Officer Christopher Williams, center, is hit with a Taser on Thursday as part of a training exercise at the Chester County Detention Center.
Officer Christopher Williams, center, is hit with a Taser on Thursday as part of a training exercise at the Chester County Detention Center.

CHESTER -- Christopher Williams felt as though needles were playing his spine like a xylophone Thursday morning.

"That's hard core, man," said the Chester County Detention Center officer, minutes after being zapped with 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser. "It's like somebody has stabbed you with needles and scraped your spine."

Williams was one of eight police and jail officers who went in front of the stun gun as part of a training exercise.

In order to use the weapon, the officers must be certified to do so, and part of that process means taking a 3- to 5-second shot of the small, yet potent X26 Taser.

"It feels like a really, really, really strong electric fence," said Sgt. Diane Atwell. "It's like nothing I've ever felt before. You can't do anything."

Six jail staffers took their electronic licks because the detention center received its first two Tasers several weeks ago. Two Great Falls officers also endured the blasts for their training.

The weapons offer law enforcement a way to avoid using guns when dealing with combative people in dangerous situations. The shock is designed to briefly immobilize a person.

About 15 officers in the jail should eventually be certified to use a Taser, said Sgt. Jamie Burgette, who trains other jail guards. The Tasers will be stored in secured parts of the detention center.

"You have to know what it feels like to be able to deal with it," Burgette said before he got that stunning feeling.

Afterward, he knew what he was dealing with.

"Painful," is how he described the experience. "Total body locked. It was very, very intense."

The guy doing the stunning was Sgt. Greg Holland, a Chester police officer who's been zapped eight times during training and suffered a few inadvertent shots while using the weapon in the line of duty. He's seen a variety of emotions from the Tased, both as a trainer and in the field.

"There's lots of reactions," he said. "I've seen them scream. I've seen them lock up and go down."

He saw both Thursday, and he sympathized with the people on the other end of the stun gun.

"There's absolutely no words to describe how it feels," he said, adding that the jolt reminded him of the buzz on a fuzzy television.

"It feels like white noise sounds," he said. "It completely overrides everything."

Although the weapon has its critics, Holland said the Taser is the best law enforcement tool developed in the past 20 years.

Now, the technology allows officers to measure Taser use by connecting the weapon to a computer, thus making abuse more detectable, but also protecting police from false brutality accusations.

One thing, however, is always indisputable: that little machine hurts.

"It's definitely a perfect means to complete compliance." Williams said.

• View video of the Chester County officers getting Tased at