By Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Friday, Sept. 17 marked the third anniversary of the day Tasers came to the forefront of societal attention in the United States.

On that day, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry addressed a Constitution Day forum at the University of Florida, which was organized by a branch of the university’s student government. While taking his turn during a question-and-answer period following Kerry’s speech, 21-year-old student Andrew Meyer fired off a series of questions that event organizers didn’t care for. The microphone was switched off and Meyer was subsequently removed from the building by university police.

During the struggle to arrest Meyer, one of the officers stunned him with a Taser.
Meyer then repeatedly yelled out the now familiar phrase, “don’t tase me bro!”

The online encyclopedia Wickipedia defines the Taser as “an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles.” Its manufacturer, Taser International out of Scottsdale, Ariz., calls the effects of the device’s 50,000 volt, five-second shock “neuromuscular incapacitation” and labels its mechanism as Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology.

While the infamous incident involving Meyer became one of 2007’s most viewed posts on YouTube and even inspired songs by the Clash, Devo and rapper MC Lars, few people will ever know the feeling he experienced when he was “tased.”

But lots of law enforcement officers do, including many at the Texas County Sherrif’s Department.

As part of a training course required prior to being issued a Taser, officers must endure the horror one delivers. Lt. Melissa Dunn of the Texas County Sheriff’s Department found out what it’s like about four years ago.

“It’s the worst pain I’ve had in my life,” Dunn said.

Interestingly, residual pain from a Taser shot is all but nonexistent.

“When it’s over, it’s over,” Dunn said.

The sheriff department’s chosen Taser model is the X26. It functions by using a replaceable cartridge containing compressed nitrogen to deploy two small probes that are attached by insulated conductive wires with a maximum length of 35 feet. The X26’s electrical pulses are transmitted along the wires and into the body affecting the sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system.

Taser cartridges cost $26 apiece, but a sheriff’s deputy’s uniform goes for even more, with pants running $36 a pop.

But the sheriff’s department has saved some money in the area of attire since Tasers joined the force, as not a single item of uniform clothing has had to be replaced due to damage from a scuffle between an officer and an unhappy member of the public.

Tasers come in summer and winter models, too. Winter versions have longer prongs designed to penetrate thicker layers of clothes. Not only that, they’re available in an animal-stopping model as well.

Doug Davison joined the Houston Herald in September as a writer, copy editor and general office worker. He’s been assigned the crime beat and through this blog, will share the most interesting, intriguing and sometimes funny stories he discovers weekly at the Texas County Justice Center. You can contact Doug at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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