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A taste of the Taser treatment

Mirror reporter Jacinda Howard gets the three-second Taser treatment from Federal Way Police Det. Bill Skinner. - Joshua Lynch/The Mirror
Mirror reporter Jacinda Howard gets the three-second Taser treatment from Federal Way Police Det. Bill Skinner.
— image credit: Joshua Lynch/The Mirror

The idea to write about Tasers stemmed from my daily reading of the Federal Way Police Department’s crime log, which noted multiple Taser incidents recently.

About the same time, Mirror editor Andy Hobbs and intern Josh Lynch also began to grasp onto the idea of exploring the use of Tasers.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get first-hand experience of what a Taser application felt like? Would I be willing to take one for the team? Feeling especially adventurous and bold, I immediately agreed.

Bill Skinner, Federal Way Police Taser and firearms instructor, readily agreed to give me a zap. I then had the better part of a full week to anticipate the event. Friends and family told me I was crazy for willingly taking a Taser application.

Come Sept. 16, I was a bit nervous.

A quick demonstration of a five-second Taser application convinced me that three seconds was adequate. I chose to be shot with two metal probes, similar to straightened fish hooks with a barb at the end. This is the method Federal Way police typically use to stop criminals in their tracks, Skinner said.

The probes are deployed from the Taser using compressed nitrogen. They are attached to wires that transfer approximately 50,000 volts of electricity from the Taser toward the target.

The subject of a Taser application is subject to only 5,000 of these volts, Skinner said — the rest is lost during the probes’ transportation process, he said.

After some stalling, I laid on my stomach on a mattress on the floor, then crossed my arms in front of me. This position ensured I would not flail on the ground when the electricity began to flow through me.

I took a few deep breaths and prepared for what I imagined the experience would feel like. Thinking a countdown to the shock would only make matters worse, I waited impatiently, trying to remain calm.

The gun popped loudly. I felt a sudden impact near my left lower shoulder and middle back.

The charge pulsated and my muscles convulsed. I imagined a sizzling blue glow speeding through my muscles, attacking them on all sides. I became tense and tried to mentally push out the undulating pain.

I was undergoing a process called neuromuscular incapacitation. This takes place when a person’s sensory and motor skills nerves are involuntary stimulated, causing a loss of muscle control in the affected area, according to Taser International’s Web site, www.Taser.com.

The application hurt, but did not paralyze my entire body, as I had expected. Without thinking, I kicked my feet and grimaced. A low-pitched scream, lasting the duration of the experience, escaped me. Three seconds seemed like 10.

Then it was unexpectedly done and a wave of relief washed over me. Skinner then pulled the probes from my skin. The tissue held on tightly until, with a swift pluck, my body reluctantly gave up the metal objects and tiny spots of blood emerged. Later, the areas became tender to the touch.

With a sigh I was ready to stand and conquer the world. My body, with the exception of these two areas, felt no different than it did before the adventure.

But the experience is something I’d prefer to do only once. I still cannot get my mind around the fact that multiple five-second applications are needed to take down some suspects.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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