When Alex Young, alderman and county board member, volunteered to get “tased,” I think it’s safe to say he had no idea what he was in for.
The deployment of a conducted energy weapon, the politically correct wordage for what are more commonly referred to by their commercial names, “Tasers,” is not like what you see in TV or movies.
It’s nothing like the amusing portrayal in popular entertainment, the suspect going stiff or flailing and making noises like they’re being electrocuted.
A conducted energy weapon puts out 50,000 volts at .036 amps and .07 joules. Voltage is just the current’s ability to arc from one object to the next. The weapon’s voltage is roughly equivalent to static electricity. As for amps and joules, a defibrillator puts out 3-400 joules, and a standard light-bulb takes around .5 amps.
That being said, this weapon has enough kick to drop a 300 pound bodybuilder, but as Young found out, there’s nothing amusing about it.
The reaction was violent, visceral, and quite profane.
Police officers don’t take the use of this weapon lightly, which is why every officer who carries one has to experience it firsthand before they are considered qualified to use it.
Though as bad as it is, it’s not the only, nor even the worst defensive tool in their arsenal.
“I would take a taser over the pepper spray any day of the week,” said Officer Tim Robbins.
The pepper spray used by the Rhinelander Police Department is rated at two million Scoville Heat Units, which is almost double the SHUs of a ghost pepper, widely considered the hottest commercially available pepper.
Then there’s the non-lethal shotgun we had a chance to shoot. The ammunition is basically your standard 12-gauge shotgun shell, with one alteration. The pellets that make up a shotgun blast are wrapped in Kevlar, turning the shot into a lead-filled bean bag, and are sometimes called kinetic energy rounds or bean-bag rounds.
In essence, the kevlar is designed to limit penetration into the body, creating a blunt-trauma effect. Note: I said limit, not stop completely. If the bag strikes soft tissue, well, you get the idea. The power of a strike from the non-lethal is said to be equivalent of getting hit by a 100-mph fast ball or a punch from Mike Tyson.
Another part of our training was self-defense, which seems fairly tame in comparison, but after seeing Chief Mike Steffes?—a formidable, six-and-half foot tall not-so-gentle giant—demonstrate the techniques, you start to see the potential of a well-trained, unarmed officer.
Last but not least, we were given the opportunity to use the defensive tactics we had learned (minus the taser and shotgun) in a simulation arrest. We were given foam batons, water-filled pepper spray canisters, and told to arrest Sergeant Michael Allard as he acted out a scenario in a protective suit.
I’d like to think that I would have been more effective against someone not wearing a juggernaut suit, but the truth is many times the police encounter individuals that their efforts are wasted on, whether because they are bigger than the officer, stronger, or suffering from what the police call excited delirium, a drug-induced state where the brain overheats. Those in excited delirium are irrational and incredibly strong, fighting out of base survival instinct.
To determine the proper course of action, police rely on training dubbed DAAT, or defensive and arrest tactics. Officers are trained to use the amount of force necessary to control the situation, and put themselves in a position to safely de-escalate, which is often easier said than done.