Tasers are one more tool in the toolbox for law enforcement officials with the Dawson County Sheriffs Office. An important tool in the toolbox, Major Jeff Johnson might add.
Johnson was the leader for a six-hour class held Friday, Jan. 4, when three of the class members -- all sheriffs office personnel -- experienced the taser for themselves. We do not require it, Johnson said, but Im an advocate for it.
Johnson explained that actually experiencing effects of the weapon first-hand gives officers a better understanding of what a crime suspect would experience, allowing the officer to make better choices in situations that may require force. The class incorporated first-hand experience with thorough explanations about safety requirements.
Not all officers are authorized to carry these devices, Johnson said. These men that participated today have been hand-selected due to their maturity and experience. These officers have proven that they make sound, well-reasoned force decisions.
The taser itself is innocent-looking enough, but the two-pronged cartridge can paralyze a person for five seconds. It causes neuromuscular incapacitation, Johnson said, explaining that its different from a stun gun. Stun guns effect the sensory nervous system. Thats just pain, which doesnt seize your muscles like a taser would.
The participants were incapacitated but only for a matter of seconds. I dont feel anything, said Matt Smith following the experience, and fellow participants Wes Ramsey and Russell Grizzle agreed. Johnson said that, at most, participants would feel sore the next morning.
Like you worked out, he said.
To demonstrate, Johnson deployed the two probes from the taser into the back of a participant, who was held up by a spotter on each side. The spotters then guided the volunteer onto the ground, where he would lie face-down until Johnson removed the probes.
Every deployment lasts for five seconds, but if the officer keeps his finger on the trigger longer, the shock continues. For example, if a person holds the trigger for seven seconds, the shock would go on for 12 seconds.
A taser is a safe alternative to subduing a subject who may be fighting, or attempting to fight back, Johnson continued, saying that it is even safer than pepper spray. Is anything 100 percent safe? No, he said. But statistics he shared with the class say that only one in 100,000 would be at risk.
Its not the voltage that hurts you, its the amperage, Johnson said. And he explained just how few amps the taser emits .0036 amps, compared to 1 amp from a Christmas tree bulb, and 16 amps from a 110-volt wall outlet.
Another convenience for the sheriffs office is that there is also a digital record of every time a tasers trigger is pulled; the information details how long the trigger was held, and at what time, and can be downloaded at any time.
Your sheriffs office has experienced considerable success since the implementation of this device, Johnson said. The mere introduction of the taser has served to curtail many potential force applications.