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Training with Tasers
Class covers alternative to using force
2 Taser pic1
Dawson County Sheriffs Maj. Jeff Johnson teaches a training class last week in which three detention officers volunteered to be zapped by a Taser to experience how suspects feel. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

A recent training class gave several Dawson County Sheriff's deputies a new line of defense.

Taught by Jail Commander Maj. Jeff Johnson, the one-day course went over how to use Tasers, an alternative to other uses of force when suspects are combative and pose a threat to law enforcement officers, themselves or others.

"Whenever force is necessary, there always exists the possibility of injuries to the officer and or suspect," Johnson said. "This potentially opens the door to increased liability for our county.

"A primary objective in any law enforcement force application is to respond in a reasonable and necessary manner in hopes of ending the confrontation as quickly as possible with no or minimal injuries."

Officers in the detention center and court services participated in the course, which included classroom instruction and firing techniques. It also gave volunteers the opportunity to be exposed to the device in a five-second jolt.

"Although exposure is not required for our officers to be certified, these men and women elect to participate for numerous reasons," Johnson said. "Exposure increases officer confidence, increases credibility and reduces the likelihood of misuse."

Detention Officer Wes Ramsey said having the training is a benefit to both inmates and officers at the jail.

"I don't want to have to use [it], but if the situation calls for it, it could make a peaceful ending to what could have potentially harmed either me or the other individual," he said.

Although apprehensive after hearing descriptions of the jolts of pain other deputies said they experienced, Ramsey was first to volunteer.

The light exposure causes stimulation to sensory and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions.

"The stories were pretty accurate. You lock up and you can't move at all. You pretty much just have to take the ride down," he said. "This could definitely be a benefit to us in the detention center."

Johnson said deputies must be authorized by their commander to carry the devices.

"These men that participated today have been hand selected due to their maturity and experience," he said. "These officers have proven that they make sound, well-reasoned force decisions."

Johnson said safety for all involved is his top reason for using the devices in the detention center.

In the nearly three years since Tasers were introduced at the detention center, the agency has experienced considerable success, according to Johnson, who added they have "served to curtail many potential force applications."