GRETNA, La. – Now in Jefferson Parish: Tasercams. Any time a sheriff's deputy turns off a stun gun's safety, a tiny camera will roll.
The video will both help defend deputies against lawsuits accusing them of excessive force and reduce any chance of such abuse by deputies, Sheriff Harry Lee said Wednesday.
He spent $272,400 to upgrade the department's 681 Taser X26 stun guns.
"This is a good expenditure of money. It's good for us. It's good for the people of Jefferson Parish," Lee said.
Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt shock via two wire-attached probes that can be fired 21 feet.
The mini-cameras, which attach to the bottom of the Tasers, begin recording as soon as a deputy switches off the safety switch, said Capt. Jeff Eddy, head of the sheriff's office firing range and armory.
The black and white camera can record up to 1 1/2 hours of footage with sound, and can record in daylight, low light and no light. That footage can be downloaded into a computer and burned onto a computer disc for viewing.
"With allegations of police brutality, we'll be able to show this to the jury," Lee said.
At least four people have died after being stunned by Jefferson Parish deputies. The most recent was Murray Bush, 47, who died about a year ago after two deputies stunned him. Bush, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had violently resisted their attempt to take him into custody for treatment, authorities said.
In October, some in the community became alarmed after a Sheriff's Office deputy used a Taser to subdue a 16-year-old student at Grace King High School in Metairie. The student was not injured.
Lee said Wednesday that he hoped the video cameras would address some of the complaints about Taser abuse.
Joe Cook, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, said "I think that's better than not having them, but it still doesn't alleviate the problem."
He said only the manufacturer has tested the device's safety, and the exact effects of stun guns on people with medical conditions such as heart abnormalities are still unknown. Cook said he's concerned that officers might be prone to use Tasers in situations where lesser force would be acceptable.