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TASER International Interview

Recently, LAW and ORDER

got a chance to sit down with Steve Tuttle of TASER® International to talk about one of most influential companies in the law enforcement industry.

TASER’s influence and growth continues to be one of the driving forces in less-lethal technologies and has influenced the way in which cops do their job. Tuttle has been with TASER since the start and gave us some insights into TASER International’s past and its future.


We recently got the news of Jack Cover’s passing. Could you talk a little bit about Cover and what he means to TASER International?

Steve Tuttle:

Jack Cover was the inspiration for TASER as you know it. The technology he developed is the basis of current TASER technology.

He developed the first TASER and gave it the name “TASER” (Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle). Tom Swift was Jack’s favorite literary character, and his stories were the inspiration for the TASER. Jack’s first TASER used gunpowder to launch the probes. And this was popular with some police agencies and civilians alike but was eventually classified as a special weapon by the ATF, requiring a tax stamp.

About this time, Rick and Tom Smith became involved with Jack, and they formed TASER International, with Jack being the chief science officer. Rick and Tom developed the idea of using compressed air to launch the probes, getting around the ATF restrictions.

This was the development of the Air TASER, TASER’s first products. From there TASER developed the M26 and grew from there.


It seems with the development of the M26 to the X26 to the XREP, we see TASER miniaturizing the technology, going “lighter, faster, stronger.” Is this a focus of future development for TASER?


Yes, this is one of the areas we are focused. We have quadrupled our R&D budget for 2009. We are looking at product development and looking forward.

Some may question increasing budgets during this economy, but we believe this is the time to be innovative and find ways to meet agencies needs.

You need to understand the XREP is the product of 15 years of development; we look far into the future.


We see with the X26 Video system and the AXON™, the company’s use of video. Does TASER see video as integral component to successful use-of-force applications?


TASER was founded on the principle of “Protect Life,” and we realized we wanted to do more. We are very loyal to law enforcement, and we wanted go beyond that. We know that accountability is necessary to help them; we started it with data port on the M26.

This let agencies log when the unit was fired, but that still didn’t help officers enough in court. We know the vast majority of officers are honest hard working cops doing the right thing, and we wanted a way to prove it.

The video on the X26, we saw an opportunity go beyond “Protect Life” and “Protect Truth” as well.

Video from X26 was very successful in court. It gave agencies accountability and let officers show what the clean-cut quiet defendant dressed in the suit in court looked liked the night he attacked the officer. We realized the power of this and developed the AXON.

The AXON is already the Number 1 on-officer video system. We believe video can be a key to protecting truth and protecting life for officers.


TASER has been very successful in mitigating lawsuits. What do you feel are the keys to this success? What points would you give agencies and officers in being successful in litigation?


We are 80-1 in court. We knew we were going to be attacked in litigation when TASER was formed, and we immediately identified some things we had to do.

We knew any new less-lethal technology would be court tested. So first we got the science behind the product. We have a great deal of science and medical research and our products continue to be independently tested.

There are over 140 independent studies of TASER technology. Such as Dr. Bozeman’s study showing 99% of TASER uses result in no significant injury. We encourage fair independent studies and test.

Next, we knew to be successful in general and in court, cops had to like it. We needed to win their trust and support; we did that through relentless customer service and acknowledging when products have issues. We act quickly to fix problems. We have done that and continue to focus on cops’ loyal and trust, and that has helped us in court, as well. The last thing we do is stay ahead of the trends and situations. We are very proactive in addressing statements in the media and in-custody death situations.

We fight back against what we believe to be inaccurate statements in media. I often ask why don’t stats such as an 80% reduction of officer injury after the introduction of TASER make news in the main stream media? This should be making the news. This is what risk managers and administrators need to know, and I focus on getting this information out.


As we look to the future, what is the status of eXtreme Range Electronic Projectile, XREP?


The XREP will roll out this year, but I don’t have an official release date. It is in the final testing phases now. We are excited about the XREP and see it has a major leap in the technology.

The collaboration with Mossberg on the X-12 is example of us thinking out of the box. I don’t think anyone expected to see a 12-gauge shotgun in TASER’s product line 15 years ago. But we saw need to extend the range for TASER applications and looked at the best way to fill it. The XREP and X-12 is the high-tech answer to the beanbag round.


We have heard that TASER is looking at licensing the use of the Radial Key Technology in the X-12 system to other less-lethal companies. The Radial Key system allows for only the XREP round to be fired from X-12 because the unique ridge on the bolt of the X-12 and the matching indention on the face of the XREP shell.


Yes, we are looking at this. We understand we are not the only less-lethal technology out there, and law enforcement needs multiple less-lethal options. And following our Protect Life principal and using the technology to do it, this is a natural concept for us.

If the licensing of the Radial Key prevents a death by keeping a lethal round out of a less-lethal system, then it meets TASER’s mission.


What about future TASER products?


You won’t recognize the technology 10 years from now. We build innovation into our products. For instance, when we designed the X26 and its Digital Power Magazine (DPM), we didn’t specifically design it for X26 Cam or the new CDPM.

What we did is design the DPM to be adaptable to new ideas. We say we want to design technology to adapt to our new ideas that we are going to get 3 to 5 years from now. We will continue to get feedback from cops and use their input in our products.

This has been a key to our successful product development. There are 5,000 agencies that have TASERs on every officer’s belt, and that is a lot of information for us to learn from. We will continue to focus on protecting life through our technology.

Published in Law and Order, May 2009

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