WSP adds new tool to officers’ belts

Trooper Eric Ellefson winces in pain after Trooper Mark Tegard fires the Taser X26 at him. All Washington State Patrol officers must experience the Taser as part of their training.  - Phtoto by Rachel Brant
Trooper Eric Ellefson winces in pain after Trooper Mark Tegard fires the Taser X26 at him. All Washington State Patrol officers must experience the Taser as part of their training.
— image credit: Phtoto by Rachel Brant

Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper Eric Ellefson winced in pain as Trooper Mark Tegard fired the Taser X26 non-lethal weapon at him.

WSP District Eight was recently issued 14 Taser X26 weapons. Officers completed eight hours of training Friday, which included experiencing the Taser firsthand.

WSP first began distributing Tasers last year to detachments that showed the highest rate of use of force. All WSP troopers and sergeants throughout the state are being issued Tasers. WSP District Eight received their Tasers Friday and participated in an eight-hour training session at their headquarters in Bremerton.

“It’s a great tool because it’s going to eliminate a lot of officer injuries and suspect injuries,” said WSP Trooper Corey Ditmer. “It basically ends the altercation before it starts.”

The Taser X26 is an “electric control device that can immediately stop a subject who poses a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves,” according to a news release.

“It gives officers another option,” said Trooper Mark Tegard, WSP training instructor. “We’re always looking for more tools in ways to gain control of a suspect.”

Officers completed five hours of classroom and three hours of practical training Friday. Tegard taught them about how the Taser X26 device works, medical information, how to use it and the proper first aid to administer after a subject is hit with it. Tegard has taught about 360 officers about the Taser X26.

The Taser is manufactured by TASER International Inc. and estimates the weapon has been used on more than 60,000 people in live fire scenarios and more than 100,000 volunteers, according to a news release. They report no deaths have occurred as a result of the Taser X26 and that “the weapon’s current of 0.36 joules is well below the 10-50 joule threshold where cardiac ventricular fibrillation can occur,” according to a news release.

“It operates at 19 pulses per second,” Tegard said. “It’s like having a surge but it’s 19 times in a second.”

As part of training, all WSP District Eight officers who will be using the weapon had to be tased. Tegard fired the Taser X26 at officers during Friday’s training session. Afterwards, officers practiced properly removing the probes shot into one another’s backs. Tegard said it will “give them some empathy so they know what it feels like” to be tased.

“I’m glad I experienced it because it allows us to know the actual experience of being tased,” Ditmer said.

Officers experienced the Taser for one second, but that one second proved to be enough for the men.

“It’s indescribable,” Ditmer said. “All the muscles in your body tense up. It definitely takes the fight out of you.”

Tegard has experienced the Taser several times and describes the feeling of being hit with the electricity from the weapon as “intense.”

“It’s intense,” he said. “The pain and muscles working, it’s just an intense feeling.”

Once the two probes are attached to a subject, officers can tase the person for one to five seconds. If the person continues to resist or cause problems, the officer can tase the person again.

“The machine will do one second or five seconds, the officer has the choice to re-shoot once the probes are attached,” said Trooper Brian George, former WSP District Eight spokesman.

The Taser X26 causes no long-term injuries. Minor skin irritations and possible bleeding may occur depending where the probes attach to the person’s body. The person may feel dazed for several seconds, but the effects of the electrical pulse stop as soon as the Taser shuts off, according to WSP.

Although injuries are rare, a WSP officer was injured during Taser training in Yakima a few weeks ago. Although the details remain unclear, the officer suffered a cracked shoulder blade.

After Friday’s training exercise, WSP District Eight officers can add yet another tool to their belts.

“It will be part of the issued equipment,” George said. “It’s an option available to them on their next shift.”

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