Technology & Science

RCMP tests Tasers that record video

The RCMP is considering equipping officers with conducted energy weapons, or Tasers, that have video cameras embedded in the weapon's grip.

The RCMP is considering equipping officers with conducted energy weapons, or Tasers, that have video cameras embedded in the weapon's grip.

The Taser-mounted cameras, already in use by Ottawa police, are capable of recording up to 90 minutes of video and audio, and start recording as soon as the weapon's safety switch is flipped.

The Taser X26 stun gun is shown with an optional video camera mounted in the butt of the grip. ((Associated Press))
The RCMP started testing the video-capable Tasers a week ago.

Sgt. Greg Cox says the cameras are another way the Mounties are investigating recording any use of force by officers. The RCMP currently uses cameras in cars and is looking into using cameras mounted on officers' uniforms.

Police in Ottawa are the only force in Canada using video-capable Tasers. Edmonton police conducted a four-month trial using six of the units, but found the officer's hand sometimes blocked the camera's lens.

Ottawa police also found that a two-handed grip on the Taser blocks the camera, but audio is still recorded. Police are trained to use their sidearms with a two-handed grip. The Taser website says the information display on the weapon provides a warning if the lens is blocked.

Taser International, the weapon's manufacturer, says adding video capability to Tasers adds accountability for the weapon's use. It says the video documents the behaviour, actions and demeanour of a suspect.

The company says the camera is sensitive enough to record video even in low light. A video on Taser International's site says the video recording "is an invaluable tool in protecting officers from baseless complaints regarding professionalism and courtesy."

Civil liberties group praises camera Tasers

Graeme Norton, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the video will only capture a brief moment in time around the time a Taser is activated, and not the whole story. Even so, Norton says cameras mounted on Tasers could have a positive effect.

"People tend to behave differently when they think they're being videotaped," said Norton.

"So if you have a police officer who's considering doing something, they may behave differently because they know that something will be on video," he said.

Lawyer Reg Harris, who is representing one of the Mounties at the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport, says the camera recording will be useful and helpful.

"We know that memory has its problems. A camera does not have its problems with memory. It captures and records the device, as well as it records what's being said or what's not being said," said Harris.

Dziekanski's death after being shocked by an RCMP Taser is at the centre of an ongoing public inquiry.

The inquiry is expected to hear from its final witness beginning Thursday, and is scheduled to hear closing submissions beginning in early October.