Friday, June 1, 2007

Zap! You're on APD's new Taser camera

By Christopher Sanchez, Albuquerque Tribune

The Albuquerque Police Department is getting more cameras, but they're not to catch people running red lights.

The department will evaluate 20 Tasers with video cameras attached to them starting next week, city officials said Thursday. The cameras are intended to document incidents when the stun guns are fired.

Though Tasers are an important alternative to lethal force, they can be deadly, Mayor Martin Chavez said at a news conference. The cameras will increase accountability for officers and for people getting arrested, Chavez said.

"So there are no questions at the end of the day," he said. "It simply gives us a record."

Stun-gun usage has become a nationwide issue in recent years. According to a 2006 report by Amnesty International, 152 people died in the United States since 2001 after being shocked by the devices.

There haven't been any Taser-related deaths or lawsuits related to their use in Albuquerque this year, Albuquerque police spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said.

In May 2005, a 40-year-old Albuquerque man died after officers used Tasers to subdue him. Police said he suffered a heart attack and that his behavior suggested he had taken some kind of drug.

The Taser cameras cost about $850 each and can record 75 minutes of footage.

Once the Taser is charged and ready to fire, the camera records audio and video. Infrared technology allows the device to record at night.

Albuquerque police will be one of the first agencies in the state to try the device, Chief Ray Schultz said.

Schultz said the department will evaluate the technology for three to six months.

"If we see good results, we'll go forward with ordering more," he said.

The department has more than 400 Tasers, Schultz said.

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