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Taser Offers Free Body Cameras To All US Police (arstechnica.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Taser, the company whose electronic stun guns have become a household name, is now offering a groundbreaking deal to all American law enforcement: free body cameras and a year's worth of access to the company's cloud storage service, Evidence.com. In addition, on Wednesday, the company also announced that it would be changing its name to "Axon" to reflect the company's flagship body camera product. Right now, Axon is the single largest vendor of body cameras in America. It vastly outsells smaller competitors, including VieVu and Digital Ally -- the company has profited $90 million from 2012 through 2016. If the move is successful, Axon could quickly crowd out its rivals entirely. In recent years, federal dollars went to police agencies both big (Los Angeles) and small (Village of Spring Valley, New York), encouraging the purchase of body-worn cameras. However, while cameras are rapidly spreading across America, they are still not ubiquitous yet. Axon wants to change that. "Only 20 percent [of cops] have a camera," Rick Smith, the company's CEO, told Ars. "Eighty percent are going out with a gun and no camera. We only need 20- to 30-percent conversion to make it profitable," he added. "We expect 80 percent to become customers." "Our belief is that a body camera is to a cop what a smartphone is to a civilian," Smith said. "Cops spend about two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. We believe, within 10 years, we can automate police reporting. We can effectively triple the world's police force." The offer is only available to American law enforcement, but Smith said the company would consider foreign agencies on a case-by-case basis.
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Taser Offers Free Body Cameras To All US Police

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    A year's worth of access means the local municipalities are on the hook to figure out how to fund all the remaining years. It's rope-a-dope charity.
    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      Not to mention the cost of processing everything for the inevitable FOIA requests.

    • Are you really surprised? A lot of pushers will always give you the first hit for free.

      Not to say that body camera's are necessarily a bad idea, but they can be implemented without relying on a third party service. There are those who would argue that the police can't be trusted to manage it themselves so a third party system may have some allure.
    • It's not charity, just business. Understand what you buy when you buy it and what's behind the scenes.

      For example, there is a line in the summary that says, "In addition, on Wednesday, the company also announced that it would be changing its name to "Axon" to reflect the company's flagship body camera product[,]" In reality, they're a business and are concerned about their brand, and (1) tasers have high brand risk because of viral videos and (2) the term "taser" has arguably become a generic term for stun

  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @04:30PM (#54181679) Homepage Journal
    and then pay yearly subscription fees for storage & analysis to the end of time.
    • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @04:33PM (#54181703) Journal

      That's fine with me.
      The more cops wearing body cameras that stream to the cloud for storage (ending the missing SD card issue) the better!

      There are tons of reports where adding body cameras has decreased both actual and claimed police abuses.

      • The best one was where nobody but the cops knew they had cameras. 60%+ reduction in citizen complaints and violent incidents.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That doesn't mean you have to throw all your money at the first contractor who promises you the world. Don't come running complaining about the government wasting money later if you're willing to jump the gun "for the children".

        • That's true, but if this gets adoption rates up, then even if they switch to another vendor they still have cameras. They'll find it hard to justify discontinuing cameras once they have them.

        • Don't come running complaining about the government wasting money later if you're willing to jump the gun "for the children".

          Decent body cams have been available for years and there is overwhelming evidence that they reduce violence, reduce misconduct, and pay for themselves many times over in reduced lawsuits. So adopting them now is certainly not "jumping the gun".

          More cameras. Fewer donuts.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            More cameras. Fewer donuts.

            More donuts too. A cop that's busy eating donuts is relatively harmless.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The more cops wearing body cameras that stream to the cloud for storage (ending the missing SD card issue) the better!

        Is that what these cameras do?

        Trick question. No, it isn't, unless this is a new generation of them.

        After our police chief got recruited by Taser and mysteriously secured a no-bid contract [krqe.com], Albuquerque started using Taser's product. It used SD cards, and as our police records custodian noticed [krqe.com], the videos didn't always manage to later get uploaded. Some darker things were alleged as well [nmindepth.com] tho

      • You don't see a problem with a single company controlling the entirety of the evidence collected by police cameras? In the cloud no less. Or the vendor lock-in for that matter?
        • You don't see a problem with a single company controlling the entirety of the evidence collected by police cameras? In the cloud no less. Or the vendor lock-in for that matter?

          I see no reason to expect either of those to happen. Yes, this company will probably buy itself a nice chunk of market share, but there's no reason to believe that competitors won't be able to enter.

          • The problem that I see is that taser have a vested interest as to how taser equipment and cameras are perceived by the courts and the general public. Sure, give the contract for cameras to taser but give the evidence handling and image processing to a competent competitors. One company doing the whole thing from filming to court presentation is just corruption waiting to happen.
            • Meh. If they do a lousy job a handling the data, whether that means not having it available when needed, or leaking it when it shouldn't be leaked, they'll lose market share regardless of how good their cameras are. I think the free market is perfectly capable of sorting this out. That's not true of everything, but I see no reason it won't work here.
      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        I haven't seen any specifications, but I would bet these devices store locally and upload to the cloud from a wireless or wired connection. Streaming to the cloud without wifi is probably cost prohibitive.

