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Policemen Get a Taste of the TASER

   Device Lauded as Nonlethal Means of Controlling Unruly Subjects

 

By Jeff Eakins - Editor

March 2007 - What was it exactly about last Thursday’s training session in New Castle that eight area law enforcement officers and one police dispatcher found so shocking?

That “$20,000 question,” it turns out, has a 50,000-volt answer.

“TASER! TASER! TASER!” Detective Sgt. Tony Darling of the Henry County Sheriff’s Department called out just before pulling the trigger on his TASER ® X26, an electronic control device that temporarily overrides the target’s nervous system, causing loss of muscular control.

Once the trigger was pulled, electricity pulsed – literally faster than a speeding bullet – through two thin 21-foot insulated wires that ran from the X26 to two small alligator clips attached to HSCD Deputy Wally Trevino’s uniform. Trevino, who recently left the Knightstown Police Department to join the HCSD, was the first of the nine officers that day to find out first hand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the X26’s 50,000-volt jolt.

With two other officers holding onto his arms to keep him from falling forward or backward, Trevino cried out and recoiled in pain when the charge, which lasted about a second, hit him. “Son, are you for real!” Trevino yelled as soon as his “ride” on the X26 ended. Saying he had overreacted, he promptly told the others, “It’s not that bad.”

Next up was Knightstown Chief of Police Earl Patterson. As had been the case with Trevino, the shock that followed Darling’s “TASER! TASER! TASER!” warning caused Patterson to cringe as he lost control of his muscles. Patterson’s initial cry of pain morphed into an “Aaaah, yeah! Woohoo!” not unlike what one might hear at a rodeo.

Less than a minute after he’d been shocked, Patterson said, “God, that was fabulous!” Later, he jokingly described the experience as what he imagined “getting shocked by lightning, hit by a bat, run over by a bull, shot out of a cannon, set on fire and run over by a mower” would feel like.

One by one, the other six officers and one dispatcher that Darling was training on use of the X26 stepped up and took their turn.  For the brief second or so that their shock lasted, each yelled out and was left temporarily incapacitated. The only thing that kept each of them from hitting the floor was the two officers supporting them by the arms, and expletives were kept to a minimum.

“It hurts like a mother,” KPD officer Chris Lane said shortly following his turn. The only trainee to have the clips attached so that his upper body took the X26’s charge, Lane said, “From the waste up, I was completely locked.”

While the brief shock Darling gave the trainees was clearly not pleasant,

New Knightstown Police Chief Earl Patterson gets pumped up about his recent TASER training (above).

Former KPD officer Wally Trevino (above), now on the Henry County Sheriff's Dept., learns what the TASER feels like during some training exercises.

Tony Lorton, a dispatcher at Knightstown Police Dept., finds out what 50,000 volts feels like for only a second.

 

he explained that the X26 normally delivers its 50,000 volts of electricity for a duration of five seconds. Also, when used in the line of duty, the wires that are shot out of the X26 are capped by skin-piercing metal probes – not alligator clips. “If I’d taken a full hit on it, I would have been totally incapacitated,” said Shirley reserve officer Dave Frederick. “There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

Darling, a 12-year veteran with the HCSC now in his second year of training officers on use of the X26, said he thinks it’s important for officers to know what it feels like to be shocked by the device. “If these officers experience the pain and incapacitation, that gives them a certain amount of credibility in their use of force,” he said. “Probably the biggest benefit to the TASER, though, is the fact that it cuts down on officer injury and civilian injury, simply because there’s not much fighting involved.”

Patterson told The Banner he agreed with Darling about the importance of officers having direct knowledge of what it’s like to be hit by the X26. “I think we would be less apt to pull that trigger on somebody now,” he said. “I have a whole new respect for it.” He also said that going through the training together had been a good bonding experience for KPD officers.

In addition to Patterson and Lane, two other KPD officers – David Loyd and Dan Denny – also went through the X26 training last week, as did KPD dispatcher Tony Lorton, who hopes to join the department’s reserve force. HCSD’s Deputy Dustin Miller and Detective Josh Smith also completed the training.

Although its officers have now been trained and are certified to use the X26, or a comparable device, the KPD does not currently have any of the units, which cost about $800 apiece. Patterson said he hopes that the department will be able to come up with the funds to buy at least one or two of them, either through donations or grants, or a combination of the two.