Training sessions are under way for every Miami Springs police officer to be qualified on the new Taser weapon. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the old Taser X26 but they’ve been discontinued by the manufacturer, along with accessories, parts and non-warranty repairs.
The X26 has been replaced by the model X2, which has several new features. Policy requires that all officers regularly requalify on the Taser — but not as often as handgun requalification, which is held several times a year at the Medley Police Gun Range.
An eight-hour Taser training session is conducted by the department’s factory certified instructors: Sgt. Jimmy Deal, Officer Jeff Clark and K-9 Officer Albert Sandoval. Deal made it clear that all Taser equipment and accessories were paid for by the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, not the city budget.
“The new model give us better data to download,” said Deal. “It’s automatic to a certain extent in that it carries two cartridges. We don’t have to replace one after it’s used. We also have better laser sights for targeting.”
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The camera, which is an optional feature, is activated when the Taser is switched on. The new model provides high-resolution color where the older cameras recorded only black and white. Plus, the unit records audio.
“We’re one of the few agencies to have the new TaserCam option,” said Deal. “Nothing has changed in targeting areas of subjects but we train in high-stress situations so officers know where to aim, even in total darkness.”
At a recent session held at the Miami Springs Optimist Club, seven officers sat through a classroom session with PowerPoint and video instructions before firing the new Taser. Using mock cartridges, officers aimed the weapon at each other in pairs and fired with the lights on and in total darkness while stationary and moving.
After getting the feel of the new Taser, officers fired live cartridges at paper targets with full-length photos of a man’s front and back representing a subject. Lines across the paper man designated the areas where it was it was appropriate to aim.
When using the Taser on a subject’s back, a line was drawn across the upper shoulders, indicating that the body below was a desired target. On the front body photo, a line across the mid-chest indicated that any area below was acceptable for a hit. Officers are taught not to aim for the heart area or above.
The Taser is desirable for most police agencies because it’s not lethal in stopping most subjects. However, bizarre incidents have happened because of extenuating circumstance and conditions.
A video was shown where a naked man was walking down the middle of a main highway in the dark. Police blocked the street; however, it was dangerous for everyone involved. Talking to the man was futile, so police shot him with a Taser. The incident ended and no was injured, including the naked man.
The classroom session taught officers to be aware of locations where the Taser shouldn’t be used, such as when a subject is standing on a hard surface and in water.
Training videos from other agencies showed both the good and bad things that could happen during Tasing incidents where the cartridge was fired and when a drive stun is used, meaning the Taser can also be activated when pressed against a subject’s body.
The Taser is holstered opposite the handgun side, so an officer doesn’t accidentally grab the wrong weapon. Extra cartridges are also carried on the officer’s utility belt.
Officers were also reminded of the preferred distance for Tasering — 7 to 15 feet — because the effectiveness of the copper wire with barbed ends is limited. When a Taser is used, protocol calls for certain evidence to be preserved, including the suspect’s clothing.
“Our videos show what officers did right and what officers did wrong,” said Deal. “We want our officers to do the right thing at all times in all situations and that’s why we have intensive training.”
Miami Springs officers have used Tasers on several occasions since they were first acquired about nine years ago, but a definite numbers couldn’t be immediately recalled.
“It’s not that we’ve had so many cases,” said Deal. “It’s because we’ve had so few. Usually, the threat of being Tased causes subjects to give up and calm down. And we’ve never had a formal complaint.”