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Mon, Oct. 14

<I>Zap</I><BR>Tasers overpower suspects running from the law

Courier/Jo. L. Keener

The taser, shown here without the dart cartridge, is a non-lethal weapon that the Prescott Valley Police Department hopes to have on line with patrol officers by June of this year. The Arizona Criminal Justice Department gave a matching grant in order for the PVPD to get the tasers.

The department will have a tracking software system, which will track down information on who, when and where an officer used the taser, which could possibly protect the department from potential liability issues or false claims. "That (tracking system) fell in line with what we call administrative oversight policies," Janik added.

John Werkhoven, a law enforcement specialist with Davidson's Inc., the sole taser distributor in Arizona, said the taser is designed as a less-than-lethal device.

"It is just one of many tools that they can use to overpower the subject," he said.

Currently, his company distributes two taser models – a Taser X26, which is a smaller version of the Taser M26 model.

"They are both equally effective," he said, but the newer model has better battery and trigger systems. "It has a laser device for aiming and a white light capability. They both have a range of police applications of 21 feet."

Each taser also has a cartridge and safety mechanism. When the trigger is pulled, it will discharge two darts connected by wires. Once darts hit the suspect, Werkhoven describes the effect as "getting hit by lightning and baseball bats at the same time."

"There is nothing you can do," he said. "You are completely coherent, but you do not have any control over your muscles."

"It contracts muscles and causes pain, but as soon as the device is turned off you recover almost immediately," he said, adding that the more muscle tissue a person has, the more effective the device is. "There is no permanent damage. Really there is no danger at all."

Werkhoven said tasers have been around for many years, but the new models are much more effective than their predecessors were. He said many police departments report that the application of tasers has dramatically decreased their need of using lethal weapons.

The price of a Taser X26 is about $800, while the old model is about $400, he said.

Janik said when officers use tasers they will not treat it any differently than they would lethal weapons.

Ron Lowman, a training and background investigator, said that each officer will get training and a "taste" of taser's effects before they are taser certified.

Janik said that his department ordered yellow tasers so that officers as well as the public would be able to distinguish between a real weapon and the device.

He said that upon the suggestion of his department, the Northern Arizona Regional Academy will taser train all the new recruits.

"New officers coming out of the academy will already be certified," he said, adding that Lowman will be one of the instructors.

Contact the reporter at mburicadam@prescottaz.com

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