OPP snaps up new Tasers, but not camera add-ons despite calls for officer accountability
Since July 17, the day Eric Garner was killed by police in New York City, Taser International Inc. has been on a tear. The company’s value has shot up 148.19% in the five months since officers were caught on video, forcing Mr. Garner to the ground in a chokehold. As public opinion has clamoured for greater police accountability, Taser has been one of the main beneficiaries.
On Monday, Taser announced its new smart weapons’ foray into Canada. The Ontario Provincial Police have agreed to purchase nearly 2,000 state-of-the-art Tasers to replace the aging X26 model and eventually provide every frontline officer with another way to use force.Despite the push for officer accountability in the wake of Eric Garner’s death, the OPP will not be opting for any of Taser’s camera-equipped devices, at least for the time being.
“At the time when we were doing our research it wasn’t something that we included in our evaluation,” OPP Sergeant Peter Leon said.
To expand their arsenal, the OPP chose the Taser X2, which comes equipped with dual sight-lasers, back-up shot capability to neutralize multiple targets and an improved power magazine for up to 500 firings.
“What the OPP bought was the premier smart weapon that we sell,” Steven Tuttle, vice-president of strategic communications at Taser, said in an interview.
Though the weapon comes with what Mr. Tuttle called data port and pulse logs, which measure when and for how long the weapon was fired, Taser also offers a Taser cam accessory and wearable camera options that are designed to increase accountability. Mr. Leon said that while the OPP has not made any decisions about officer-worn cameras, they are open to exploring these newer technologies in the future. He also emphasized the importance of the personal approach.
“The greatest tool we have is our ability to try to communicate with an individual and try to deescalate a situation,” he said.
While some advocacy groups and American police departments are convinced that officer-worn cameras improve transparency, Ron Melchers, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said that it was too early to make the call.
“We’ve just started looking at this whole issue of body-wearing cameras and so on,” he said. “There’s really no clear indication how much accountability that actually enhances.”Mr. Tuttle, however, pointed to a 2013 Cambridge University study of the Rialto, California, Police Department that concluded officer-worn cameras reduced use-of-force incidents by 59% and complaints by 87.5%.
“The Taser obviously is what keeps the lights on here,” Mr. Tuttle said, “but now we really have this diversified product that’s adding another layer of sales growth for us.”
Mr. Tuttle credits the rise in stock price to police departments replacing aging weaponry and the success of its line of Axon cameras. Axon sales rose to US$11.4 million in the second quarter of 2014, up from only US$2 million a year ago.
Andrew Uerkwitz, a senior analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., is another person who feels the tide has turned toward officer-worn cameras.“Adoption [of cameras] will also be fueled by public demand for greater police transparency,”
he said in a report Monday.
Taser stock jumped following the report’s release. Mr. Uerkwitz stated that Taser is likely to outperform and set a 12-18 month price target of US$28.
Taser International closed at US$26.6, Monday, up 8.67% from Friday’s close.http://business.financialpost.com/2014/ ... ntability/http://www.24news.ca/the-news/economic- ... untability