JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Arizona company that has equipped thousands of law-enforcement officers with non-lethal weapons is now offering to provide a free body camera for every police officer in America.
Taser International, which changed its name to Axon on Wednesday, made the offer thinking it will improve police and citizen relations and bring transparency to law enforcement.
More than 200,000 officers already use the cameras, but there are about 765,000 more working in the United States who don't have the cameras.
"This is a one-year trial offer with no gimmicks," said Axon vice president Steve Tuttle. "It is just a matter of getting them in the hands for one year and seeing the value added."
Tuttle said company officials have been busy ever since making the offer.
"It is much like having a smartphone," Tuttle said. "You probably can't live without one after you have gone that way."
That’s how University of North Florida Police Chief Frank Mackesy feels. His officers here share a half dozen cameras purchased from Axon two years ago.
"I have to say, after using them for two years, it has made me a believer," Mackesy said.
Mackesy had already applied for a grant to get cameras for all his officers, so he is looking into the company’s new offer.
"Look, if they want to give me free cameras for all of my officers, I will take them," Mackesy said.
While other area agencies are using body cameras, most of the area’s largest law-enforcement agencies still don’t have them. The Jacksonville’s Sheriff's Office is in the early stages of a pilot program aimed at getting body cameras for all uniformed officers. They have not selected a provider and are working on how the video would be managed.
JSO said Thursday that they’re considering every option, including this one since it's a big budget item.
Each camera costs about $400 and accessories are an additional $25. But the biggest expense is data storage -- estimated at about $1,068 per year per camera.
With JSO potentially outfitting all 1,600 officers with body cameras, that could run $2.4 million each year. Even if the cameras were free, there would be $1.7 million in storage costs.
Company executives said it’s worth a try.
"Let's face it, policing is facing one of its biggest challenges and they are under a microscope. They need these," Tuttle said.