DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu police Lt. Fabian Loo's Taser is outfitted with a video camera. Police officials announced yesterday that 500 of the department's Tasers are similarly equipped, allowing the department to review the circumstances in which the electroshock weapon is used. Police officers used Tasers 61 times last year.
Stuns on tape
The police have installed cameras on Tasers, hoping to ensure accountability
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The Honolulu Police Department has installed video cameras on 500 Taser electroshock guns to help show appropriate use of force.
"The camera brings credibility to the whole system," said Police Chief Boisse Correa. "It enhances the safety of our community, and it enhances the safety of our officers."
Honolulu police officers used Tasers 61 times last year -- six directed toward animals -- and three times so far this year. Correa said there were no complaints of its use, although two cases are being internally investigated for alleged department policy violations.
Tasers temporarily disrupt the body's nervous system by delivering a 50,000-volt jolt.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maj. Susan Ballard, commander of the Honolulu Police Department's training division, displays a Taser that is outfitted with a video camera. The camera is at the bottom of the Taser grip. Behind her is a video demonstrating what a video from the device would look like under normal indoor lighting conditions. The bright spot on the person with his hands raised is the laser beam from the Taser.
Cameras have been installed on Honolulu police Tasers, adding another layer of accountability for the nonlethal but intensely painful weapon, said Chief Boisse Correa.
Some 500 officers in patrol, specialized services, traffic, narcotics and receiving divisions pack a Taser. In November, 229 of those were outfitted with cameras. In January the rest of the devices received video cameras.
The audio and video recorders are attached to the butt of the bright yellow gun. When the safety is unlocked, the camera automatically switches on and can run for about 90 minutes.
"The camera brings credibility to the whole system," Correa said. "It enhances the safety of our community, and it enhances the safety of our officers."
Paid for mostly by donations and U.S. Department of Justice grants, the complete Taser outfit with cameras costs about $1,500. Correa said he hopes to outfit all 1,600 remaining officers with Tasers and cameras as well.
"If we can save one person's life where the officer does not have to shoot the person, it's well worth the cost," said Maj. Susan Ballard, of the police Training Division.
Of 63 major U.S. police departments, 55 use Tasers and seven have cameras. Tasers have been used by the Honolulu force since 2005. Correa said although he could not recall a case where a Taser was wrongfully used, the cameras are more of a pre-emptive measure.
Police officers used Tasers 61 times last year -- six directed toward animals -- and three times so far this year. Correa said there were no complaints of its use, although two cases are being internally investigated for alleged department policy violations.
Two of this year's cases involved assaults against police officers, and the third was to prevent a woman from committing suicide. Correa said officers are only to use it if there is a serious physical altercation, possibility of serious body injury or there is no other alternative.
Tasers are not stun guns, but they temporarily disrupt communication to the body's nervous system by jolting a person with 50,000 volts.
In a training video displayed to the media, the black-and-white footage has infrared technology to adjust to low-light conditions. The guns also have flashlights.
Correa said the footage saved in the gun cannot be tampered with and can only be downloaded by other officers as evidence.
Lt. Fabian Loo said many officers have volunteered to be shot with a Taser themselves during training to help them gauge when it would be appropriate to use it. Loo himself has been shot five times with a Taser.
"There's a safety net with the audio and the video," Loo said. "We have all confidence in our men and women that they're going to make the right decisions."