Police go for shock value

Oak Harbor Police Department soon will have a new method of controlling bad guys and belligerent, aggressive people — pain from 50,000 volts of electricity discharged by Tasers.

While the technology isn’t new to the island -- Island County Sheriff staff have been using Tasers to get the attention of suspects for about 18 months -- Oak Harbor police recently got their hands on the next generation of weapons.

“Tasers are less-than-lethal force that use pain compliance,” Officer John Dyer said. “Tasers’ force disrupt a person’s muscles and incapacitates them.”

Dyer hopes to have everyone trained and certified by the end of February. Once the police department has written its policy on Taser use, patrol officers, detectives and jail staff will carry the small units.

“It’s a significant expense, each unit costs about $800 along with the cartridges and other accessories,” Dyer said. “It’s well worth the cost to have something this useful.”

Taser model X-26 are smaller and lighter than earlier models but these weapons still send 50,000 volts of electricity slamming through flesh. To become certified to use a Taser, officers must go through a four-hour class, pass a written test and, probably the roughest criteria, have a Taser turned on them.

Although 50,000 volts is a lot of power, Dyer explained that low amps make using a Taser safe for officer and suspect.

“Defibrillators carry hundreds of times more power than Tasers,” he said. Because people being hit with a Taser usually end up on the ground, Dyer said officers must be aware that a suspect probably will fall.

While the police department takes all training seriously, Taser training always involves a little levity.

From hearing the yelling and laughter, a person might think Oak Harbor Police Department was throwing a wild party Wednesday morning. But appearances are deceiving. This was no party. Patrol officers and jail staff were getting a feel for Tasers.

“Eeeowww,” Jailer Ken Miller yelled as Dyer zapped him. Miller twisted against the protective grip of Jailer Mark Rodney and Officer Jim Covert.

He characterized the jolt as being “informative.”

“It felt like a hit from a hot coal,” Jailer Rob Hartman said of his few seconds under the Taser’s control. “The dual hit was a shocker. My muscle is still tight.”

Jailer Brian Braunstein took a full five second jolt. “I was totally immobilized,” he said after he stopped tingling.

Hartman and Braunstein said they hop they will never have to use a Taser on anyone, but pointed out that Tasers would be much more effective than pepper spray in close quarters.

Officer Jim Covert’s protective vest didn’t spare him any of the Taser’s power. The probes zipped volts directly through him.

“God bless America,” Covert grunted through pursed lips, arching and twisting against jailers Mark Rodney and Hartman.

A few minutes later, Covert said the shock felt like he was being jabbed with 1,000 ice picks.

“Tasers have great possibilities as a tool to protect suspects and us (police) from physical harm,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to having them available.”

It’s easy to understand why Oak Harbor Police are happy to have Tasers. Anyone who is unlucky enough to take a hit from one will be happy to do anything they are told. Anything to stop the intense, pulsing pain. And once a person has received a few seconds of 50,000 volts, they’ll likely cooperate with instructions to keep from feeling the hideous zap again.

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