Obscured taser video defeats purpose of camera

Obscured view of Birdtown's Otis the Bull Dog (Maybe Pit Bull)

Obscured view of Otis the Bull Dog prior to being tasered by the LPD.

Birdtown’s Otis the Bull Dog (maybe pit bull) was in the wrong place at the wrong time on Saturday and received a couple of jolts from a Taser courtesy of the Lakewood Police Department (see Plain Dealer story and raw video).

Nevermind the obvious argument over whether or not Otis was acting in an aggressive manner (and what are the odds bystanders to the scene would include not one, but TWO “professional dog watchers”? See NewsNet5 story and video). The more important concern is the ease by which the Taser camera can be obscured.

According to a 2008 study of the X26 Taser — similar to the one used by the LPD — performed by the research arm of the United Kingdom’s federal police force, the device has a mechanism that alerts its user when the camera is obstructed:

Lens Cover Warning (pg. 9)

With conventional handguns it is common for the firer to adopt a two-handed grip. If the X26 is gripped using this method the lower hand is likely to cover the lens and obscure the image being recorded. When the lens is covered the Central Information Display (CID) at the back of the x26 will flash “88″ and the red laser dot sight will flash. If the red dot laser is turned off the CID display flashes 88. Though this lens cover warning is being given video will still be recorded and audio is uninterrupted. During testing, when the lens is deliberately obscured, the lens cover warning activates after approximately 3 seconds.

The study noted trained firearms officers, accustomed to the two-handed grip of their service weapon, needed to use a different kind of grip.

“…it was apparent that [trained] firearms officers would instinctively adopt a two-handed grip, as they would their service pistols. To avoid covering the lens of the Taser Cam, the firearms officers then had to change their grip or simply adopt a one-handed style. Conversely, because non-firearms [trained] officers were not familiar with holding weapons the form of the attachment was not considered uncomfortable…” (pg. 15)

So, while it’s unfortunate Otis was tasered, the incident proves there’s a need for the LPD to reexamine how it trains its officers to handle Tasers equipped with cameras. The cameras are there for good reason — to provide a layer of accountability– but they’re irrelevant if not used correctly.

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