Taser International, the Scottsdale-based producer of stun guns, is developing an audio-video recording capability built into its Taser weapon systems.
The company demonstrated the technology two weeks ago at a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Los Angeles. Taser expects to begin shipments in the first half of 2005.
The audio-video capability, called a Video-Digital Power Magazine, will be built into the power supply module for the Taser X26 stun gun, the topof-the-line version of the stun gun weapons produced by the company.
The controversial weapons deliver an electric shock to their victims and are used by law enforcement officers to subdue unruly or threatening suspects.
"The (video-power device) is one more feature of the Taser X26 that allows officers to capture vital information prior to, during and after the deployment of nonlethal force," chief executive Rick Smith said.
The Taser already contains tracking chips that record the time when the weapon is fired, but the audio-video feature will provide additional details for auditing incidents, said company spokesman Steve Tuttle.
"It eliminates some of the questions that arise during use of force," he said.
The new technology is being introduced at a time when Taser International is under fire from human rights advocates. Amnesty International, a long-time critic of Taser, will release a report Tuesday that is expected to question the safety of the stun guns and call for suspension of their use until more tests are conducted. In the past the organization has called Tasers instruments of torture.
At least 50 people have reportedly died after being shocked by the devices. Taser says the deaths were caused by other complicating factors such as drug use by the victims.
Smith said the company began to consider adding audio-video capabilities in its weapons in 2000. In 2002 the company submitted a proposal to the National Institute of Justice to obtain government funding for development of the technology. The request was turned down, but the company developed the system through its internal research and development resources.
The power magazine can be plugged into the USB port of Windows PCs to replay use-offorce videos, he said.
Because the X26 was designed to incorporate future intelligent modules, the digital power magazine will be compatible with existing X26s already in the field. More addon capabilities are possible, Smith said.
The idea for built-in video capability, first suggested by police agencies, has become practical because of advances in the miniaturization of cameras, Tuttle said.
New technologies are still being developed that will further improve the system before it is released next year, he said.
The added capability will increase the cost of Tasers, but the amount hasn’t been determined yet, Tuttle said.