Police often tout Taser International’s stun guns, used by 17,000 police departments nationwide, as lifesaving tools. But Amnesty International has a different opinion of the “nonlethal” weapons, reporting that Tasers are to blame for 500 deaths since 2001.
In March the weapon’s manufacturer debuted a new product that should appeal to cops and critics alike. The $1,000 Axon Flex camera is the size of a cigar, weighs half an ounce, and clips onto police officers’ clothing or sunglasses. Images and sound cannot be deleted via the camera, although cops can turn the devices off.
Video of contentious incidents is stored online, which should help prevent theft, evidence tampering, and destruction of footage. Taser International CEO Rick Smith told The New York Times that video of police encounters can help settle lawsuits and encourage plea deals. “Police spend $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year paying off complaints about brutality,” he said. “Plus, people plead out when there is video.”
Already 55,000 Tasers are equipped with miniature cameras, which turn on whenever a cop uses the weapon. Unfortunately, video captured by those cameras tends not to include the all-important lead-up to the use of the stun gun.