My agency, after much folderol and ballyhooed nonsense, has seen fit to issue its officers ECDs (Electronic Control Devices). That is to say, we have Tasers now.
Taser, much like Kleenex, is a brand; however, the name has become so synonymous, the product is virtually indistinguishable from the company name.
We’ve had them for a number of months now.
That is not the funny story.
As a part of our daily routine, we have to ensure that the Taser is functioning properly. Thus, we do a “spark test”. It involves removing the cartridge that carries the probes and the umpteen feet of wire with which to deliver the shock. Once the cartridge is removed, the officer pulls the trigger to make sure the tool works as advertised.
Also, not the funny story.
I’ve spark tested my Taser repeatedly. Without issue and/or mishap.
This is where the story gets funny.
Call it not being quite awake yet. Call it not having my full cup of coffee yet. For whatever reason, I forgot to remove the cartridge. You know, the one that shoots out the darts? So, like every morning, I pulled my Taser out, flipped the safety to “fire”, saw the red dot on the ground, and pulled the trigger.
And proceeded to tase the shit outta the carpet.
There were only three or four of us in lineup at the time, but “Oh, shit!” was uttered by one of them. Nothing much else to do but chuckle at the stupidity of the oversight. I was happy to see the picture to the right when not much longer after that under my desk chair.
Personally, I would have gone with the following letter posted for all to see:
I heard you and the floor got into it earlier today. We’re still cool, right?
Either way, I laughed like an idiot, took the photo and immediately posted it on Twitter. A little self-deprecation is good for the soul.
Something occurred to me later, however, that gave me good reason to pause and think about how I train. We have cameras attached to our Tasers. My supervisor downloaded the video and we watched it. All one second of it. Then the supervisor printed out my Taser’s history. A ton of one second spark tests. That bothered me.
Every time I tested my taser, I pulled the trigger, heard and saw the sparking, and shut it off. When I had my AD (Accidental Discharge), which, by the way, should be changed to SAD (Stupid Ass Discharge), I immediately flipped the safety back on without even thinking.
The problem is this: when under stress the body reacts the way it has been trained. It becomes unconscious, habit, involuntary. What if I had needed to deploy the Taser on a combative suspect? Would I have thumbed the safety back on after one second?
I don’t recall the specifics of the following story, but the moral of the story is clear. Back in the day, an officer or two were involved in a gun fight. They were using revolvers. Sadly, they were shot and didn’t survive the battle. When the bodies were recovered, it was discovered that the officers had pockets full of brass (spent shell casings).
Seems odd, right?
Well, when they trained at the range, they trained to pick up their spent rounds and put them in their pocket in conjunction with reloading…and that’s what they did under stress. Did it cost them their lives? Who knows, but it serves as pretty compelling evidence that we fight they way we train.
I’ve never been one to shy away from pointing out my mistakes in order to use them as a teaching/learning tool for others. It was a funny mistake, to be sure, and I justifiably got some teasing behind it (quite a bit from myself, might I add), but it was a great reminder that repetitive training and/or muscle memory is legit and can either save you or sink you depending on how you train.
I’ll be letting that Taser take its full five second cycle from here on out.