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Ross Blair gets 'tased'


Video of the taser class.

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One of my beats here as a reporter for the Bryan County News is the police beat. I’ve found there are many advantages to this.

For one thing, it’s never boring. For example, covering a shoot-out sure beats covering a five-hour county commission meeting. For one police story, I tagged along in a midnight raid as Pembroke officers and Bryan County deputies arrested nearly a dozen suspected drug dealers. Trust me, it was anything but boring.

Another advantage is that I can usually always pull a cop story together at a moment’s notice. If I call enough cops, I can usually find something that happened in the last few days worthy of a story. I can’t say that for most other beats.

This past weekend, however, this beat threw me a bit of a curveball. About a week ago, I got an email from Jeff, my editor, which simply read, "This would be a good story." Attached was correspondence from RHPD Cpl. Susan Willis about a "Taser Certification Class" that officers in training were required to take. I took the assignment…perhaps a bit hastily.

A couple days later, Willis faxed me a press packet on the class. Upon taking a closer look, I could see that I was invited not only to cover the class, but to actually participate as a student. The only thing that registered to me at the time was that this could be a positive as the thought has crossed my mind about purchasing one as a form of protection.

One of the most interesting details of the class really didn’t hit me until the day before when Jeff started ribbing me about getting tased.

Surely this couldn’t be part of the deal. I had heard about officers being required to take one for the team as part of their training, but surely the RHPD could not expect this out of shape journalist to get zapped. I suddenly got a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Within what seemed like minutes, Cpl. Willis called me. Making Jeff’s assumption a reality, she expressed how excited she was that I was going to get tased. A little too excited actually.

What had I gotten myself into? Unknowingly, I had just committed to being injected with God-knows-how-many volts of electricity.

All of sudden I pictured myself, in front of many of the cops that I have come to know, screaming like a woman, followed by foaming at the mouth and flipping around like a fish. Good job, Ross.

Come Saturday morning, Sgt. Sakelarios and Sgt. Harris, who instructed the taser class, both ribbed me about my imminent tasing. OK, there was no backing out now. I wasn’t about to lose face and slip out the back door…as tempting as that sounded at the time.

I soon learned that the police-issued taser does not simply shoot out electricity. It fires out two straightened "number eight" fish hooks that inject into muscle tone before sending out a burst of energy that causes you to lose control of your own body. Oh yeah, I felt much better now.

After a couple hours of instruction, Sakelarios and Harris moved some tables and set out some mats. Let the tasing begin!

First up was an RHPD trainee who just finished a tour of Iraq and was clearly in much better physical condition than I. Two spotters held his arms as Sgt. Harris pulled the trigger. Of course, the Iraq veteran let out a blood-curling scream that let me know I was in trouble.

Meanwhile, Chief Billy Reynolds walks in. He was on the other side of the room talking to the instructors. His eyes lit up as I heard him say, "You mean Ross is going to get tased?" He then smiled at me across the room. There was definitely no way out now.

I volunteered to go last as I witnessed two more Richmond Hill trainees get zapped – followed by cops-in-training from Savannah, Fort Stewart and Brooklet.

How can I properly describe being tased? I had a lot of time to think about it as I spent the rest of the day lying on my sofa instead of my planned yard work.

Remember those old sci-fi TV shows where the villain would walk into the invisible force field and get zapped. That’s what it felt like. Or maybe it’s more like getting hit by lightning. All I know is, for five seconds, I had no control of my body and felt pure electricity running through my body.

After the hooks were ripped out of my torso and I regained my senses, I’m happy to report that my fears of being embarrassed were quite the opposite. Chief Reynolds walked across the room, extended his hand and, in a very sincere tone, told me how proud he was of me for going through with it.

One thing is for sure. The next time I read a police report or interview an officer, and I get to the part that a taser was used - I’ll have a much different perspective. Perhaps Chief Reynolds realized this too and was acknowledging this to me.

I realized a couple other things as well. I would not purchase one for personal protection. It disables someone for five seconds, but then they return to normal. That time frame is perfect for an officer to cuff someone, but I’d prefer to have a firearm or even pepper spray if I was in a situation that was threatening to me or my family.

Finally, I realized what a great tool this is to law enforcement. It gives them the ability to put someone down without causing that individual permanent injury. An ideal tool to keep the peace with.

See attached video for footage of Blair and others being tased.

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