        Source: I used to work for a PD, and this is how the car cams worked.
      • Unfortunately one it is common place it will not take long before political activists start to complain about local surveillance from same said body cams.
    • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

      and then pay yearly subscription fees for storage & analysis to the end of time.

      Actually I am fine with this with one caveat to follow. Of course the company plans to make money in the future on re-occurring revenue. The caveat is that it really needs to be possible for the police departments to store their own video or use another cloud provider after the year is up. As long as there is the possibility for competition in the future, why not take the deal? From Taser's point of view, it is likely a good business investment, as many departments out of inertia would continue to buy servi

    • and then pay yearly subscription fees for storage & analysis to the end of time.

      Or, "forget" to pay the fees, and, "oops, that evidence of police wrongdoing was automatically deleted. Oh, well."

      • Or, "forget" to pay the fees, and, "oops, that evidence of police wrongdoing was automatically deleted. Oh, well."

        -5 for ignorent bullshit. Kindly pul your head out of your ass.

        • Or, "forget" to pay the fees, and, "oops, that evidence of police wrongdoing was automatically deleted. Oh, well."

          -5 for ignorent bullshit. Kindly pul your head out of your ass.

          Cop-like typing detected.

    • That's why I bought the stock a year or so ago when it was $20. Wish I'd sold last month at $28 so I could but it again but oh well.
  • Hahaha! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @04:40PM (#54181743)

    "Cops spend about two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. We believe, within 10 years, we can automate police reporting. We can effectively triple the world's police force."

    Yeah, like the middle managers in any enterprise are going to let manually-done paperwork go away...

    Although in this case, I have my doubts that police reporting can really be automated away in our lifetimes. I can see automation eventually handling the "who, what, when, where" part, and probably the "how" - but the "why" is going to be a harder nut to crack, and that's the most important part.

    It's like when I was a kid, way back in the stone ages. This was before personal computers; but business use of computers (at least for larger businesses) was beginning to gain traction. Companies like Weyerhaeuser and Georgia Pacific were publicly stating how they thought their paper businesses were going to collapse in 20 years... HA!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So have the cops speak the why to the microphone after the interaction, or type in in to computer in the car.

  • Once you give officers cameras, you're going to need to store and make searchable the video and likely for a long period of time... Imagine an officer gets accused of excessive use of force it might be years before a jury sees that video..

    Now just imagine a police force like the NYPD that has 35,000 officers... So... sounds like the NYPD or some company working for them is going to be in need of a ZFS admin!
    • Imagine an officer gets accused of excessive use of force it might be years before a jury sees that video..

      Nope. If the video shows misconduct, then the case will be settled quickly. If the video exonerates the officer, the plaintiff will drop the case. Either way, a jury will never need to see it.

      • But they're still going to have to hold on to it. My point wasn't so much about it being used on court as much as that police departments are going to need to have insane retention policies or people will accuse them of destroying evidence.
  • they now have PHOTOBOMB opportunities. Ha Ha!!!!!
  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speterNO@SPAMtedata.net.eg> on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @04:59PM (#54181845) Journal

    How much after the first year, Axon? It's a good strategy...offer the cameras for free, then making departments dependent on Evidence.com for cloud storage. (Because what business would give away cameras for free that could work with alternative cloud services, or local department servers?)

    That makes as much sense as departments agreeing with GM to get free Impala cruisers up front, but also agreeing to buy all gasoline from Chevy at $10 / gallon.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It would be a great strategy to force all evidence into this cloud storage, because it would make tampering with evidence more difficult for officers/prosecutors.

      I had police body cam footage begrudgingly turned over to my lawyer after months of requests. It was received only a few days before trial.

      The video was cut into 3 parts with ~20 minutes missing in-between. There were no timestamps. The audio was heavily redacted (when the cops were doing/saying illegal things). We need to prevent this sort of abus

  • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @05:05PM (#54181871)
    Sure, give away the cameras for free. The real value is in locking them into the Axon data storage infrastructure. Once police departments get used to storing data in Axon's cloud, it's going to be too much trouble to try and change the system.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think the value to "Taser" (soon to be "Axon") is that if a cop has a camera on them, lethal force becomes less desirable... So they reach for a taser rather than gun.

