Every good cop who has faced a jury or a board of inquiry for some use-of-force beef has probably thought the same thing at one time or another during the proceedings: If you could just see what I saw, then you'd agree that you would have shot, hit, kicked, OCed, or used a TASER on that guy, too.
TASER International wants to give you the ability to show said jury or board of inquiry exactly what you saw on the street. That's the idea behind the company's TASERCAM and its soon to be launched Autonomous eXtended on-Officer Network (AXON).
At first glance, AXON appears to be nothing more than an officer-worn audio-video recording system. But TASER International CEO Rick Smith says that it is really a "tactical computer" offering multiple capabilities to officers in the field, including:
Digital evidence collection
DVD-quality audio-video evidence recording
Two-way audio communication
Tactical control of certain TASER devices such as the XREP via wireless transmission
Built-in searchable reporting software with narration
AXON is essentially a three-component system. The user wears a special earpiece like a cell phone Bluetooth headset that holds an all-in-one video imager, audio microphone, and earpiece speaker. This attaches to the AXON computer system, which stores the video and audio record of everything the officer sees, hears, and says. Finally, the AXON computer, which is about the size of a small smartphone, fits in a lightweight cradle that sits atop the officer's shoulder. The cradle has push-to-talk features and stands in for a standard shoulder mic.
Smith says that one of the goals of the AXON development team was to create a system that provided the wearer's eye-level view of any incident. "The constitutional standard for use of force is that it must be objectively reasonable from the officer's perspective at the time of the incident," he explains. "So we had to find a way to get the camera up on the officer's head. Obviously, to get the officer to accept a headpiece, we had to give that officer something more than just a camera."
That's why TASER made the AXON both a recording system and a communications system. The push-to-talk functions of the AXON cradle work with most portable radios in use by law enforcement agencies, and the headset has a speaker so that the wearer can hear radio messages. Smith believes it will be easy for officers to accept a radio headset as standard operating equipment. "Many agencies are already migrating toward using an on-ear audio communication system for privacy reasons," he says.
TASER also sees AXON as kind of a remote control for TASER weapons, including its 12-gauge eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP). "We are envisioning that the AXON network will become the control piece for future TASER-type devices and possibly other devices," says Smith. The AXON system has built-in radio frequency (RF) features. Smith says its RF range will be greater than Bluetooth devices. "We have selected a chip set that gives us three different bands that we can transmit on," he explains.
AXON's RF capability called TASER Communications (TACOM) is expected to be very important when TASER releases the second generation of the XREP. The first generation of the XREP is pretty much a fire-and-forget projectile. When it hits the target, it delivers a 20-second TASER charge, but it can't be reenergized to stun the suspect again.
That will change in the second generation and AXON will be a triggering device. "The second generation of the XREP will have an RF receiver," Smith explains. "So once you fire the projectile downrange if the suspect starts to get up again, you don't have to fire another round at him. Instead, you will be able to send a wireless triggering signal from the AXON system to reenergize the XREP."