Get ready for your close up.
Come next year, the person on the receiving end of a Taser may have more to worry about than just getting jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity.
If the Peoria City Council approves a $99,988 Police Department budget request, the department’s 250 Tasers could be outfitted with cameras, which would protect officers against false allegations and hold citizens accountable for their actions.
"Taser cams are like in-car videos and serve two primary functions," Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard said. "First, they can prevent abuse by their mere existence. More importantly, however, they can disprove false allegations of misuse when they arise."
The Taser Cam, manufactured by Taser International, would have added another layer of accountability for officers involved in the April arrest of a combative drunk driver. Police punched and twice Tased the motorist when he resisted.
Allegations of police brutality surfaced after the man’s arrest, but were quickly dispelled when three separate police officers’ in-car video cameras recorded a different version of events than his story, Settingsgaard said.
"The video showed reality and quickly calmed a volatile situation," he said. "I am confident that we use our Tasers appropriately and as they were intended, and I welcome the opportunity to have the camera show that to be the case, particularly in an event when there are allegations to the contrary."
Taser Cams, which cost about $400 apiece, are audio and digital video recorders that attach to the butt of Taser guns. To comply with Illinois’ eavesdropping law, Peoria police will have the audio component of the camera deactivated.
Taping starts when the weapon is turned on. It continues recording until the weapon is turned off. The Taser doesn’t have to be fired to use the camera.
The camera faces where the gun is pointed, capturing an officer’s perspective on what is being said and done in the moments leading up to a suspect being Tased.
It records in black and white, but is equipped with infrared technology to record images in very low light or at night.
Data is saved onto a memory chip and the video is downloaded to a computer over a USB cable. The incident is then stored into a computer to be accessed when needed.
Because the camera is built into the battery pack — a rechargeable system — batteries will no longer need to be purchased, which will save the department money.
If the Police Department gets the cameras, it will be the first police agency in central Illinois to have them on the streets.
The Taser Cam, however, is already being used at the Peoria County Jail. Sheriff Mike McCoy lauds the device because it reduces manpower and increases compliance.
"In the past, if we had a problem person in a cell and we asked them to come out and they said ‘No,’ then we would Tase them," he said, adding that one jailer would do the Tasing while another recorded the incident with a video camera.
"Now what happens, you have one person holding a Taser that has a camera built into it so when you replay the camera you can see everything the officer saw," McCoy said. "You see what the Taser sees. It answers a whole lot of questions and it’s a factual tool for us."
Leslie Fark can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.