Shouldn’t being tased be worth one free speeding ticket?
By ANDREW MCGINN
I initially joked to my 10-year-old son that I was going to absorb the electricity and then, with a low chuckle, fire it back at the crowd.
My son was amused, which was totally the point.
My wife was not. She didn’t need to be eavesdropping anyway, even though she was seated directly next to me at the supper table.
However, I changed my story pretty fast when I received the official waiver I would need to sign in order to be voluntarily tased by police.
Being shot with a Taser, according to manufacturer Axon, can possibly cause rage, it stated.
I mean, it said that death was a possibility, too, but I instead focused on the potential of being driven into a rage as electricity coursed through my body.
I started telling my son that I’d probably be like the Hulk, and he should get ready to see me rip the door off a patrol vehicle and hurl it down Chestnut Street as cops scrambled for safety, all while two electrical wires dangled hopelessly from my back.
He liked that one, too.
In reality Friday afternoon outside the Greene County Law Enforcement Center, Jefferson Police Capt. Heath Enns fired his Taser into my back, I yowled like a Yeti in heat and promptly dropped to a padded mat.
Clearly, I’ve read too many comics and seen too many movies — and, clearly, I should have tripled the amount of PCP I took.
My wife teared up.
My son? I have reliable reports that he laughed.
“Thank God,” I thought as Enns finally eased up on the trigger after the longest five seconds in world history, “that I went to the bathroom right before this.”
And just like that, I upheld my part of the deal — I had agreed to be tased to raise money for the Greene County Peace Officers Association.
In the end, the stunt raised $762.94 — half of what the peace officers association will need this Christmas season to take less fortunate kids shopping through the Shop With a Cop program.
Let the record show that I’m willing to be waterboarded for the rest.
Then again, the way some people reacted to the idea of a public Taser demonstration in the weeks leading up to it, you might have thought police were asking us to fight lions with our bare hands in the Colosseum.
Police had lined up 10 of us who were willing to be tased for a worthy cause. But only one — the one with the most donations to their name — would have to go through with it.
Police intended to hold the event at halftime of Friday’s Greene County High School football game — which, I’ll concede, does have a certain Roman quality to it.
The school district’s insurance company eventually intervened, giving the event a thumb’s down.
Waiver or no waiver, it would seem that electrocuting a local resident for fun on the 50-yard-line of school property represents some kind of liability.
Apparently, they, too, had heard that I planned to absorb the electricity and fire it back at the crowd.
But let’s just say I died right there at halftime. Well, talk about an educational moment. It’s called the circle of life, kids.
So with a few days to spare, the event was hastily moved to the parking lot of the LEC.
It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. Parents brought their kids. Laughter filled the air.
Public hangings really do bring out the best in a community.
I still sort of wonder how I managed to raise $337.30 — $170.05 more than the runner-up, high school principal Brian Phillips.
Carl Behne, CEO of the Greene County Medical Center, generated a paltry $26. The hospital is the county’s biggest employer.
That many people like their boss?!
Jamie Daubendiek, general manager of Jefferson Telecom, generated $63.
For real? People are always complaining about the internet.
Deal’s Orchard scion Chris Deal, however, was the worst: $2.
Go ahead. Go out of your way to tell him you put your money on somebody else. But the joke’s on you, sucker — you still have to pay to get into Apple Acres.
I suppose the police probably should have expected a wee bit of controversy in offering to shoot someone with a Taser in exchange for donations.
KCCI did a story on the local fundraiser, and from there, the story went national, getting picked up by news outlets as far away as Seattle and Cleveland.
Since the early ’00s, Tasers have become every bit as standard as handcuffs on an officer’s belt.
Several hundred thousand are now in the field, according to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.
But Google “Taser” and you’re never more than a few clicks away from a news story like the one from 2011 about a 61-year-old man on a bicycle who refused to stop for police in North Carolina and was tased.
He fell off his bike after being shocked and later died.
Family said he didn’t stop because he was hearing impaired.
Tasers are technically considered “conducted energy weapons,” generating 50,000 volts of electricity, but the more appropriate term is “less lethal weapons.”
The NIJ in 2011 deemed them safe to use when exposure is limited to no longer than 15 seconds.
However, a 2017 investigation by Reuters found that in 153 cases in which a person died after being tased by law enforcement — out of 1,005 deaths involving a Taser — the Taser was cited as the cause or a contributing factor in the death.
A quarter of those killed, Reuters found, suffered from mental issues or neurological disorders.
Nine in 10 were unarmed.
More than 100 incidents began with a 911 call for a medical emergency.
Even Amnesty International has weighed in, arguing that use of a Taser in drive-stun mode — in which the weapon is held against a person’s body, causing a localized shock — should be forbidden because it poses a “substantial risk of torture.”
There are bad cops out there.
There are good cops and great cops, too.
There are also bad journalists.
And good journalists.
This reporter recognizes that law enforcement in this day and age has become incredibly complex.
For one, our police have become de facto mental health orderlies. One in 100 police calls involve people with mental disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Nobody in a white suit carrying a big net is going to show up to haul a person away, like in some old Looney Tunes cartoon.
If a Taser absolutely has to be used, isn’t it better than the alternative?
The alternative is certain death.
Local law enforcement have all been tased themselves in order to carry a Taser. As Police Chief Mark Clouse sees it, that way, when a defense attorney asks in court if they knew what the Taser would do, officers can all say yes.
That level of commitment sealed the deal for me. They all take a jolt in order to patrol the streets.
I would be honored to take one, too.
“Why are you doing something so stupid?” one little girl shouted out to me Friday as I addressed bystanders outside the LEC.
The question barely registered.
By that point, I was already inside my own head. The sight of an ambulance on standby and multiple people clad in latex gloves told me this was serious stuff.
Michele Madsen and her Greene County Ambulance crew were on hand to restart my heart, if needed. Short of that, they would help extract the two metal Taser darts from my back.
When the big moment finally arrived, it was over before I could even process how much it hurt.
In an instant of Enns pulling the trigger, two barbed probes carrying fine wires tore through my shirt and plunged into my flesh. I simultaneously went stiff as my body bristled with electricity.
As they say, resistance would have been futile.
Thankfully, I had two officers to help lower me gently onto a mat.
But as I laid there, waiting to have my barbs removed, my mind wandered back to that waiver I signed beforehand.
The two-page manufacturer’s warning said to “avoid sensitive areas,” including THE EYES AND THE GENITALS, when shooting someone with a Taser.
Well, “when practicable” it said.
I thanked Capt. Enns then, and I’ll thank him publicly now.
Thanks, sir, for being a good shot.