COLUMN: A wild five-second ride

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When does five seconds seem like an eternity? When you have a police officer pulling the trigger on a stun gun fired into your back.

Such was the experience Sunday morning as I joined other reserve police officers and jailers in becoming certified in electronic control devices, better known as Tasers.

I’d watched other police officers take Taser jolts for years but never had the joy of being on the receiving end. Most police departments require officers who carry the devices to be exposed to them. For me, that meant being lit up Sunday.  Seriously, though, the training isn’t only designed to teach officers how to use the devices but to give them a real feel of what it’s like to be hit with one.

As anyone who watches any cops show on TV knows, the devices fire two metal barbs connected to very thin wires. The electricity delivers enough of a charge to immobilize the muscles of the body, incapacitating a person almost instantly. The standard discharge is five seconds.

I was last in line to take a hit. Patrolman Roger Smith, who recently became a certified Taser instructor, taught the class and fired the prongs into my back. The device’s effect was instant and hurt like hell.

I fell on my stomach, helped there by two spotters who stood with me on a foam mat. Some victims yelped or squealed. I managed to stay quiet, but only thanks to a trick I’d learned.

I’d heard stories of masculine officers who sang like sopranos when Tasered. The training is videotaped and I knew every other officer and dispatcher would be watching. So, when my turn came, I took a smart piece of advice gleaned from another officer. I exhaled every bit of breath from my lungs. That kept me from squealing.

I did kick my legs a few times when on the mat. That was about the only response I could make. Roger surely thought that was my way of crying “uncle” and he cut the power a second short of the full five seconds I promised I would take. Unlike pepper spray, there is no lingering impact of the Taser, other than two small wounds where the prongs enter the skin.

I’ll try to post a video of my experience, and perhaps that of another reserve, at our Web site. (This was done as of 3:25 p.m. Tuesday.) Still photos are already posted on this site.