Officers practice proper use of Taser
MOUNT CARMEL - Members of 22 police departments and the department of corrections gathered in the Mount Carmel Borough Council chambers Friday for a lesson on what has become a staple of most police forces: the Taser.
Taser International instructor Charles Balon, who is also a sergeant with the Bloomsburg Police Department, led the class on how to properly use a Taser.
The class was hosted by the Mount Carmel Borough Police Department.
Balon's lesson covered the who, what, when and how of Taser use, including the correct circumstances to implement the weapon.
"The situation, not the officer, dictates its use," said Balon.
After instructions and two written exams, officers practiced firing Tasers in several different drills.
A Taser functions by using compressed nitrogen to launch electric wires attached to two metal darts up to 25 feet at a subject. After a surge of 50,000 volts pushes the darts through clothing and skin, the voltage drops to approximately 1,200 volts. At this level, the voltage interrupts nervous system signals, causing the subject to lose muscle control.
The weapon is not foolproof, and Balon said a Taser will not replace a gun in a situation where the subject is violent or brandishing a deadly weapon.
"A common misconception is that a Taser is a magic bullet," said Balon. "This is just another tool that can help us take (suspects) into custody."
He also brought some of Taser's new products to demonstrate for the class.
Attendees were especially interested in Taser Cam HD, a small camcorder that automatically turns on when the safety is removed from the Taser in preparation of firing.
The camera is small enough to be attached to a shirt collar, headband or glasses.
Since users should wear eye protection when firing a Taser, many of the officers were interested in trying on the camera mounted to safety glasses.
Balon said the Taser itself records data while firing, including how long the Taser was fired, if the subject was hit and the subject's pulse patterns.
This data is sometimes used in trial to prove the officer's actions were justifiable.
Mount Carmel Borough Police Chief Todd L. Owens said Tasers have been in use in the borough's police force for approximately seven years.
"Luckily, we've not had to use them all that much," said Owens. "Usually producing the tool without actually using it is enough."
Owens is an advocate of having Tasers in the force's arsenal because it provides a relatively safe method of subduing subjects.
"(People) think we just want to go out and harm another person, and that is not the case," said Owens. "We want to use the least amount of force that we possibly can with someone not complying with our orders."