Falmouth Police Demonstrate Use Of Tasers To The Public
By: Michael C. Bailey
Detective James M. Pires called it “taking the five-second ride.”
Det. Pires was referring to the five-second jolt delivered by the Falmouth Police Department’s new X-2 Taser pistols, the newest addition to the department’s law enforcement toolbox.
“The Taser is a less-lethal option of force,” he said. “When we want to subdue somebody but we don’t want to hurt him too bad, but we don’t want to get hurt either, this is one of the options that we as police officers can go ahead and use.”
“We’re very fortunate to get the opportunity to have the Tasers here in Falmouth,” Chief Anthony J. Riello said, noting that about half of the Cape’s police departments use Tasers.
"At the end of our tour of duty, we don’t want to get hurt, we don’t want to get punched, we don’t want to get kicked, we just want to go home.”
- Detective James Pires
About a dozen members of the public attended a special presentation at the police station, where Det. Pires, a certified Taser instructor, explained in detail how the non-lethal device works.
The pistol-like Taser causes neuromuscular incapacitation by sending an electrical charge into the suspect, causing pain and loss of muscle control. The jolt is 50,000 volts, but according to Det. Pires, it is the device’s amperage that causes the desired effect—and that amperage is less than the amperage found in a standard bulb in a string of Christmas tree lights.
The shock is delivered by two small darts fired from the device by a nitrogen capsule delivering 1,800 psi (pounds per square inch), which propel the probes up to 21 feet at a speed of 160 feet per second. The probes, which are connected to the Taser by two thin wires, can penetrate clothing up to two inches thick.
On the first pull of the trigger, the probes launch and deliver the initial five-second shock. Each subsequent pull of the trigger delivers a new five-second jolt; the Taser itself controls the duration of each shock, and officers can see the seconds count off on a small display panel on the back of the device.
A Taser can deliver up to 90 shocks on a single battery, Det. Pires said, although with many suspects, one zap is more than enough. “Once somebody gets Tased, once they take that ride on that Taser, they really don’t want to do it again,” he said.
The Taser has twin laser sights that indicate on the target where the probes will land. One dart fires straight out, the other at a seven-degree angle, and to deliver a proper jolt, the probes must hit the target at least four inches apart.
Officers may also use the Taser in “drive stun” mode, which means instead of firing the probes, the officer touches the device’s electrodes directly to the suspect to deliver a painful but non-incapacitation shock.
Tuesday’s presentation included a dozen videos of the Taser in action under various circumstances, including against armed suspects and individuals under the influence or drugs or alcohol, and culminated with a live demonstration of the device on a volunteer, Patrolman James B. Rogers.
“I feel a little muscle fatigue in my back area just from, you know, because [the muscles] tense up so much,” Ptl. Rogers said following the demonstration. Aside from tight muscles and a sense of exhaustion, Ptl. Rogers said he felt no lingering pain or discomfort following the jolt.
While the Taser’s effects are dramatic, Det. Pires said the device has a long and well-established track record of reducing the potential for serious injury to officers and suspects alike.
A 2009 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that in departments that use Tasers or similar “conducted energy devices,” officers were 70 percent less likely to be injured during an arrest. That was due to the fact that Tasers greatly reduced the need for officers to physically subdue unruly suspects.
“If I did have the Taser, I might not have gotten injured,” Patrolman Christopher Bartolomei said, referring to a serious on-the-job injury from 2010 that kept him laid up for about a year.
“Even though we win, a lot of times we don’t come out unscathed” when using more traditional takedown techniques, Det. Pires said. “At the end of our tour of duty, we don’t want to get hurt, we don’t want to get punched, we don’t want to get kicked, we just want to go home.“
Suspects were 40 percent less likely to be seriously injured, but the need for post-arrest medical attention was higher than other non-lethal takedown methods (batons, pepper spray, and hand-to-hand engagement). This was due in part for the need to have a medical professional remove the Taser’s barbed darts.
The report also stated that suspects hit by a Taser are routinely taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure to ensure the Taser caused no lasting damage.
Nevertheless, Sgt. Rogers said that any time a Taser is used on a suspect, that fact will be recorded in official police reports using data generated by the Taser itself. Each Taser records the date and time it was used, along with how many times a shock was delivered, and that information can be downloaded to a computer for inclusion in official records.
A dozen Tasers, enough to equip every officer per shift, were purchased using a $15,043 grant from the US Department of Justice. Chief Riello credited Det. Pires, Ptl. Rogers, Ptl. Bartolomei, and Sergeant Douglas M. DeCosta for spearheading the effort to purchase the Tasers.
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