EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- A Eugene man is leading a petition drive for a ballot initiative to restrict the use of Tasers by police officers.
Randy Prince, a Eugene high school teacher, said the initiative would allow police to use the shock devices only in situations where deadly force is justified.
Proponents of the proposal need to collect 12,062 signatures by July 15 to put the initiative before Eugene voters in November, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.
A new report from the Eugene police department says officers are now using Tasers more frequently than pepper spray when confronting resistant people.
In 2008 and 2009, officers used the stun guns 49 times to subdue people, while pepper spray was used in 43 cases. In 2007 alone, a year before officers began carrying Tasers, officers used pepper spray 57 times.
Since officers began carrying Tasers in 2008, the stun guns have been used largely without controversy. But two high-profile incidents involving the same officer focused public attention on the weapons and prompted the petition drive.
Critics said the effort to classify Tasers as a deadly weapon would hamstring police.
``Tasers are not lethal; they are a non-lethal alternative to deadly force,'' said Jeff Salisbury, a Eugene attorney who played an influential role in the city's decision to equip police officers with Tasers.
Salisbury urged police to get Tasers after his 19-year-old son was shot and killed by police in 2006. His mentally ill son approached police officers wielding a knife. Salisbury wanted police to have an alternative to shooting someone in similar situations.
``Having the Taser keep its non-lethal status will make it easier and more clear to the officers that they should try to use it before resorting to their .45 (caliber pistol), a truly lethal weapon,'' he said.
People have died in other cities after being stunned by Tasers, so it's reasonable to put the weapons under the same rules as firearms, Prince said.