In the News

Provost Marshal’s Office begins carrying Tasers

By Eve A. Baker | Marine Corps Base Quantico | November 26, 2014

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Marine Corps Base Quantico – “Taser! Taser!” That is the warning I heard immediately before I was shocked with 50,000 volts of electricity and momentarily incapacitated. I had volunteered to be Tased by a military police officer during one of the Provost Marshal’s Office Taser training sessions so I could better understand the intensity and effectiveness of the less-than-lethal weapon. Having attended the classroom presentation and practical demonstration, during which I observed an individual three times my body weight and several hardened warriors completely immobilized by a Taser burst, I can state with certainty that the Taser is a highly effective tool in the hands of a trained police officer.

PMO recently purchased Taser X26s for use by its police officers, both military and civilian, and has conducted two of four training sessions to date. According to PMO Operations Officer Capt. Jared Siebenaler, the Taser is a “better method for less-than-lethal force,” as compared to oleoresin capsicum (OC, or pepper) spray.

Training and Operations Chief Master Sgt. Richard Bolin added that the Taser “extends the continuum of force.”

Officers have many tools to diffuse a dangerous situation, ranging from their mere presence at a scene to deadly force, and the Taser can reduce the need to use deadly force by stopping an individual in his or her tracks.

To become certified to carry and use the device, personnel must attend a three-hour classroom session, take and pass a 50-question test, and participate in a firing demonstration. Officers who have not previously felt the effects of a Taser are encouraged, though not required, to experience being Tased by another officer and to participate in physically supporting the volunteer “suspect” during the electrical burst. According to instructor Ed Rook, officers who have their hands on a person actively being Tased do not suffer any exposure to the electrical current. All participants in the class who participated in supporting a “suspect” agreed that they did not feel the current.

According to the training materials provided by TASER International, a Taser device is a conducted electrical weapon that delivers 0.0021 amps of electricity at 50,000 volts. The amperage, or amount of electricity, received from a Taser burst is “less than that used to power a single miniature light bulb on a strand of Christmas lights,” said Rook. The high voltage, however, causes neuromuscular incapacitation, meaning it temporarily disrupts a person’s nervous system and muscular control, causing a Tasered individual’s body to lock up for the duration of the burst.

The law enforcement Taser model delivers a 5-second burst of electricity with each trigger pull. If a suspect continues to actively resist or act aggressively, as long as the probes at the end of the wires connected to the device are still implanted in his/her body, the officer can deliver subsequent bursts as necessary to subdue the individual.

The 2-3-second burst I felt was the longest 2-3 seconds of my life and seemed like a longer time period than it actually was. Rook said that to counter potential claims of police brutality, the Tasers have a built-in data recorder that records the duration and number of shocks in a given time period. This prevents people from claiming to have been Tased for a minute when it was only 5 seconds.

According to TASER International, common side effects of a Taser burst include falling immediately to the ground, yelling, involuntary muscle contractions, freezing in place with legs locked, feeling dazed for several seconds/minutes, vertigo, temporary tingling sensation and critical stress amnesia. These effects subside almost immediately or within a few minutes. Any lingering effects, such as bruises, lacerations or broken bones, are a result of falling after or while being Tased. To minimize injury to participants in the recent PMO training session, volunteers started out kneeling on a pile of mats to minimize the distance to the floor. Other officers kneeled on both sides of the volunteer, gripping his or her arms tightly so they could lower the volunteer to the floor in a controlled manner.

According to Siebenaler, once all four training sessions are complete, all PMO officers will be authorized to carry and employ Tasers in the line of duty. Lead instructor Dan Bertrand said that it was far better and safer for officers to be able to use the Tasers than to have them physically fighting with aggressive suspects.

My 3-second Taser exposure was intensely painful, but when the electricity stopped, the pain stopped instantly. I felt slightly lightheaded for approximately two minutes, and after that, there were no lingering effects. This is what makes the Taser such a beneficial weapon for PMO to have: It results in instant compliance and alleviates the host of problems that come with having to shoot a suspect.