkeley police officers need Tasers."
Stines said that out of the 113 law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area, Berkeley is one of only three that doesn't use Tasers or isn't investigating using them.
According to Stines, at about 10:30 a.m. Monday police received a call about a man on Bolivar Drive along Aquatic Park, adjacent to Interstate Highway 80, about a man who was on a roof pouring liquid onto the street and lighting it on fire.
The first officer who responded to the scene was a 10-year veteran experienced in crisis intervention, Stines said.
He said the suspect, later identified as 41-year-old Carlos Alberto Delagarza, violently attacked the officer, knocking him unconscious, jumping on top of him and attempting to take the officer's gun.
When additional officers arrived, Delagarza fled down the road and jumped into the lagoon at Aquatic Park, police said.
Officers were able to coax Delagarza out of the water and he was taken into custody, Berkeley police spokesman Byron White said.
Police said Delagarza was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, battery on an officer, taking a firearm from a police officer, second-degree robbery and battery with serious bodily injury.
Delagarza was scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court this afternoon but the District Attorney's Office hasn't yet disclosed what charges he faces.
Stines said the officer who was involved in the confrontation with Delagarza underwent tests for his injuries at a local hospital and is recovering at home.
Stines said, "It appears at this point that he didn't suffer any permanent injuries but that remains to be seen. We have high hopes for a full recovery."
He said, "This incident could have easily resulted in serious injury or death of our officer, and possibly serious injury or death of innocent bystanders." Stines said, "The city needs to give us Tasers now before an innocent life is taken."
He said that if the officer who was involved in the incident with Delagarza on Monday had been equipped with a Taser the officer could have used it to better control Delagarza.
The Berkeley Police Association said 83 percent of the 598 people who participated in a survey last year said Berkeley should further investigate the use of Tasers to deter and control violent people.
Stines said it ultimately is up to the Berkeley City Council to decide to let officers Tasers but the union would like to see Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel more actively support the use of Tasers.