The United States firm that makes the Taser is hailing a move by New Zealand Police to buy software that will make it easier to monitor Taser use as a "watershed" for its business.
Police are installing a system called Evidence.com that will let them securely store, analyse and manage thousands of videos from cameras attached to Tasers, under a three-year contract. The footage can be used as evidence in court cases.
Taser International chief executive Rick Smith told analysts and investors at a briefing in the US that New Zealand Police would be the first significant user of the software.
It will let police tag and search for videos under keywords. Police will be able to plot Taser incidents on a map so they can find videos by location, and click on them to view the footage in a customised video player. They will also be able to create secure online groups to share evidence and collaborate with other agencies.
Police spokesman John Neilson says Evidence.com is designed as a web-based application with data stored on servers in the US, but police and Taser International have modified it so all data will be "stored securely within the New Zealand Police system".
The software is capable of storing and managing data from head-mounted cameras supplied by Taser International, but New Zealand police are not using these. The cameras – which are the size of a Bluetooth cellphone earpiece and attach by a headband above the ear – are designed to record interactions between the police and the public, and are being trialled by police in San Jose.
Mr Smith says managing Taser videos – which are enormous file sizes – is a huge challenge. "A small agency can generate tens of terabytes of data each year, and being able to manage that data to make sure it's properly backed up and that it is protected ... is a huge technical lift.
"Evidence.com is much bigger than just storing this information. It's about unlocking the evidence – unlocking the knowledge hiding in evidence."
Police have bought 777 Taser stun guns, which will be available to 3500 front-line police throughout the country from August.
Taser training began in each police district this month. The electronic stun guns would "not be carried on the hip as a matter of course, but will be readily available to front-line staff," police say.
The guns use a 50,000-volt electric current to incapacitate people and are used in situations where previously police may have used firearms.
They were introduced in small numbers at the end of 2008, since when 10 suspects have been "Tasered". Police have reported that people are surrendering when Tasers are pointed at them.
The stun guns have been criticised as dangerous, but police says there have been no known side effects when they had been used in New Zealand.
- The Dominion Post