LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- To say it's shocking, doesn't really do the experience justice.
50,000 volts of electricity injected through a pair of needle-like probes seizes the entire body, while packing a painful punch between those barbs. Five seconds feels like an eternity.
The shot from a Conducted Electrical Weapon (CEW), otherwise more commonly known as a Taser, evokes a similar response from nearly anyone who rides the lightning.
"[It’s] extreme pain throughout your body. The thing is you can clearly think in your mind the whole time. At the three second mark--or it seems like it--I was hoping it would end," said Brandon Strabley, a Citizens’ Police Academy participant.
The Taser is almost never lethal thanks to its low current, and it's just one enforcement method in a police officer's arsenal. Learning how and probably more importantly when and why certain force is used is an integral part of La Crosse’s Citizens’ Police Academy.
Chief Ron Tischer said, "There's a lot of cases where [people] just see a little snippet or hear something that--oh the officers did this, now there's some big uproar. It's like, 'Well, let us explain ourselves.’ I think that's what we're really trying to get out in the public."
Police officers aren't trying to hide the fact they must justify their level of response with four standards. In 1989, the US Supreme Court ruled excessive force violates the Constitution's 4th Amendment protection from "unreasonable seizure."
Similarly, Wisconsin state law allows an officer the privilege to use the force only necessary for legitimate law enforcement. Each agency also has its own policy with regard to force, and of course an officer must recall his or her own training to determine the response needed.
"It's that repetition of training,” said Lt. Troy Nedegaard. “Training a certain technique over and over again, so the mind doesn't have to worry so much about making that decision."
Striving to hone their instincts applies to every member of the La Crosse PD, even Brutus.
One of four K-9's on the force, Brutus can detect drugs no matter where they're hidden often in under a minute, so the German Shepherd has to make sure his nose is up to snuff. And, he can't be afraid to strike when the threat calls for it, either.
Utilizing dogs, Tasers, even pressure points, the bottom line is police officers will do whatever it takes to keep a potentially dangerous situation under control. And the decision to use deadly force isn't taken lightly.
"Every night when they're here or when they're not here, officers need to take themselves through the mental reps of what they do in different situations. Doing those things, you can dramatically increase your ability to control a situation," said Lt. Dan Kloss.
Police hope that by giving the public a chance to see these tactics and why they're used, people will better understand it's not just for shock value. It's to better serve and protect the community, allowing them to become the finest La Crosse has to offer.
Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Administrative Assistant Theresa Wopat at 507-895-9969. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.