Training for the trainers

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22 officers from three states hone Taser skills at USCL

By Jenny Arnold

Snap, crackle, pow.


Those were the sounds at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster’s Carole Ray Dowling Center as officers from three states honed their Taser skills Thursday.

Twenty-two officers – which included sheriff’s deputies, police officers, military police and security officers from the Carolinas and Georgia – practiced firing Tasers at the center, which is normally the site of more staid banquets and other community gatherings.

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office hosted the training from Taser International, which means two deputies, Sgt. Matt Shaw and Doug Vecchio, got their $300-a-piece slots in the class for free.

Law enforcement officers must be shot with a Taser, which delivers a shock through two probes fired into the body, to be certified to carry one. The Taser may also be used in close contact, with the gun-like weapon being pressed to a suspect’s body more like a traditional stun gun.

None of the officers in the class got shot with one Thursday, because they are all instructors at their respective departments and have already endured the excruciating jolt that takes its victims to the floor, usually writhing and screaming.

“Nobody wanted to get shot today,” said Shaw, the sheriff’s office’s training officer, with a laugh. “It’s a pretty memorable experience so when you do it one time, it sticks with you.”

But unlike pepper spray, the effects of which last much longer, a jolt from a Taser does not have any lasting effects. Once the shock is over, the person is no longer incapacitated.

Taser instructors must be recertified every two years.

That means Shaw has taken several hits from the weapon, which he praises. He said the use of Tasers by law enforcement has reduced resisting-arrest cases and meant fewer injuries to deputies and suspects since deputies here began using them about five years ago.

Shaw has been “voluntarily” shocked for training three times, and twice by accident in hand-to-hand situations where a suspect was resisting arrest.

“It’s hard to describe, it sort of comes from deep inside the body,” Shaw said. “It hurts really bad.”

Shaw expressed thanks to USCL for allowing the use of the Carole Ray Dowling Center for the training.


Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jarnold@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151