By Michael Fleeman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles police on Tuesday ordered Tasers that, when used, automatically activate cameras on officers' uniforms, which will create visual records of incidents at a time of mounting concern about excessive force by U.S. law enforcement officers.
The 3,000 new digital Taser X26P weapons record the date, time and duration of firing, and whether Taser wires actually strike suspects and how long the thousands of volts of electricity pulse through them.
“This technology gives a much better picture of what happens in the field,” said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser International Inc.
At a time of nationwide protests over officer killings of unarmed black men, supporters of the new technology say cameras can help resolve officer misconduct cases when there is conflicting evidence.
People across the country have been protesting the killings of unarmed black men by U.S. police. In Missouri last year, a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, after witnesses gave varied accounts of an incident in which he fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson. In New York City, a grand jury declined to indict a white officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was placed in a chokehold.
In Los Angeles, questions linger over the circumstances of the August death of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man who was shot three times by two police officers during a scuffle. An autopsy showed that one bullet hit Ford in the back.
The weapons ordered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) will be linked via Bluetooth Technology to Taser International’s body cameras, turning on the camera the second the Taser’s safety switch is thrown.
In December, L.A. officials announced a plan to equip 7,000 street cops with Taser’s body cameras. With nearly 10,000 officers, the LAPD is the third-largest municipal U.S. police department, after New York City and Chicago.
"The Los Angeles Police Department is committed to implementing safety measures to reduce the risk of injuries to both our officers and the members of our community, while improving trust within our communities," Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement. "In addition to these new Taser deployments, we plan to issue a body-worn camera and a Taser device to every officer. It is our goal to make these important tools available to every front line officer over the next few years."
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and David Gregorio)