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September 21, 2004
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Officer Receives a Jolting Lesson; A Wet Taser Packs a Punch, He Learns

By Christine Vendel, The Kansas City Star

A Kansas City police officer shockingly discovered recently that wearing a Taser in a heavy rainstorm could result in his being, well, shocked.

The officer directed traffic in a thunderstorm about 1:15 a.m. last Saturday after a tree fell across a street at 44th Street and Park Avenue. He stood outside in the pouring rain for an extended period before getting back into his patrol car.

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That''s when he heard a crackling noise and smelled something burning. He deduced that the noise and odor had come from his Taser, an electrified weapon capable of issuing a 50,000-volt shock. As he began pulling the Taser from the holster strapped to his left thigh, the weapon fired a cartridge into the bottom of the holster.

The officer did not receive the full shock, but rather a residual shock, since the cartridge remained in the holster and did not penetrate the officer''s skin.

"He got a shock, but it didn''t immobilize him," said Sgt. Mark Hatcher, supply section supervisor.

Hatcher contacted Taser International to report the problem. Company officials told him they had not heard of a similar problem with the X26 model that Kansas City officers use. Hatcher said officials told him the weapon is not intended for use in heavy moisture.

"They told me anytime heavy water penetrates the battery cover, there could be an electrical short, which could cause the weapon to discharge on its own," Hatcher said.

Hatcher said he did not think the weapon was flawed. He said making the weapon waterproof would probably make it too expensive.

Hatcher issued a memo to department members. He told officers to wear raincoats in inclement weather to keep the Tasers dry.



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