MOUNT JACKSON – Involuntary shouts of pain echoed in the cafeteria at Triplett Tech on Tuesday morning.
Sgt. Keith Cowart, of the Mount Jackson Police Department, gave a demonstration to Triplett Tech students on the proper use of Taser deployment. No students were part of the demonstration – the shouts came from a video in which, one after one, military police officers were shown being tased and escorted to the ground as their muscles contracted and seized as electricity surged through their bodies.
To become a member of law enforcement and carry such a device, some departments require a person to be tased to understand what it is like before they use it on another person, Cowart said.
Criminal Justice instructor Donna Kinsey, who used to work as a law enforcement officer in Miami, Florida, described for students what it felt like to her.
“The only way I can describe it is standing in a bucket of water and grabbing power lines,” Kinsey said.
Cowart discussed various models of Tasers and how they are used as a less-lethal measure to incapacitate and bring a person and a situation under control. He discussed the medical risks - including death due to pre-existing medical conditions - that can come with the use of Tasers.
Students heard Cowart repeatedly yell Taser, Taser, Taser as he demonstrated how to use the various models. Students heard first-hand the sound of a Taser and saw its electrical arc.
Cowart explained that Tasers allow law enforcement to keep some distance between them and someone being aggressive.
Cowart and Kinsey both explained the rules for their use and the responsibility that comes with any use of force.
“Every level of force has to be justified; every level has to be documented,” Kinsey said.
Criminal Justice student Derek Rodriguez, 16, a junior at Triplett Tech, said the presentation was interesting and informative.
“I learned that, for now, I don’t want to get tased,” Rodriguez said, a smile spreading on his face.
He said he wants to become a member of law enforcement so he can make a difference in his community and understands he may have to be tased.
“I did not know it was that painful,” he said after watching the video.
It was good instruction that supplemented the classroom lessons he has received on the use of force, Rodriguez said.
After the demonstration, Cowart said that it is important for students to hear about and see the use of Tasers.
“To make them more aware of the reality versus just watching it on YouTube,” he said. “With the criminal justice class, it gives them an idea of what they can look forward to.”