You know what they say about experience, it’s the best teacher. The military knows just that, so they make sure that the Military Police on training understand the effects of their weapons by, of course, trying them for themselves. In fact, they have certifications for stuff like OC (pepper) spray training and taser training. What does a 50,000 shock of electricity coursing through your body feel like? The trainees could answer that for you.

Taser Technology

TIFNIT, Morocco (May 5, 2009)—Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Bradley A. Loudon (RIGHT), a nonlethal weapons instructor with Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, demonstrates the capabilities of a taser gun on Marine Corps Sergeant Joseph M. Cuffel, a military policeman with Military Police Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division, during Exercise AFRICAN LION. The annually scheduled, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques, and procedures. (US. Marine Corps photo by Master Sgt. Grady T. Fontana, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

A taser works by sending electric shocks to temporarily incapacitate the target and enabling them to be approached, handled, and cuffed if needed in an unresisting and safe manner. It fires two small barbed darts that puncture the target’s skin and remain attached to them at a range from 15 feet, with a speed of 120 MPH. The range could be longer at 34 feet for Law Enforcement tasers. These darts are connected via a thin insulated copper wire that acts as the conductor of a modulated electric current. When fired, it disrupts the voluntary control of muscles, therefore causing neuromuscular incapacitation. Tasers are considered less-lethal, with their major effect being localized pain or strong involuntary muscle contractions on where the darts are attached.

Fatality

However, the tasers are not without risks. According to Fatal Encounters, 935 people were killed from incidents involving these tasers from 2000 to 2021. Presumably, that number would drop to zero if suspects did not violently resist being arrested.

The technology was first introduced in 1993 as a less-lethal option instead of firearms. According to the US Department of Justice, the number of taser use increased since then:

More than 15,000 law enforcement and military agencies use them. Tasers have caused controversy (as did pepper spray) and have been associated with in-custody deaths and allegations of overuse and intentional abuse. Organizations such as Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union have questioned whether Tasers can be used safely, and what role their use plays in injuries and in-custody deaths.

On the other hand, the CEO of TASER International, Rick Smith, claimed that unspecified “police surveys” show that the device had “saved 75,000 lives through 2011.”

Taser Training

And so, for the officers-to-be to fully understand the effects of being tased to someone’s body, and have confidence in the device, part of their certification process is to get zapped by the tasers themselves.

Senior Airman Jenina Rose reacts to being tased by Staff Sgt. Neil White, after volunteering to display the effects a taser gun will have on an assailant as part of the annual Use of Force and Taser certification training. (Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Capt. Jonathan Caylor, a police officer and supervisor for the training section of Directorate of Emergency’s Special Reaction Team who handled the 89th Military Police Brigade, said,

“We (the training department) think that it is important because if you don’t understand the effects that a taser has then you won’t have confidence in using it, so it builds confidence in the system,” Caylor said. “Secondly, you won’t know how it impacts an individual when it happens to them; the officer has a better understanding of what they are going through and how to get past the initial shock… We want to make sure that our officers have choices and use good discretion on when to use different levels of force. This is one more option to ensure they go home safe at the end of the night.”

Before the taser experience, the MPs were taught in a classroom first about the things that they needed to learn about the device. Afterwards, they will be tased and taught how to handle situations by getting the person under control.

Lance Cpl. Ty Underwood, a cyber-network specialist with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, is hit with the X26 Taser during non-lethal training at Naval Air Station Sigonella. (Cpl. Alexander Mitchell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In the Air Force, they started carrying these stun guns in 2005. During their training, being tased for experience is more voluntary versus the mandatory OC spray training. According to  Lt. Col. Melissa Brown, chief of the Security Forces Training Policy branch, the reason behind this was that “…you are not going to fight through the Taser. You are going to be incapacitated for five seconds. It doesn’t matter who you are.” Regardless, they still got a lot of curious volunteers who would like to know how it feels, and one of them shared,

You lose being able to move. I couldn’t speak either during it. You can completely hear; you can completely think; you just have no control over your motion.

It sure is one of a kind shocking experience.

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