TASER reports spiking interest in police cameras following Ferguson

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A private company donated more than 50 police body cameras to the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri, nearly a month after a controversial shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Police officials in Ferguson say a camera could have put to rest questions about the shooting, including the positioning of the officer and teenager, Michael Brown, as well as the words exchanged.

In wake of the Ferguson shooting and protests, Scottsdale-based TASER International is reporting a surge in the number of police agencies interested in equipping officers with body cameras.

TASER officials report a 260 percent increase in Web traffic and say they are fielding five times the normal number of inquiries about their Axon Flex Cameras.

"There are so many departments that woke up and thought, 'That could've been us,'" TASER spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

"We're hearing from agencies that told us, 'Hell no,' a couple years ago. There's absolutely a link [between those calls and Ferguson]," he said.

TASER's cameras cost $399 or $599 each. The company says cities nationwide credit the video evidence taken from cameras for cutting down on court resources and for quickly resolving officer complaint cases.

In Mesa, police officials say the cameras led to a 75 percent drop in "use of force" complaints against officers.

"This is a way to prevent uncertainty," Tuttle said. "If you boil what happened in Ferguson down to one word, it's 'uncertainty.'"

3TV contacted several Valley police agencies to check the number of body cameras currently in use by officers.

Mesa plans to purchase and deploy 300 of TASER's cameras over five years and 100 are already in use.

Phoenix is using 55 from another company, with 50 more on order.

Scottsdale is testing 10 police body cameras and Chandler police say they are testing "a few."

Peoria just purchased 50 cameras, which are not yet in use.

Tempe police hope to purchase one for each patrol officer in the next year.

Avondale, Glendale and Goodyear police are not using cameras.

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