ROSSFORD — Live Taser training was a part of the Use of Force class for the second night of the Rossford Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy on Wednesday.
“Especially if a guy has mixed martial arts training, when you are wrestling around on the ground, a lot of bad things can happen,” Rossford Police Chief Todd Kitzler said. “If the choice is to wrestle around on the ground or deploy a Taser, I’d rather they use a Taser.”
Class member Tim Miller volunteered to take a full Taser shot. He then gave the class feedback on his experience.
“Immediate muscle lock-up, with a big charley horse,” Miller said. “I just couldn’t do anything. The muscles just shut down. You immediately can’t move.”
Tasers shoot two electrodes with wires that conduct 50,000 volts of low amperage electricity into the target.
It is not considered an implement of deadly force for a police officer. However, Kitzler said that if a Taser is taken from an officer, the use of deadly force is justified in arresting that individual. The fear is that the non-lethal Taser can be used to incapacitate the officer, putting the officer in a compromised position and allowing for the taking of the officer’s gun.
Last year there were no incidents requiring the use of a Taser in Rossford. Kitzler said that there have recently been a couple, just in the last few months. The camera footage from some of those incidents was used for discussion in the class.
In Rossford, the Use of Force reports show that no officers were injured in the incidents that did take place and only three subjects received minor injuries. No medical attention was required in the incidents and there were no complaints of unreasonable force.
The annual report also showed that officers did challenge subjects with a Taser in 25% of the incidents, which Kitzler preferred over challenges with firearms or the various take down techniques.
“It’s a $10 to $12,000 cost to the department per year. It’s worth it to have that tool on your belt. It’s invaluable,” Kitzler said.
Sgt. Patrick Kwiatkowski taught the section on Taser use.
Class members were allowed to arc and shoot the Taser into a special target, which required shouting the “Taser! Taser! Taser!” alert phrase. The distance from the target was approximately 8 feet.
Kwiatkowski said that both electrodes need to penetrate the target in order for the electricity to discharge, a task that has become easier as technology has improved.
The desired neuro-muscular incapacitation also needs to have an ideal spread of only 12 inches between the electrodes. Officers practice on the life-sized target, that also has indicators of body parts that are supposed to be avoided: the head, neck, heart and groin.
Targeting is done with two lasers. As the distance from the target increases, the contact points will become farther apart, making the maximum practical shooting distance about 20 feet. Unlike older Taser units, the modern ones used by Rossford allow two shots and they can quickly be reloaded in the field.
The discharge can often be mistaken for the sound of a firearm discharge, because the darts are deployed by air cartridge.
In order to avoid accidental use of a firearm, the Taser is carried on the front of the officer’s vest, or on the non-dominant side of the utility belt.
In 2021 the Rossford Police Department answered 8698 calls for service with 211 incidents that were cleared by arrest. Of those arrests, 9.5% involved use of force and 25% involved involuntary commitments to a mental health facility. Those commitments are allowed by Ohio Revised Code if the officer has reason to believe that the person is mentally ill or presents a substantial risk of imminent physical harm to himself/herself or others.
Nationally, it has been found that 35% of arrests involved mental illness.