10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief
Depts adopting new TASER X2; SF still waits for ECDs
While Newport News Sheriff’s Office gets cutting-edge TASER X2s, cops in San Francisco still await decision on ECDs
Last week came news from TASER International that the company began shipping the first of its highly anticipated new TASER X2 ECDs for agency review. Well, as I had fully expected would happen, it didn’t take long for customers to begin placing orders. Today I got an email from the Scottsdale-based company with news that Newport News (Va.) Sheriff's Office will deploy TASER X2s to 77 of its sworn law officers. The order provides the Newport News Sheriffs Office with TASER X2 ECDs and TASER Cam HD units, as well as the various related accessories.
The TASER X2 is very similar in size and grip ergonomics to the well-known X26, but packs some really compelling new features. For example, the X2 offers a dual-shot semi-automatic capability because, as the TASER website puts it, “Sometimes you need a second chance.”
I spoke this afternoon with my friend Steve Tuttle over at TASER International. “The dual-shot capability is something we clearly hear from the voice of the customer,” Tuttle told me. “As it turns out, if you really deliver what the customer is looking for — if you truly listen to the voice of the customer — you’re going to have this kind of positive market response.”
Other features you’ll find in the new X2 are dual aiming lasers for improved accuracy, an enhanced power magazine, and a “warning arc that helps prevents conflict from escalating.” Oh, and those TASER Cam HD units are the first high-definition color TASER camera units in the company’s history. Those things offer 720p resolution and record 30 frames per second.
When the company released word about shipment of the X2 last week, they also announced a generous upgrade program through which law enforcement agencies can trade-in their aging ECDs — whether or not those devices are even functional — by the end of the year and get $300 toward an upgrade package. “Qualifying trade-in units include any TASER ECD or any projectile stun device,” the announcement said.
According to TASER, the upgrade package is valued at about $1,500 and includes:
• One X2 ECD (either yellow or black)
• One Holster (choose from 1 of 3 styles)
• One Power Module
• Six X2 Smart cartridges
• 4-year Extended Warranty for the X2 ECD
• One Online X2 User Certification Training Seat with NWTC
Tuttle told me today too that the quick timeframe between the release last week and the order announcement today from the Newport News SO is no anomaly. News that other agencies are embracing this new technology is very likely to come in the near future.
“The X2 is starting to take off — we’re extremely encouraged by the interest from new customers as well as agencies that are looking to move up from the X26,” Tuttle said. “We’ve heard interest from agencies that have new X26s who are looking to upgrade to the X2s and agencies that we’ve never worked with before, so I think that shows you something about the appeal.”
Room to Grow
Tuttle was — and should be — enthusiastic about the prospects of a lot of X2’s hitting the streets in coming months and years. For example, the Newport News Sheriff’s Office employs more than 77 sworn officers, so there is certain the chance that at some point down the road, the number of X2’s at the agency could grow. Furthermore, there are almost assuredly a great many agencies who have deployed a variety of ECDs to their officers that now would be in the position to replace old units or upgrade to the newer technology. However, there are also many agencies whose administrators are being prevented from even considering acquiring them.
The opposing citizens’ groups, city councils, mayors, and others who are putting political agendas ahead of officer — and citizen — safety just have the whole argument wrong.
Frequent readers of this space know that I want the cops who patrol the streets of my city to have TASERs on their belts.
A couple of years ago, the San Francisco Police Department released a comprehensive report — available for download on the SFPD website — on Officer-Involved Shootings in that city over the past five years. The report is filled with all manner of charts and graphs and observations and recommendations — most notable were the factors of mental health and toxicology of the subjects who were either injured or killed, as well as the near proximity of the subjects to the officers involved. From these three factors, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the 2,300+ sworn officers of SFPD should have TASERs on their duty belts.
When that study came out, I spoke with then Assistant Chief Morris Tabak — who helped conduct the abovementioned study and is now retired — he told me, “The results of this study ...was the need for us to look at TASER, or a TASER-like weapon, as an option.”
By the Numbers
During the timeline for this study (January 1, 2005 to August 27, 2009), SFPD investigated 24 OIS incidents, five of which involved outside law enforcement agencies. “Since these involved non-SFPD members,” stated the report, “these five shootings were eliminated from our study because they involved a different process and they provided no data regarding the hiring, training, supervision, or policies of the San Francisco Police Department.”
Another four shootings involved subjects “who were either not injured, or who sustained injuries prior to, or during the shooting event, however the injuries could not be attributed to police gun fire. These cases were originally investigated as officer-involved shootings out of an abundance of caution, however due to the indeterminate cause of the injuries involved they did not fit the criteria of this study.”
So, we’ve got 15 cases in a five-year period “in which San Francisco police officers discharged a firearm in the performance of their duties that resulted in an injury to, or the death of a person.” When the results of the study were presented to the San Francisco Police Commission, it fell on deaf ears.
Earlier this year, after what was characterized as “a lively, six-hour debate,” the Commission did the right thing, and green-lit SFPD to conduct studies into how it would deploy these invaluable devices. Still, considerable local resistance continues. I’d like to think that with the advent of the X2, the opposition will pull back, but that’s just dreamtime thinking.
The X2 has features that will likely be “scary” to those who already oppose ECDs. That warning arc, for example, may be viewed by the uninformed and unwashed masses as unnecessary and threatening display. We might hear opponents say things like, “I opposed the thing when it had one shot, what makes you think I’ll favor it now that it has two?” We shall see, we shall see...
Yes, I am a strong advocate for the devices produced by the good folks at TASER International, and yes, admittedly, I have close personal friends who work for the company. I’ve written on numerous occasions that I think that TASERs save lives — the lives of officers as well as the lives of suspects. A couple years ago, TASER introduced the X3 — I wrote about that here — and I was one of many people given the opportunity to fire the X3 at “a bunch of Ivy League college students” at IACP 2009 in Denver. At IACP last year got my very own five-second ride.
I understand that my constant coverage of TASER International might come across as shilling for TASER, but the fact is, I truly believe in what they do. I read the statement that leads all their press announcements — “a provider of safety technologies that prevent conflict, protect life, and resolve disputes” — and I believe it.
I wish more people did.