"We feel pretty confident that having a body camera for a cop is like having a smartphone for a consumer", says Axon CEO Rick Smith.
The body camera offer comes as the company is changing its name from TASER, signifying its move beyond the stun gun. They also hold the potential to change police work as we know it, by seamlessly collecting an impartial record and reducing the need for endless paperwork.
A recent poll found two-thirds of police favored the use of body cameras, which can provide evidence to support their account when they are accused of wrongdoing by members of the public, Ars Technica reported.
"Taser is clearly positioning itself to be identified as the (only) police body-camera company, which has some potentially troubling consequences for policing".
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Axon bills the initiative as a way to help officers operate with "confidence and focus" so that they can better serve the people and communities where they work.
Axon notes that the free, one-year trial offer is "not available for any law enforcement agency or its officers in which Axon is participating in a request for proposal, a process that restricts communication with that agency or its officers". Deployment of the technology locally has stalled as a federal judge decides if officers should be able to watch camera footage before writing reports. We're locked into a contract with competing body camera manufacturer VieVu, despite the protestations of Comptroller Scott Stringer's office when the NYPD went ahead with the $6.4 million contract. A 2013 Department of Justice report found that one-third of all departments are using them, while Axon estimates that roughly 150,000 out of 800,000 officers - or about 20% - are now using them. "We believe body cameras offer a promising opportunity to increase transparency between police officers and the communities they serve". The Axon line of video cameras, and the subsequent file management and data storage subscriptions that come with them, has become so significant that Taser is changing its name to Axon.
"There's something like a 15 to 1 return on investment for us by letting customers try this because ultimately, this is a network play", Smith told "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer on Wednesday. While many police officers are on board with the increased surveillance, some see it as an unwelcome intrusion into an already hard job.
Axon now employs around 110 people in Seattle, with plans to hire an additional 80 in the next year.