    • Exactly. The only way this should even get anywhere near approval would be if the cameras were based on some open standards so that any competitor could connect to them if the deal gets queered. Locking 80+% of the nation's police camera evidence into a proprietary technology owned and operated by a single private corporation is a horrifying prospect.
  • uhm, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @05:30PM (#54182017) Journal
    They want all police to store their body cameras data on their services and it's free for a year? I am not sure they could pay enough for all the police to store all their footage on their servers forever. This kind of footage should be stored in police evidence lockers under lock and key. They want become the universal street surveyor without paying for it and they want the people working for them for free to pay them (at some point) to work for them for free? Wow. Just wow. The value of that data is more than the value of all the satellite imagery combined. Oh and spare us the soliloquy about compartmentalization. If they have access to the data, it will be datamined.
    • This kind of footage should be stored in police evidence lockers under lock and key.

      Yep, but doing that correctly and legally is gonna be expensive to get right. So Axon pays the development costs, hires enough lawyers to ensure they're doing it right, (hopefully) hires enough computer security folks to make it as secure as possible, then selling the service to the nations police departments.

      • Really? Storing evidence in police lockers would be expensive and hard to get right? Should we store all evidence in 1 central national location? C'mon.
    • If they have access to the data, it will be datamined.

      They don't even need to go that far.

      They can just ransom that data once that first year has elapsed (because they're counting on the fact that most police departments will be too inept to backup everything correctly).

      And voila, profits!

      • Why would they care about those pennies? They have the power to become the all-seeing eyes and they care about the extra pennies they can gather from local police departments? Sounds like they want local tax dollars to pay for their taking of the entire country hostage.
    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      If they record me, I'd like the option to get a copy of the recording, so that I can back it up. In the event of any action against me I'd like to not have to rely on some cloud service, the technical competence of the police, etc.

  • How about free body cams for civilians?
    • How about free body cams for civilians?

      Just make sure you've got a lawyer and sufficient money to get bailed out of jail if you plan on photographing/video-recording law enforcement officers. Although courts have ruled that citizens have the 1st-Amendment right to record police while in public performing (or not) their duty as officers, many will still harass and/or arrest you, or even employ threats and violence.

      http://photographyisnotacrime.... [photograph...acrime.com]

      Strat

  • It doesn't seem that long ago when police having a camera on their person was something out of science fiction. We've see police with cameras for a long time now but they've been limited to cameras on cars, buildings, or on a person only in cases of an undercover police going after high value targets. I'm amazed at the speed in which they are being adopted.

    I can see why police are wanting them, it keeps everyone honest. Before such audio and video recording devices were common we'd have to rely on witness testimony, which has been proven to be terrible at keeping things straight. Cameras have shown many accusations of police abuse to be false, as well as caught abuses that may have gone unseen before.

    What is disturbing is how there is evidence that cameras have tended to encourage police shootings. Before cameras there was always doubt in a police officer's mind of having a use of force shown justifiable after the fact. Now with cameras much of this doubt is removed. I'm a bit torn on this. On the one hand we see people that assault police get shot, when they likely deserve it. On the other hand we see police get "lazy" and shoot at the first sign they might be in danger, when a less lethal means might have been effective.

    As with all things this comes with its ups and downs.

    Another thing, there's this quote, "Eighty percent are going out with a gun and no camera. " I saw a video yesterday of three female officers getting beat up by a single enraged man. He was picking up rocks and tossing them at the officers and their car, with enough force to crack the windshield. The officers would try to tackle the guy but he'd throw them off and swing his fists at them. Why didn't they shoot the guy? Because in the country they were in the officers are not armed with guns. They get batons, pepper spray, and handcuffs. Did he deserve to get shot? Probably not. I do think though that if he knew the officers had the ability to use lethal force that he'd sober up real quick and either submit to arrest or be free to go on his way.

    To anyone that thinks that swinging a fist is insufficient reason to shoot someone then I have a problem with that. A 200 pound man throwing a punch at a 150 pound woman is lethal force in my mind.

    They got this one maniac on camera beating up three female police officers, but none of the officers were effectively armed. Cameras are nice, guns are better, having both is great.

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Did they use the batons and pepper spray?

    • I do think though that if he knew the officers had the ability to use lethal force that he'd sober up real quick and either submit to arrest or be free to go on his way.

      I agree with the rest of your post, but this assumes he has some degree of rationality. That's often not the case. What the officers needed in this case was a good taser. Pepper spray is good against most humans, but people who are sufficiently angry or have their mood sufficiently chemically altered can ignore it for a while. Given three on one, they really should have had a relatively easy time subduing him with batons as well, regardless of size/strength difference. But tasers would have put him down. Go

    • Cameras have shown many accusations of police abuse to be false, as well as caught abuses that may have gone unseen before.

      To my mind, this is the most important point. For every cell phone video of a couple of cops beating the shit out of somebody for no good reason, there's body cam footage of somebody standing ten feet away from the cops, yelling 'help help these police are beating on me.'

  • What about a court order after they stop paying?

    Will taser be held to the law and not to some EULA?

    What if there is a court case and the defense wants the logs / maybe even a raw files will they give them out or try to hide under a NDA?

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