CHP, Sheriff’s Office get tasers
February 14, 2008
With the recent purchase of tasers, some law enforcement officers in western Nevada County have cultivated a strong respect for the pain stun guns can inflict.
“It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” said CHP Officer Earl Cummins, shaking his head. “It’s like a full body cramp, but worse.”
Cummins volunteered to be a guinea pig at a training session Tuesday for Grass Valley California Highway Patrol officers where they learned to use seven new stun guns, purchased by the state of California at $788 each.
When Cummins was tased, he dropped to the ground, fellow CHP Officer Dina Hernandez said.
“I will never, ever, ever, ever do it again,” Cummins said. “After they did it, all I could think about was, ‘please don’t let them do it again.’ But then it’s over.”
The taser attacks a person’s central nervous system, shooting 50,000 volts of electricity. However, the electricity is reduced to 1200 amps by the time the charge reaches a person’s body, Hernandez said.
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There are two ways to use a taser, she said:
In a “drive stun,” an officer touches the gun onto a person’s clothing. In a “probe stun,” two sharp electrical probes shoot into someone’s skin from a distance of 7 to 15 feet.
The probes are like tiny fish hooks with a wire attached to each one. They numb the skin around the entry area, leaving a small amount of blood.
The effects last a full five seconds. When you’re on the receiving end of the taser, it’s a “very long” five seconds, Hernandez said.
In 2004, Amnesty International raised safety concerns regarding the use of tasers following the death of 70 people in the United States and Canada linked to tasers between 2000 and 2003. The human rights organization called for all law enforcement to stop using the tasers, according to the organization’s Web site.
For those agencies that continue to use the tasers, Amnesty International recommended that departments “strictly limit their use to situations where the alternative would be use of deadly force, with strict deadlines, reporting and monitoring systems.”
Officers, who may face suspects who are high on drugs and unusually combative, said they feel differently about the use of tasers.
“We will use tasers when someone is being uncooperative and non-compliant, but they aren’t actually threatening an officer’s life,” Hernandez said. “When you physically restrain someone, the officer or the suspect can be hurt. It is our goal to take suspects into custody as safely as possible, without hurting anyone. It’s another tool for us to use before resorting to using a handgun.”
But if an officer feels his life is in danger, he will always use his gun, the agents said.
“This does not take the place of deadly force,” Hernandez said.
After a taser is used, the suspect is always taken to the hospital for evaluation, she said. The stun guns have never been proven to cause any permanent physical damage, illustrated by extensive animal testing, she added.
“The tasers have not lost one lawsuit,” Hernandez said.
The CHP received their tasers after a six-month, statewide field test by the agency, she said.
The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office also has 30 new tasers at $1,400 each, purchased with money from asset forfeiture, Sheriff Keith Royal said. Deputies have yet to train with those stun guns, equipped with small video cameras, Royal said.
The sworn officers at Grass Valley Police Department already carry tasers, according to department staff.
The Grass Valley CHP and Sheriff’s Office were slow to get the tasers because securing funding for law enforcement in rural areas can be more difficult than in cities, Hernandez said.