Fitzgerald-- Law enforcement officers in Ben Hill County are trying to cut down on the amount of lethal force they have to use on the streets by training their deputies to use new tools.
The department has just purchased new Taser guns, but before jailers and deputies can use them, they have to experience the shock themselves.
Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore volunteered to put himself in the shoes of the suspects he and his deputies often arrest. "I want to show the community too that it's not dangerous out there, it's not life-threatening but it will save lives in the end which ought to reduce our officers getting hurt as well as suspects getting hurt," he says.
He's talking about the department's new Taser guns, which deliver 50,000 volts of shocking electricity to intended targets. "I've been an electrician for 35 years, so I've been shocked a lot in my life, so I'm ready to go," McLemore says.
"The people on each side of the sheriff are actually going to be supporting his body because of the muscle contractions he may chose to fall to the ground whenever the Taser is deployed," says Col. J. D. Anderson, who teaches the Taser class.
Anderson fires the Taser, his subject reacts, and then it's off. "If I had the choice of being shot with a Glock or a Taser, I'd take the Taser any day," McLemore says. And being on the other side of the gun, so would his deputies. "You notice the minute that the Taser was turned off and deactivated that the sensation stopped completely that the pain went away."
"How does it feel?" asks Col. Anderson. "Nothing you want to feel again," responds a deputy.
For training purposes, electrodes were connected to the back of each deputy's clothing, as their instructor, Colonel J. D. Anderson pulled the trigger delivering the incapacitating shock. The guns' cartridges will deploy electrodes up to 25 feet away that stick into the skin, before delivering the shock.
The probes a small and easily removed. "The most important point that I want the students in the class to get is that although this is a safe, non-lethal use of force, it is not a level of force to be abused," says Anderson.
The deputies say the after the shock is delivered other than a slight burning sensation where the electrodes were placed, the sensation goes away, so I put the Taser gun to the test.
It's incapacitating, but the deputies were right, immediately after the shock the sensation ended, and so did my desire to ever again experience the feel of a Taser.
Several deputies and jailers will be equipped with the new Taser guns.