Axon Enterprise, Inc., a company that develops technology and weapons for military, law enforcement, and civilians, made a stop at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters yesterday to showcase their latest models of tasers, unmanned aerial vehicles, and their digital evidence management systems.
In the parking lot of MCSO’s Low Gap office, the company’s demonstration trailer along with multiple pop-ups and lunch by Big Earl’s BBQ provided the public an opportunity to see their technology in action and even try their hand at deploying the Taser 7, the company’s latest in taser technology.
Law enforcement’s budgetary demands have given rise to a robust crop of private companies looking to sell products and services to police forces. In Mendocino County, public protection accounts for 18.9% of the overall budget, representing $64,737,065 of taxpayer money. This category includes the courts, law enforcement, and corrections. More specifically, the Sheriff’s Office’s yearly budget is approximately $23,000,000. That sort of budget is enticing to entrepreneurs who see profit potential.
Axon Enterprises first gained notoriety for its mainstreaming of Taser technology within law enforcement refining a design developed by a NASA researcher in 1969. The company broke into the police body camera market branding itself as a tool used to enhance transparency. Police agencies throughout the United States have contracted with Axon including the Berkeley Police Department, the Sacramento Police Department, and the Los Angeles Police Department.
Axon has also entered the evidence management system market, providing agencies with Evidence.com, a domain dedicated to warehousing an agency’s evidence and body camera footage.
Touted as an efficient method of storing and maintaining the deluge of data produced by police departments, some privacy advocates have expressed concern public records are stored and maintained within the servers of a private entity.
We stepped inside Axon’s demonstration trailer and found its design evoking scenes of stormtroopers patrolling the halls of the Death Star. Theresa Wigley, Axon’s roadshow coordinator, told us that was purposeful with Axon’s CEO Rick Smith being a huge Star Wars fan and other sci-fi motifs.
Wigley geared us up for an immersive virtual reality experience called “Taser vs. Zombies” created to provide a demonstration of the “immersive nature of the VR.” With zombies lurching toward, users experienced the operational nuances of Axon’s Taser technology.
John Tinder, an Axon Senior Master Instructor, provided a real-life practicum in taser deployment. Tinder travels around the United States providing training and instructor courses on what he calls Conducted Energy Devices (CEW) to law enforcement, military, and civilians Tinder described the tool as an essential component in de-escalation.
Standing on the firing line, Tinder instructed participants through the operational process of safely using the CEW device. After emphasizing the importance of keeping the device pointed down range, Tinder gave the green light to yell “Taser!” and pull the trigger. The probes ejected and immediately connected with the target, along with the sound of the energy being sent to each probe.
Theresa Wigley provided an overview of Axon’s Evidence.com, a cloud-based evidence management system designed to do the tedious tech work most law enforcement agencies do not have the training nor infrastructure to do efficiently. Using Evidence.com, Wigley explained police body cameras are automatically uploaded to Axon’s servers, protected by heavy encryption, allowing for streamlined management of the hours of data accrued by law enforcement.
Sheriff Matt Kendall told us tools like Axon’s taser technology have provided a vital non-lethal option for law enforcement when navigating situations that require use-of-force. He remembers as a young deputy with mace, a baton, and a firearm giving very few options in the continuum of force. He described taser technology as a game changer for law enforcement providing an important stopgap between the baton and the firearm.
In terms of Axon’s data management, Sheriff Matt Kendall said the information technology demands of modern law enforcement often get in the way of his deputies doing the work they were trained to do. Instead of dedicating trained law enforcement officers to the tedious demands of data management, data management companies like Axon can provide those services faster, cheaper, and with higher quality.
Sheriff Kendall told us that MCSO currently is in contract with Axon for their taser technologies, some number crunching is in order to determine if his agency is interested in expanding those services. “We have to make sure the juice is worth the squeeze,” Kendall said.