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TASER AXON is pretty cool, actually

BY CHRIS STEINKE | SEPTEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Imagine an Iowa City Super Officer — even more super-duper than they already are — complete with an HD camera attached to her or his head. Imagine what that could mean for Iowa City’s “service,” “protection,” and whatever an open-container citation falls under.

The same company responsible for the TASER, TASER (stock symbol TASR), is poised on entering the HD-ear-camera-for-cops market. Its new product, called the AXON System, records everything a responding officer sees in crystal-clear HD, then uploads it to EVIDENCE.COM, a cloud database.

No, I don’t know why TASER insists on all-capsing every single one of its products and services. Well, I guess I do think entirely in capital letters when I consider the service that a TASER® TASER provides.

Several questions come to mind here. First, will the cameras run constantly or only when an officer deems it necessary? On the one hand, I don’t want video evidence to mysteriously be unavailable if officers aren’t quite sure their actions are merited by law. On the other, I don’t want to see some first-person view of a urinal in between cop breaks. It also seems like a waste of the ever-finite Internet cloud space, which comes at a price.

Second, are these EVIDENCE.COM videos open to the public and to the press, or are they contained entirely within the police department?

Making the videos public would hold the police officers to the utmost accountability, but would also negate officer discretion. Officer Falcon can no longer put one kid vomiting on the Old Capitol in handcuffs, then feel sorry for the kid passed out behind DCs at 5 a.m. and let him go. There’s also that whole thing about protecting the identity of the innocent until proven guilty, which no one, including The Daily Iowan, seems to care too much about, anyway.

As it is right now, EVIDENCE.COM requires an invitation from your “agency,” which is presumably your police department. I wonder how much they would charge for that open-records request.
Ideally, they would add an EVIDENCE.COM “invitation code” line on the combined speeding-and-PAULA tickets, so the defendant can review the evidence against her or him.

But, you know, that would never fucking happen.

So what can we expect should this technology be unleashed on Iowa City residents? A lot of videos of officers parting the Summit like the Red Sea, for one. We would be able to gauge exactly how many times a bike officer checks out his short-shorts in a given hour. Maybe, because of it constantly gathering evidence, we would only see two officers hovering around a pimple-faced freshman with a Coors instead of four.

Most importantly, we would see the Iowa City police held to a higher standard in terms of both integrity and efficiency.

But at what cost? Well, $2,998.42 per user, to be exact. It seems steep until you look around this year and see Iowa City police driving around in brand new SUVs. The cost of one SUV would buy at least 10 of these devices.

The initial investment may be steep, but they may end up paying for themselves in the long run. TASER claims that cameras increase patrolling by 9.2 percent, which means the police could conceivably cut down on their force.

Of course, some could argue that patrolling would increase by well more than 10 percent if Kum ’N’ Go’s pastry cabinet were made obsolete — but that’s out of our control.

The greatest savings would come in a decrease in liability costs. According to a 2005 study, 93 percent of complaint cases were exonerated when video evidence was available. I bet that number will be drastically lower in Iowa City, but still, the system would prove beneficial within a few years.

Police spending in this town always seems to be disproportionate to the actual serious-crime rate.

Why not buy some AXON?

It would be entertaining if nothing else.


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