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Tasers offer a non-lethal tool for law enforcement officers

ALBANY -- Training in the use of Tasers, the electric- shock guns used as an alternative to deadly force, can be painful.

"At least one in every class will make a mistake and learn from it," said George Camp, an investigator with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit at a Tuesday training class. "It is a self-correcting mistake."

Simply put, once an officer makes a mistake and zaps himself with the 50,000 volt Taser X26, he learns not to do it again, said Camp, a 22-year veteran Taser trainer.

The eight-hour training session held at the Dougherty County jail had 18 from the Dougherty County Police Department, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office and the drug unit learning to use the Tasers.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul and two of his command staff were shocked with the equivalent voltage that comes from the Taser. The members of the class would eventually have to undergo the same hit.

Although the Taser is designed with a barbed projectile that could stick in an assailant while the electric charge runs on wires from the Taser, it wasn't necessary to use the darts during training.

"We do it to learn a respect for the weapon and what it can do to you," Sproul said. "It is a non lethal weapon in our tool kit to use to control suspects."

The crew assembled for training worked hard to familiarize themselves with their new weapons. Some fumbled but most did not.

It would be like anything else, Camp said, practice would make perfect.

"It is a thinking process event. With a new device you have to think more than we have ever done," Camp said. "It is no longer just point and shoot, or point and spray."

It wasn't merely that the Tasers had to be removed from a holster to be shot. The Tasers had to be turned off after the shot and rearmed with a different cartridge.

Sometimes one suspect would need to be hit twice or another suspect could be involved.

If the Taser was not turned off during the rearming process it could push its voltage into its operator. The operator would then have as Camp said, "A learning experience" from the 50,000-volt weapon.

It may seem like an easy thing to do, turn off a switch and then place a cartridge in the Taser. Consider that the three class instructors put the students under stress while they tried to recharge the Tasers.

The instructors, at least one as close as a few inches from the Taser operator's ear, yelled and screamed at the operator much as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor might yell at a recruit.

"That is stressful, but it isn't as stressful as we'll get on our jobs on the street," said county police Cpl. Kimberly Privette. "This is good training and the Tasers will help us in our jobs."

The use of the Tasers for law enforcement could allow officers to deal with belligerent suspects from as far away as 35 feet. Various models of Tasers have different lengths to their wires.

"In the old days and the old Tasers it was about inflicting pain," Camp said. "Now it hits the motor nerves and the suspect goes down. He is better sooner and compliant because he doesn't want to be hit again."