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Louisiana Police Buy First Stun Gun, Plan More

By William Johnson, The Daily World

PORT BARRE, La. -- The Port Barre, La. Police Department has jumped into the future of law enforcement with the purchase of its first stun gun.

The new, non-lethal weapon, known as a Taser, is capable of delivering a stunning jolt of electricity to a subject up to 21 feet away.

"It''s one more step to better equip and train our officers to deal with any situation they may face without using deadly force," said Chief David Richard.

Richard purchased the first Taser from his own training budget, but hopes to get a grant to purchase eight more, one for each of the town''s full-time officers. "I feel pretty confident we are going to get it," Richard said.

Lt. Herbert Levier, who recently completed certification as a Taser training officer, is training the rest of the force to use the new devices.

Earlier this week, he provided training to officers from the Grand Coteau, Washington and Opelousas police departments.

Levier knows first-hand how well the Taser works, having experienced its full effect himself.

"It took me by surprise, but I can tell you one thing, it''s a very effective weapon," Levier said.

Being hit by the weapon is part of the training. It helps officers understand what the Taser can do.

What it can do is stop anyone instantly, regardless of how strong or big they might be, regardless of what drugs they may be on at the time.

"It doesn''t matter what you are on - alcohol, PCP," Richard said.

It does so by delivering a 5,000 volt, 25 watt, .106 amp charge to their bodies. The high voltage causes them to lose all voluntary control over their muscles. The low wattage and amperage guarantee there is no physical harm, even to people with weak hearts or pacemakers.

Recent tests by the Los Angeles Police Department, which uses 3,000 of the devises, have shown Tasers to be the most effective non-lethal weapon available in terms of injuries to both suspects and officers.

Striking a subject with a flashlight, baton or punching them results in injuries to the victim almost 80 percent of the time.

While pepper spray and other such chemicals result in minimal injuries to the suspect, they sometimes don''t work quickly enough. Twenty-nine percent of the time the officer attempting to make the arrest is injured.

According to the LAPD figures, the Taser has so far resulted in arrests with no injuries to either victims or officers.

"It contracts all your muscles. It immobilizes you. You aren''t going anywhere with that in you," Richard said.

What he is referring to are the two 21-foot wires the M-26 Taser fires using compressed gas. Each wire is tipped with a miniature hook to keep it for coming loose.

Levier said even if the hooks only connect with clothing, the shock can still incapacitate the suspect.

The M-26 also comes with a built-in laser point to make aiming easier.

Should the officer miss, the Taser itself can be used as a stunner by simply placing it against the suspect''s body.

The Tasers, which look and feel like a service pistol, are marked with bright yellow strips.

"You want them to know it''s coming," said Levier, pointing out that just the Taser''s presence can defuse many situations.

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