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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Reporter's Notebook: Getting Tasered sucks!

By Ryan M. Monk

September 15, 2006 | I don't care if you are a heavyweight, a Taser gun will bring you down. At the hands of the Cache County Sheriff's Office this reporter can attest that getting "Tasered" is both disabling and humiliating.

At a routine Utah State University journalism field trip to the Cache County Sheriff's Office Friday, a Taser gun demonstration was held. When Chief Deputy David L. Bennett jokingly asked for any volunteers, I stepped forward. My watch, cell phone, and iPod where removed from my pockets for safety while deputies attached the stun gun's electrodes to my body.

Being in a room full of deputies can be intimidating. Being in a room full of deputies giggling at what is about to happen is flat-out scary. At this point, I realized I was stupid for volunteering, and this was going to suck.

Fifty thousand volts of electricity ran through my 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound frame for two seconds, causing me to lose control of my body except for my vocal cords that let me curse loudly. I couldn't ignore the pain, I couldn't move at the deputy shocking me, all I could do was scream and hope it would end soon.

And that was the "nice" version.

In a real-life situation a deputy doesn't place electrodes on you while a friend holds your cell phone. Two barbed needles are fired at you, piercing the skin, and electricity flows through you for five seconds.

Despite being painful, being hit with a Taser gun is very safe, said Chief Deputy Bennett. "No one has ever died from a stun gun," he said.

"It's the amps that kill you, not the volts," said Bennett. A stun gun has about as many amps as getting a static shock from rubbing your shoes on carpet then touching a door handle.

People who have died while getting Tasered usually do from excited delirium, a symptom where someone -- usually it's a chronic drug user -- gets excited, like being in a fight, and the body temperature rises too high, said Bennett.

People have urinated themselves from getting Tasered, said Bennett, but this rarely happens and only when the suspect really has to go.

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