DC - December 4 - The U.S. Forest Service has bought
$600,000 worth of "Electronic Control Devices" without any
training program, rules for use or even a written
explanation as to why the devices are needed, according to
agency records posted today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The devices, known as
Tasers, are sitting in storage and cannot be issued
because the agency has yet to develop a training course.
Due to an intense fire season, the Forest Service is
now staggering under a more than a quarter-billion dollar
deficit, causing it to begin jettisoning core programs.
For example, the agency lacks enough funds to draw up new
timber sales. At the same time, the Forest Service law
enforcement program is hobbled by more than 200 vacant
positions, leaving only one officer to cover each 300,000
acres of National Forest and 750,000 annual million
In late September 2007, the Forest Service purchased 700
weapons and "related accessories" from Aardvark Tactical,
Inc. of Azusa, California, a subsidiary of Taser
International, at a cost to taxpayers of $600,001.52,
according to agency records obtained by PEER under the
Freedom of Information Act. This represents enough to
equip every single Forest Service special agent and law
enforcement officer with an Electronic Control system at a
cost of $857 apiece.
The reason for this purchase is unknown since the
Forest Service was unable to produce any document
justifying the need for these weapons. John Twiss, the
Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations and the
official who made the decision to buy the Tasers, wrote
PEER in a letter dated November 7, 2007:
"[I]n the interest of customer service, we can tell you
that the Forest Service is currently developing the
required training and law enforcement officers will be
required to attend prior to the issuance of, or
authorization to carry or use, an Electronic Control
"There must have been a fire sale on Tasers, otherwise
why would an agency buy 700 of them without a program,
protocol or need?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch,
noting that the federal fiscal year ended September,
around the time of the hurried single source purchase.
"The Forest Service has many more pressing law enforcement
priorities that should have received any
In addition to the cost of training its entire law
enforcement staff, the Forest Service may be assuming
significant financial liability for injuries and deaths.
In October, Amnesty International released a study
estimating that 290 civilians have died from police use of
Tasers since 2001.
Tasers are touted as a non-lethal alternative to the
use of deadly force. Since Forest Service rarely is called
upon to apply deadly force, the role of these electronic
devices on national forest visitors is problematic.
Nonetheless, Taser International now also equips the
National Park Service.
"The proliferation of Tasers within federal land
management agencies has all the earmarks of a mindless
arms race that has eluded any thoughtful public or
congressional review," Ruch added. "As a result, in
addition to the howl of the coyote and the hoot of the
owl, the plaintive cry of 'Don't tase me, bro' may soon
echo through the forest night."
Read the Forest Service response to the PEER Freedom of
Information Act request
View the sole Forest Service justification document
See the $600,000 invoice
Compare the severe understaffing in the Forest Service law
Look at the Amnesty International study on police Taser
Delve into the background of the Forest Service official
who ordered the tasers
Check the Taser International press release announcing the
Forest Service order