It shoots an electrical shock and a video at the same time.
Taser Cams – stun guns equipped with video cameras – will soon hit the streets with police in at least two Greater Cincinnati communities: Loveland, and Butler County’s Fairfield Township.
Officers hope the new equipment will help silence some of the controversy over Taser use.
Some national studies have suggested Tasers could cause or contribute to deaths of suspects in custody, and use of the weapons on children has been hotly debated.
Taser supporters say the devices save lives of both officers and suspects – and that when a death happens after a Taser shock, the suspect’s drug use or medical conditions are more likely to blame than the weapon’s jolt.
In any case, advocates hope that having an objective record of incidents will protect officers from exaggerated complaints and protect the public by documenting whether police misuse the weapon.
The manufacturer, Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., says more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies deploy Tasers to “temporarily incapacitate subjects from zero to 35 feet away.”
A growing number of police agencies in Greater Cincinnati use Tasers, ranging from big urban police departments such as Cincinnati to smaller suburban ones such as Monroe and Lebanon. Kenton County began using Tasers last year.
Loveland Police Chief Dennis Rees said he knows of no other local departments with the camera-equipped Tasers, which have been on the market just over a year.
Widespread use among police agencies began taking hold in the late 1990s, officials said.
Fairfield Township Police Chief Richard St. John said the major advantage of the Taser is that it renders people incapable of assaulting an officer.
The gun uses compressed nitrogen to propel two small barbs at 160 feet per second. Once the barbs make contact with a person, the wires deliver as much as 50,000 volts to short-circuit control over muscle movement.
The Taser Cam can record up to 90 minutes of action. Using included software and a built-in port, the data can be transferred to a computer to review the exact time, date, and duration of use.
St. John said the camera-fitted Taser will eliminate the “he said, she said” problem of whose account is true.
Since January 2005, Fairfield Township officers have used Tasers 15 times to subdue suspects. No lawsuits have been filed against the township or officers, St. John said.
Based on that track record, the department intends to buy 13 Taser Cams plus 10 cameras that can be attached to existing Tasers.
The department therefore will be able to issue Taser Cams to all the township’s 16 full-time and six part-time officers instead of sharing the 10 camera-less Tasers that the department has now, St. John said.
The new Taser Cams and camera units will cost just over $21,000 – about 90 percent of which will be paid by a federal grant.
Loveland expects to receive three Taser Cams within a month.
The Loveland department had been considering buying Taser Cams for nearly a year.
Although Amnesty International and some other organizations have blamed Taser shocks for deaths, Rees said he’s convinced Tasers are safe and effective.
People who die after being Tasted had health conditions that would likely have caused their death from the physical exertion of a fight -- even without being Tasted, he said.
In 2005, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission closed an investigation into Taser International and recommended no enforcement action on the company’s safety claims.
Rees’ department has been using Tasers for about two years -- and he’s eager to get the camera-equipped ones.
"You capture all the nonsense that’s going on there that requires the officer to use that Taser," Rees said.