Alameda County Sheriff’s sergeant explains Taser training to prevent weapons confusion

The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright says she mistakenly fired her gun instead of a Taser.

There have been other police shootings that may have been due to officers confusing their guns and Tasers.

At the Alameda County Sheriff's Office substation in Oakland, Sergeant Brian Frazer, a firearms and Taser instructor, shows KTVU what safety measures are in place to try to prevent deputies from making that mistake.

He says proper training includes an eight-hour class to start, along with an annual re-certification course and that they're key to preventing a law enforcement officer from mistakenly pulling out a gun and firing it instead of a Taser.

"If you have a lot of training, you shouldn't make those confusions but it could still happen," says Sgt. Frazer. 

The police killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota Sunday is among 16 cases of possible weapons confusion in the United States since 2001 according to data compiled by the website and the University of Colorado.

Wright and the 2009 case of Oscar Grant, killed by a BART police officer in Oakland, are among four such incidents that ended in death.

Experts say weapons confusion cases are rare.

"I'm right handed so my Taser is in my non-dominant, my weak side," says Frazer.  

To help prevent weapons confusion, he carries the Taser on his left side.

Frazer says it should be worn in a position where he has to reach across his body to pull it out.

"Being a right-handed person, my firearm is going to be on my right side."  

The weight and feel of a gun is different than a Taser, which is lighter and made of plastic.

Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy John Fukuda, a firearms instructor, says these safeguards may not be enough when there is what he describes as a collision of contributing factors including the stress of making split second decisions. 

"When you're confronted by someone who's not listening to commands and is trying to get back into a car or wherever, you have no idea why they're not doing what you're asking," says Fukuda.  

Law enforcement says Tasers can help de-escalate tense situations.

"We're not out there to hurt. Unfortunately, sometimes it happens. But not because that's what we want to happen," says Frazer.

In his 31-year career, he says he's deployed his Taser a dozen times but has never had to fire a gun while on duty. He also says he's never mistakenly pulled out his gun instead of his Taser.