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Mon, Feb. 24

TASERS provide non-lethal means for PVPD officers

"It's a great tool, a non-lethal weapon," said Janik.

TASER is a brand name that unofficially stands for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, named after the hero of the Tom Swift book series. The generic term is conducted energy weapon.

The department must train officers to use the weapons before taking them out on patrol. PVPD plans to implement the Tasers by June.

Each officer experienced a stun gun (without using the cartridge) "hit" of 50,000 volts, but for only a fraction of a second. (Taser guidelines recommend a full five-second cycle for suspects.) Janik said wattage, not voltage, "is what hurts." The new Tasers have 26 watts of power, compared with the seven watts of the first models, and use "impulse technology" to deliver a more concentrated pulse through two darts propelled from a cartridge. The pulse interferes with the brain's ability to control muscles.

Janik said the short jolt wasn't painful, but basically made him feel instantly weak and lose muscle control. A longer jolt does hurt, but the effect lasts "only a minute or so" - long enough for officers to stop a violent episode, handcuff a suspect and gain control.

"It lets the bad guy know 'this hurts and I don't want to go through that again'," Janik said.

PVPD's Ron Lowman is the resident instructor from the Training and Background Unit who teaches officers how to use Tasers. He said optimum range for firing the Tasers is 7-12 feet with maximum range of 21 feet. Officers attempt to dart a suspect in the back, with the two probes at an eight-degree spread. The probes will penetrate up to two inches of clothing. The Taser's energy cauterizes the entry points so there's no bleeding. EMTs remove the probes.

Each Taser contains a chip which officers can download into a data port and tell exactly how many times the Taser fired.

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