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West Valley City Journal

Police Department Upgrades Tasers, Body Cam Storage

Jun 16, 2016 08:30AM ● By Bryan Scott

The West Valley City Police Department will now have unlimited storage capacity for all images received from officers’ body cameras. – West Valley City Police Department

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

Equipment upgrades are coming to the West Valley City Police Department. 

The West Valley City Council passed a resolution during their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 3 to amend their current contract with Taser International to participate in the company’s Officer Safety Plan.

Under the new plan the police department would gain unlimited storage capacity for all digital data received from body cameras used by officers. The department will also purchase 190 new Tasers as a part of the plan since the Tasers currently being used are no longer made. 

“The current product [Taser] that we carry is no longer supported, and when they go out of service we cannot get any kind of replacement parts,” Police Chief Lee Russo told the City Council during a study meeting on April 26. 

The funding over the next four years of this program comes mostly from the rebate on beer taxes the department receives from the state each year which will leave $321,336.32 to be funded from the City budget. 

The 190 Tasers will equip all members of the Police Department bar administrative personnel. As a way to discount the price, Taser International will buy back all of the department’s current Tasers. Taser International is the sole source provider of conducted energy weapons, more commonly known as Tasers. 

Russo said the threat of the Tasers is used much more frequently than actual deployment. 

“The actual utilization of the device has actually started to decline as people have recognized when they see the device come out,” Russo said. 

Sergeant Steve Katz of the West Valley Police Department said he can understand why people grow weary of the Taser. 

“It very often is a deterrent,” Katz said. “I’ve been through the training and been tased and I can understand why it’s a deterrent.” 

Russo said he thinks the Tasers, in conjunction with the body cameras, is increasing cooperation between police and civilians. 

“The combination between the body camera being present and the visual signal of the Taser coming out of the holster is gaining rapid compliance,” Russo said. “We’ve seen the assaults against officers – when we’ve utilized these devices – go down and the injuries to suspects go down.” 

The police department just completed its first year of the body worn camera program and Katz said it’s been very useful for its protection of officers.  

“It’s a protection, it allows us to do our job and it allows the public to have a front row seat to what we’re actually doing so rather than speculate at what occurred, we can look at it,” Katz said. 

“I think when more of those videos start coming out, people will start seeing that oh maybe the guy or girl was fighting or maybe they did have a gun,” Detective Mike Lynes said. 

Throughout this first year of the program, police discovered the storage space for videos and images captured from the body cameras was not sufficient enough. That problem will be fixed under the new plan. 

The program will also include the purchase of 90 Axon Signal Units to be used by uniformed officers and installed in the officers’ vehicle. Via a blue tooth signal, the unit will automatically activate the body camera when the police car’s red and blue lights turn on or when the officer’s Taser is activated. 

“That way in the excitement of the moment the officer won’t forget to activate their system,” Russo said. “It’s a triple redundant means for us to be sure the body cameras, in the heat of the moment, are on.”