Taser Cams: Police Release Videos of Shocking Takedowns

PHOTO In a move meant to boost transparency, two Florida police departments released video captured from the end of Taser electroshock devices
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These are not videos for the faint of heart.

In a move meant to boost transparency, two Florida police departments released video captured from the end of Taser electroshock devices, showing suspects wracked with pain as thousands of volts of electricity surge through their bodies.

One video, showing a naked man running down the street as a police officer stuns him with a Taser has become a YouTube hit, attracting more than 100,000 views online. Dozens of other videos show people on the ground, next to police cars or running from law enforcement as they get shocked by the nonlethal weapons.

Lt. Wayne Farrell, with the Winter Park Police Department in Florida, said they released the videos after a request from a local news station. He said the department decided to purchase the $400 video recorders in 2007 to give the public a window in their world.

"It was our belief that it was going to be a good defense of any allegation of wrongdoing. It's a good court record," he said. "The department decided we were going to take a stance on transparency. … We wanted them to see that we had nothing to hide."

Each time a Taser is used, the cameras automatically begin recording. Farrell said that since 2007, the department had used the Tasers 58 times.

Police: Taser Cams Provide Layer of Defense

In the past few years, Tasers have attracted some controversy, with some critics claiming that police use the high-voltage weapons too frequently. But Farrell said they've proved to be important tools.

"When you look at the numbers of officers that are not injured and the numbers of suspects that are not seriously injured… we think they're extremely useful," he said. "We've had instances where an officer could have used deadly force. We believe that there have been potentially several lives that could have been saved."

Commander Steve Wilkinson with the West Melbourne Police Department said the videos give his department an edge in defending themselves.

"They offer a lot of added information when we have an incident," he said. "If anyone complains that we abused authority or used excessive force, we'd be able to prove it or disprove it. …It's better for the community, too, because it helps keep the officers in check."

Taser Videos Show Small Snippet of Larger Incident

Winter Park's Farrell said he's glad the videos are open to the public, but cautioned viewers to remember that they're only seeing a few seconds of a much longer altercation.

"The only issue that comes up is that you have a lot more people who are not in the position to have a lot of knowledge of the before and after trying to make decisions and making comments strictly on what they see in the 22 seconds," he said.

For example, West Melbourne's Wilkinson said his department just determined that the naked man running the popular YouTube video is being treated for a mental illness.

"Realize that that's only a small piece of the contact the officer had with that person and usually it's the climax of that contact," Farrell said.

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