Law enforcement officers used to have only the memory of seeing a criminal’s reaction of being shocked by a Taser, a stun gun used to subdue combative suspects. Soon, detention officers at Maricopa County jails will have video evidence of the event, and what led up to it.
The sheriff ’s office has ordered 623 Taser cameras — complete with audio capabilities — to be added to 1,168 stun guns that will be used by detention officers by July.
Costing $1,199 each, the Taser Cams can be mounted on the Scottsdale-based Taser company’s X26 model that shoots two barbs at the end of wires carrying 50,000 volts of electricity.
In a news conference held the day before a shareholders meeting at Taser International Inc., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday he hopes to have all deputies armed with Taser Cams within a few years.
“This is a big step for us,” Arpaio said. “Now, we’ll have proof of the situation a detention officer is in when he deploys a Taser. Everything’s on camera, and we’ll have nothing to hide. It’s about the safety of the people, and our technology helps in that regard.”
The camera is activated when the safety is switched off. The camera can record up to 90 minutes of footage, said Taser CEO Rick Smith.
Capturing the view of the person using it, the Taser Cam records quality footage at distances up to 25 feet, Smith said.
Right now, four Taser Cams are being tested in the jails, and 500 officers are being trained to use them, Arpaio said.
Maricopa County’s deployment of Taser Cams marks their first use in jails and the first time audio has been added to a Taser. Arpaio said the device could help decrease the accusations of excessive force from inmates.
Since 2000, inmates have assaulted 865 detention officers, and inmates have assaulted one another 2,765 times in Maricopa County, sheriff’s office statistics show. There are 2,219 detention officers throughout Maricopa County jails and about 10,000 inmates, said Jerry Sheridan, chief of custody for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
When it’s used
Factors that could result in the use of a Taser by deputies or detention officers:
• An immediate threat to the officer or others.
• A subject is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.
• Any situation that threatens the safety or security of a jail facility.
• A situation that is tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.
• The severity of the crime.