These weapons, used by police officers around the United States, use a charge of electricity to incapacitate suspects. Unlike the stun gun, which requires physical contact between the operator and the recipient, an officer can fire a Taser (an acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) without having to touch the suspect.
Firing a Taser
The operator aims the Taser like a pistol at the intended victim and pulls the trigger, which releases two barbed electrodes in the direction of the suspect. To form a complete circuit, either both electrodes must pierce the target or one has to strike the target and the other must make contact with the ground. If the probes strike two separate targets (such as the intended victim and another person or a tree), the Taser’s shock will not reach either.
Two long, thin wires connect the barbed electrodes to the Taser gun. If anything damages one or both wires, the Taser will not operate.
The Taser gun contains either 9-volt batteries or several AA batteries that provide the electrical current that runs from the gun, through the wires and into the barbed probes. Low battery power will impede the effectiveness of the Taser.
When the probes connect with the target, the Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity to the victim. This shock overrides the target’s central nervous system, causing his muscles to seize and contract uncontrollably and painfully. As a result, the victim will stop running and, in most cases, will drop to the ground and experience muscle spasms.
With one pull of the Taser’s trigger, the gun fires the probes, trailing their wires as they penetrate their target and delivers a five-second pulse of electricity before shutting off automatically. The operator needs only to press the trigger and release immediately for the Taser to work properly.
If the suspect continues to struggle and resist arrest, the Taser operator might deliver additional shocks by pressing the trigger again. Each pulse will last for five seconds and the unit will shut down automatically after that time. The operator can send successive shocks in this manner until the batteries drain, if necessary.