Tasers have caused a significant amount of contention between law enforcement and the public. While Tasers are generally a non-lethal weapon, there have been some cases where they were either used excessively or on people who had other health problems (i.e. pacemakers) that resulted in death.
After such incidents, some organizations have determined that Tasers aren't appropriate. Remember the incident where a 17-year-old Philadelphia Philly's fan was Tasered by a security guard after he jumped a fence and ran onto the field? After that incident, the Philly's decided Tasers weren't to be used on fans.
During my conversations with both private and public officers about their use of Tasers, the general consensus is that Tasers are one of the most effective tools an officer carries. Especially for private security, who often do not carry guns, it’s more effective and less harmful than a billy club. And I have to agree: I would much rather be Tasered than smashed in the skull with a billy club any day.
But there have been plenty of media stories about the abuse of Tasers and now it seems that police and security officers are doing more to protect themselves from accusations of misuse, according to this article in USA Today.
More than 2,400 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have bought 45,000 of the $400 video camera attachments that Taser International started selling in 2006, says Steve Tuttle, spokesman for the Scottsdale, Ariz., company. Sales have been brisk in the past six months, he says, as agencies look to provide accountability for the department, he said.
The Taser Cam is activated as soon as the officer unholsters the Taser and turns off the safety and there is no way to deactivate the camera without disabling the gun.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department bought 1,061 cameras in 2008 with a federal grant so that every patrol officer had one on, says Officer Marcus Martin, departmental spokesman and a Master Taser Instructor, in the paper.
The videos have backed up contentious situations many times, Martin says. In one case, a suspect on PCP was stunned with a Taser several times before police subdued him. "Without the video, the officer would be in trouble because of the long usage, which can be perceived as a misuse of force," Martin says. "The officer was clearly exonerated because you could see the altercation."
While it's certainly not cheap to add these cameras to Tasers, it seems like a good investment. After all, it's a whole lot less expensive than going to court and potentially shelling out a settlement, that's for sure.