March 19, 2009
HALIFAX Regional Police might not be ready to embrace Taser cameras, but the general public certainly is. Police spokesman Const. Jeff Carr says the department has little interest in acquiring the enhanced stun-gun technology, adding there are "too many issues" with it. Other jurisdictions like Vancouver and Calgary have made the same decision.
But the reality is that there are too many issues with Tasers, period. Taser cams, which start making video and audio recordings the moment the stun gun is deployed, could help resolve some of those issues. Better yet, they could help jolt public trust in the use of the weapon back to life.
It’s important to note that Taser cams are not infallible. Departments that have tested the devices have noted some glitches. There have been reports of the camera blanking out on occasion when the trigger is pulled, which, of course, defeats the purpose. A more common difficulty involves officers inadvertently blocking the camera lens in the Taser’s handle when, in stressful situations, they instinctively revert to a two-handed grip, as they have been trained to do when pointing a service pistol.
But camera-equipped stun guns also have their advantages. Some police officers feel the technology gives them an extra measure of protection – from frivolous complaints. The manufacturer, Taser International, likes to quote statistical data collected in a 2006 study for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which suggests that 96 per cent of the time, the recording of a disputed altercation has substantiated the officers’ versions of events.
On the other side of the ledger, the public gains an extra measure of protection from those police officers who are quick to resort to Tasers as an easy compliance tool. Everyone in law enforcement knows that a recording device is a double-edged sword – it will expose their actions as well as the suspect’s – and they are more likely to exercise restraint as a consequence.
Taser International claims citizen complaints are cut down by half in those jurisdictions where Taser cams are in use. Stricter procedures might have something to do with it, though. For example, in Edmonton, where the new technology is now in use, Taserings are three times less common than they were in 2005. But police have also implemented a new policy whereby a senior officer is called to the scene whenever a Taser is discharged in order to review the events and download the data.
In the end, Taser recordings are merely a piece of evidence. They don’t show what happened before or after an incident and they must be taken in their proper context. But more information and corroboration is better than less, and a more accountable police officer is a more effective one.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, March 19, 2009
March 19, 2009