Police officers have an assortment of nonlethal tools they can use to subdue aggressors.
When a person is “actively resisting in a defensive manner,” the officer must choose between a baton, chemical spray or a Taser, a brand of stun gun.
“It's more than passively resisting. It's more than just being uncooperative,” Master Sgt. Blake Webster said. “You're actively resisting, defensively trying to get away. You're resisting what the officer is trying to do.”
Nonlethal tools give police “an intermediate solution, so that we have more than going from just talking to a firearm,” he said.
“We have to understand that we have to use those or be able to justify why we didn't use those. We can't just simply go to the Taser and pull it out on every scenario. It's not always going to be the right tool for every problem,” he said.
The Taser delivers an electrical current of about 50,000 volts through two means:
Applied directly to the skin in what's called a “drive stun,” which is practiced on a rescue dummy.
Projectile deployment. When the trigger is depressed, a short-range cartridge fires and two pointed, barbed and electrified probes separate before they strike, delivering the charge through insulated copper wires connecting the electrified probes to the weapon.
The Taser's amperage is extremely low, so while it causes strong and immediate muscle reactions, the shock does no permanent damage. The current causes involuntary muscle spasms, and officers use that window to rush and subdue a suspect.
For a Taser to be most effective, officers practice a technique called “splitting the belt line.” The officer aims for one side of the body and attempts to get both probes to stick into the aggressor, one above and the other below the waistline, Webster said.
The technique is practiced both on a stationary silhouette and on a police officer wearing a shockproof suit and helmet who acts as a moving target.
“It's more than just shooting a static target or something that's just simply laying there. The officer really has to begin to think, they have to watch their distances,” Webster said.
When the officer portraying the offender is hit with the barbs during the exercise, he feigns the muscle contractions while another officer rushes in to subdue him.
The current automatically stops after five seconds, or may be stopped by the officer at any time by flipping a switch.
“We don't want the officers to stand there and watch,” Webster said. “We want the officers to move in, get him handcuffed and secured during that cycle.”
Each Oklahoma City police officer goes through a 10-hour Taser course every year.