Those of us that think TASERs are one of the most important tools for police since soft body armor have been focusing on the wrong issues. Yes, they're a great help in reducing claims of excessive force and the like, but using TASERs to enhance officer safety is an even more compelling reason to have them.
If your department has TASERs, and approximately one-half of the agencies in the U.S. do, then you've already provided officers with a valuable option for dealing with many of the most difficult offenders out there today. And, as any street cop can tell you, it's those very situations that are most likely to result in injuries to officers, suspects, and bystanders. When that happens, it sure would be great to have a video of the actual encounter in order to disprove the claims.
But there's another reason to have a video record--officer safety. Giving officers the ability to review and debrief the encounter is one of the most effective ways to learn and reinforce critical safety constructs. Professions as widely varied as fighter pilots and professional golfers have known this for years. That's why golfers often study video of their swings, and why pilots are merciless in their analysis of their own video-taped performance.
Enter the TASER Cam
Late last year, TASER International, Inc. introduced the TASER Cam, rolling it out at the Fall IACP Conference in Florida. When I first saw it at the TASER booth, my reaction was, "Wow, what a great idea!" quickly followed by, "Wow, it's expensive ($400)," and, "Wow, it makes the TASER a lot bigger." After waiting a few months to actually get my hands on one, I still think it's a great idea, and the cost and size issues, while still there, have receded in comparison to the benefits that the TASER Cam will obviously bring to an officer's toolbox.
Installation of the TASER Cam
First things first: The TASER Cam only works in the Model X26™ TASER; there is no equivalent for the older Advanced TASER Model M26™. As unfortunate as that it is, there are many technological reasons why this is so, and one very practical one--if you think the X26 looks big with a TASER Cam added, imagine the size of an M26 in the same configuration!
The TASER Cam is constructed of sonic-welded, high impact polymer, just like the TASER itself. In shape it resembles an oversize version of some pistol magazines that have a curved piece on the front of the base plate.
The TASER Cam is set up as a replacement for the X26's digital power magazine (DPM), or battery pack. In order to install it, the user depresses the DPM release button, slides out the DPM, and inserts the TASER Cam in its place (care must be taken to push hard when seating the TASER Cam until the DPM release button pops out with an audible click--this is due to a slightly thicker gasket that assures a good seal between the TASER Cam and the TASER).
Once the unit has been inserted into the TASER, software in the TASER Cam will automatically update, or program, the TASER's software to Version 18. While this is occurring, a "P" will be illuminated on the CID or Central Information Display, at the back of the TASER. The user must make sure not to turn the TASER on, or to remove the TASER Cam from the TASER during this programming cycle, as doing so can corrupt the software, necessitating reprogramming at the factory.
After a few seconds, the programming finishes, and the installation is complete.
How it Works
The TASER Cam will hold approximately 1.5 hours of video with audio, after which it will begin recording over the previously recorded material--rather like a continuous loop of tape. The video is captured in black and white at 10 frames per second (fps). These specs were used to get more recording time, and because black and white renders much more clearly in low light conditions. Even so, on playback, the video is amazingly clear and watchable.