Bridging the Gap between Law Enforcement and Communities around the World
Sydney Siegmeth, PR director, and Steve Tuttle, VP of Strategic Communications
Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, TASER International makes communities safer with innovative public safety technologies. TASER has defined smart policing with its growing suite of technology solutions, including Axon body-worn video cameras and EVIDENCE.com, a secure digital evidence management platform. More than 14,000 lives and countless dollars have been saved with TASER’s products and services. We had the opportunity to speak with TASER International’s Sydney Siegmeth, PR director, and Steve Tuttle, VP of Strategic Communications, to find out more about how their company is making a real difference in the world.
Tell me about TASER International.
When two friends died from gunshot wounds, TASER founder and CEO, Rick Smith, made it his mission to make communities safer by providing non-firearm weapons for personal safety. He worked with the original inventor of the TASERⓇ conducted energy weapon to develop a safer, more effective and accountable version the public could purchase without a firearm license. After years of moderate sales and many versions to make it smaller, lighter and more effective, law enforcement took notice. Today, more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies use various versions of their TASER weapon in more than 100 countries.
The success of TASER providing law enforcement with products based on accountability led TASER International to the body-worn camera industry. At first, they added a camera accessory to their TASER weapons and then developed their first body-worn cameras for law enforcement. EVIDENCE.com now equips law enforcement with state-of-the-art body cameras capable of recording civilian encounters and uploading data to the cloud. The demand for police body cameras as a source of record and accountability is at an all-time high, protecting both officers and civilians around the world.
What makes TASER unique in the industry?
We feel law enforcement officers face two primary challenges when it comes to civilian encounters: suspect compliance and officer accountability. Compliance can be obtained most often without any force; non-lethal force is occasionally used and guns are the rare and last resort. This is where TASER’s smart weapons come into play. They work well to subdue a suspect without long-term implications to the suspect or the officer - but they have to be something easy to use and carry. Our smart weapons have been through rigorous testing by officers to meet their specific needs and requirements are now ubiquitous in the U.S.
Officers wear the small, lightweight camera while on duty and then dock it when they get back to the station where all video is automatically uploaded securely to the cloud. Our software manages and stores massive amounts of data safely and cost-effectively so it can be reviewed on-demand with confidence.
How has TASER leveraged technology and how is that evolving?
As technology has evolved, so have our products and that has translated into many improvements over the years. For instance, with the advancement of BluetoothTM technology, we will introduce body cameras that are auto-activated as soon as an officer takes action: when they turn on their sirens or lights and when they turn the safety off their TASER Smart Weapons. Leveraging this type of technology allows officers to focus on their jobs while also increasing transparency.
What trends do you see in the market and how is that shaping customer demand?
You only have to turn on the news to see the increasing need for body cameras and safer alternatives to responses to resistance. America recently saw a tragic situation with a dashcam video of an officer approaching a car and suddenly the suspect ran and was off camera. A witness then began using his cellphone to record the remainder of the confrontation which resulted in the suspect losing his life to officer gunfire. Had the officer been wearing a body camera, there could have been forensic proof of exactly what transpired between the dashcam video and when the civilian began recording video. We would have full context that would have started the second the officer called in the plates.
Transparency is crucial for law enforcement, particularly since the incidents in Ferguson, North Charleston, and Baltimore. Every law enforcement officer is now under a microscope with instances like these seemingly becoming more commonplace. Most agencies don’t have any cameras, but studies show, they can protect communities and officers. A recent study showed body cameras reduced law enforcement complaints by 88 percent and the use of force by up to 60 percent. With all of the allegations, agencies can’t afford not to have them and the public now expect them. While cost may be an issue on the front end, the cost of settling claims and lawsuits far outweighs the cost of the cameras.
We see similar statistics with smart weapons. Risk management data shows when smart weapons are used, suspects and officers are injured less frequently and claim fewer workers comp, while agencies and taxpayers save millions of dollars in claims resolutions. The Houston police department, for example, paid for two full upgrades of smart weapons based purely on savings on workers comp claims.
How has TASER been able to remain so relevant in such a fast-moving world?
Body cameras and smart weapons are in the middle of a national debate that isn’t going away anytime soon. The public is increasingly demanding safer weapons and transparency through the use of body cameras. We use PR software tools to stay on top of relevant stories and want our brands to be part of national conversations.
Our roots are in manufacturing and technology so we are inherently equipped to scale to meet the demand for the smart weapons and body cameras. Law enforcement agencies are seeing the benefits of these game-changing products and it’s our goal to see every officer outfitted with a TASER Smart Weapon and body camera connected to our EVIDENCE.com platform.
Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, TASER International makes communities safer with innovative public safety technologies.