Kirby: Taser gives new path for my life
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cops go for the shock and owww

Life on the wrong end of a Taser

Cops shot me with a Taser last week. I was minding my very own business when my entire body suddenly charley-horsed and sparks came out of my behind.

I'd feel a lot better about the experience had I been robbing a bank, or punching a nun, or something. Unfortunately, I was only stupid. I asked for it.

The incident occurred during a Taser training class held at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office gun range. Cops from around Utah attended the class to learn how to become Taser instructors.

The Taser, of course, is the neuro-muscular incapacitating device cops use to take less-than-cooperative people into custody. You've seen them on TV or in the news.

Neither my wife nor my editors wanted me to attend the class. I argued that someone in the news media needed to understand the Taser. They countered with: "You're fat. You're old. You'll die." I went anyway.

The X26 Taser looks like a gun that a clown would pull on you. It's a blunt, yellow, half-pistol contraption. It gets unfunny in a hurry, though.

There isn't enough space here to describe the complete workings of the Taser. For more information, go on the Internet or a criminal rampage. Either way, you'll learn a lot.

Basically, a small nitrogen charge propels two barbed darts into a person's body. Attached to the darts are wires, along which passes an amount of electricity sufficient to cause a person to fall down and make noises like an aggrieved donkey.

The burst lasts five seconds or 350 years, depending on which end of the wires you're on. It's called "riding the five" by officers who willingly submit to it for training purposes, and "What the [deleted] was that!?" by those who make the training necessary.

Before practicing with the Tasers, we learned some stuff about electricity, specifically the relative differences between volts, amperes and something called joules, a French word meaning "Ouch!"

When it came time to ride the five, I was darted by the instructor, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. Bud Clark, whom I still respect as an instructor but no longer like as a person.

The darts struck me in the back and lower leg. The pain was immediate and intense, worse than anything I had ever felt before. My body became rigid, and I made noises that still reverberate in space.

The pain ceased as soon as the electricity stopped flowing. Except for some minor befuddlement regarding why the hell I ever wanted to do such a thing in the first place, I was fine.

I have a new purpose in life. It's to live in such a way that the subject of the X26 Taser never comes up again.

rkirby@sltrib.com