By Rachel Fretz
Corrections officers run an exceptionally high risk of being disarmed. Most officers don’t carry a weapon, and in a prison environment, even a CERT team can be outnumbered and overpowered.
With corrections specifically in mind, TASER International, Inc. has designed a new technology that is small in size, but has the potential to change the face of correctional safety.
The technology is the TASER CDPM, or Controlled Digital Power Magazine. Announced May 5, CDPM is already generating industry buzz. CorrectionsOne talked to Paul Hughes, Corrections Sales Manager of TASER, at this year’s AJA conference in Sacramento, California, where the CDPM premiered.
How it works
The DPM is a distinct battery unit that fits inside the grip of an X26 and acts as a magnetic safety key. This forceful disconnect feature acts as a shut-off switch for the TASER device by digitally interfacing the CDPM with the TASER X26 Electronic Control Device (ECD). If a suspect were to take an ECD with a CDPM from an officer, the CDPM would immediately deactivate the TASER X26 to prevent it from use by an inmate or a suspect.
A 5-digit security pass code is required to reactivate the device.
“This tool is designed for a corrections environment,” said Hughes, “but is a clear benefit to any agency that cares about weapon retention. If my officer loses his weapon the course of his duty, I want to make sure it isn’t used against him.”
The CDPM comes with a number of adaptable retention options, including a retractable lanyard (think of a dog leash), or a smaller, looped wrist lanyard; other users prefer a long, loose lanyard that allows for quick draws.
Regardless, once that lanyard’s connection to the DPM device is broken, that ECD cannot be used. Even if the TASER X26 ECD has been deployed and is in the middle of a cycle, the cycle will be disrupted.
“This is a big jump in technology,” said Hughes. “What was limiting the safety of the officers in the field was that they couldn’t take an individual unit with them because of the concern about losing control of it. Now they can.”
Like the lanyard, a few different security pass code options are available.
While plenty of agencies want to have one code for the whole agency, others may want a different code for every device. That way, even if an inmate discovered an individual weapon number, they wouldn’t know the code for any other.
Often, the pass codes will only be known by the supervisors, but not by the officers themselves. That way, if something did happen, an officer could not be coerced into giving up the code.
Early consensus on the reactivation feature is that it should not be used during the incident.
“TASER worked with a number of corrections advisory boards from different state and county agencies,” Hughes said. “They felt that if the X26 was compromised, take it out of the fight —don’t try to get it back.”
Mother of invention
The concept of the DPM was originally developed with the cooperation of an agency in Pennsylvania that made a very specific request, Hughes said: “They wanted this safety capability or they weren’t going to be able to deploy the TASER technology.”
TASER then partnered with that agency and began working on design options. As the design began to take shape, other agencies, including the Colorado Department of Corrections and Federal Bureau of Prisons, were brought on board for feedback.
“It became clear very quickly that this was an idea that would be in high demand,” Hughes said.
What began as a small idea for a single agency quickly grew into a safety tool with potential applications throughout the correctional and law enforcement industries.
Think of probation and parole: These officers often need to introduce a weapon into an unknown environment — usually somebody’s home — where the threat of an officer’s weapon being used against him is very high.
“It’s generating a lot of interest for all state and county agencies that share the same concerns about weapon retention,” Hughes said.
The TASER CDPM will hit the market once later this year (Q3 2008), according to Hughes, once the software component is perfected.
The system is also compatible with any TASER X26, meaning agencies and departments won’t have to buy all new equipment — just a battery unit.
“This is a good example of what happens when you’re listening to your clients,” Hughes said. “You can deliver on what it is they’re looking for.”
And when your client is corrections, there is nothing more important than delivering more options — and safer options.