Taser International is making inroads with the military, including members of the U.S. Army’s military police who are using the firm’s stun devices while patrolling Iraqi jails.
The Scottsdale-based firm has also completed initial testing of a longer range device at the request of the Office of Naval Research, which suggests a continuing relationship between the military and the nation’s largest provider of nonlethal electronic weaponry.
Sgt. Don Bohanner, an Army spokesman in Baghdad, said a select group of MPs has been outfitted with the devices and is working alongside Iraqi security forces inside existing jails across the country.
“They are training Iraqi Army and police forces, integrating them and trying to give them more patrol capabilities,” Bohanner said of the MPs' role in the country. “The Tasers are being used in the prisons here so that they don’t have to bring a firearm inside a cell.” The company delivered more than 300 M26 Tasers to the Army in December, and last month the company announced the Tasers had arrived in Iraq. Bohanner was unable to say exactly how many MPs are using the equipment or whether some of the devices are being held in reserve, but those outfitted with the devices received training in Iraq on how to use and maintain them.
Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said company officials traveled to Fort Bragg, N.C., last year and demonstrated how to operate the devices before they were issued to soldiers in the field.
“When we trained the U.S. Army, we had our top instructors work with Army instructors who then trained other users in the Army,” Tuttle said.
Tasers are used by more than 4,400 law enforcement agencies across the nation, including every agency in the Valley, with the exception of Peoria, Tuttle said.
The device works by launching two wires that can reach a distance of up to 21 feet. The wires attach to clothing or skin and an electronic pulse is sent into the person, temporarily incapacitating them.
Bohanner was unable to comment on whether the devices had actually been used by MPs in Iraq.
But Tuttle said the devices had been “successfully deployed” and that the “technology has been well-received” by Army leaders. He declined to go into detail, citing security issues.
While the MPs are using hand-held devices that can incapacitate a person from a short distance, Taser is also developing technology with a longer reach.
Earlier this week, the company announced it had successfully completed the second phase of testing for a Taser-based projectile device at the request of the U.S. Office of Naval Research.
“That was really trying to prove whether we can develop something that will provide a long-range nonlethal weapon for the military. And we can,” Tuttle said.
The firm will continue testing the technology, which would be “somewhat on par” with bean bag rounds used by some police departments.
Although the government is funding the tests, “we have to prove that this merits budgeting and that we can have success with this product,” Tuttle said.
“We will continue to develop this even if we don’t receive (government) funding, but we’d prefer to keep this going with governmental agencies,” Tuttle said.
News of the successful tests resulted in a dramatic spike in the firm’s stock, which rose from $8.49 to $57.09 at Nasdaq’s Monday close. The stock fell $2.14 Tuesday, closing at $54.95.