By TIMOTHY COX
ROCKFORD — Police officers training this past weekend
saw Rockford Police Chief Paul May get zapped with a 50,000-volt
The Rockford department has added the non-lethal stun gun to
its arsenal. Taser instructors and other area law enforcement
officials met in Rockford on Saturday to train with the electrified
Tasers were added in 2001 at the Lima Police Department after
a standoff with police ended in the shooting death of a man
who pulled a knife on police, Lima Sgt. Chip Protsman said.
Protsman helped lead the training session.
In Lima, the Tasers are an acceptable use of force after empty-handed
control of a perpetrator fails. “We can use it the same
as mace,” to control a criminal suspect, Protsman said.
The Taser also can be fired at a fleeing suspect, unlike traditional
firearms, and has a reach of about 21 feet.
In direct, hand-to-hand grappling, the Taser can be applied
directly to the skin to deliver an incapacitating jolt. At a
distance, the Taser can fire long electrified probes with barbed
ends that easily stick in clothing — or flesh —
to deliver a similar shock.
The technology that makes a Taser work is secret proprietary
technology of Taser International Inc., but is called Electro-Muscular
Disruption. A company statement says the technology allows officers
to “physically debilitate a target regardless of pain
tolerance or mental focus.”
The Taser is designed to safely incapacitate someone who is
fleeing, resisting or threatening a police officer, Protsman
said. The shock renders victims unable to do anything; all sensory
functions essentially are stopped, he said.
The Taser also should not be used to match up against deadly
force. Cops need to know when to holster their Tasers and reach
for their real guns, Protsman said.
An unofficial police motto regarding the Taser is, if a suspect
“paid their admission, give them the ride.”
May took that ride Saturday, agreeing to be hit with the barbed
probes and zapped for a full five seconds. Protsman shot May
squarely in the back and the Rockford chief promptly tensed
up, and collapsed, making only a quick groaning sound after
he was first hit. He didn’t writhe on the ground, instead
curling toward a fetal position with his muscles completely
The former United States Marine said nothing he endured during
bootcamp could compare to the five-second blast of energy.
“Nothing close,” May said only minutes after the
shocking experience. “There was nothing I could do. You
can’t even think. After two seconds, I was thinking, ‘Is
this ever going to end?’ ”
May said the jolt makes it easy to see why almost all suspects
comply with police orders after getting zapped.
“After it’s over, you think, Thank goodness. What
do you want me to do now?,’” May said.
The new Taser M26 units were in service over the weekend in
Rockford, but May reported this morning that his officers did
not get to try out the new equipment yet. Despite numerous traffic
stops during the weekend, including someone wanted on a felony
warrant, everyone complied with police orders and no one had
to be electrically subdued.
Rockford paid about $1,500 for two Taser units and the training
session. The money came from the police equipment fund which
is generated through a portion of mayor’s court proceeds.
Also present at Saturday’s training session were members
of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, Auglaize County
Sheriff’s Office and police departments from Celina, Wapakoneta,
Van Wert and Portland, Ind. Among that group, only the Auglaize
County Sheriff’s Office now uses Tasers.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said the demonstration piqued
his interest, but also raised some concerns about practical
use of the Taser on the streets. For now, though, the sheriff’s
office won’t be getting Tasers for one simple reason.
“I don’t have any money,” Grey said, adding
that he would want to further study Tasers and gauge their use
in the field before making a decision.