Shares in Taser, the manufacturer of electrified stun guns used by law enforcement and security personnel in America and elsewhere (remember when a protestor was Taser-ed at a John Kerry rally and it was uploaded to YouTube?) are on an absolute tear. Since Michael Brown, an unarmed, black teenager, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, the stock has climbed about 20%.
But the share price surge isn’t actually about stun guns. It’s about another product Taser International has developed. As Katherine Rushton from the UK’s Daily Telegraph (paywall) points out, the company also makes wearable video cameras that can record police officer activity. “[A]nalysts expect the devices to become much more widespread as forces look for new ways to curb unnecessary violence,” she writes.
Last week, the Fresno police department ordered 100 of them. Investors seem to think that others will follow suit, and with good reason. Last year, in a ruling against New York’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy, a judge in the city ordered some police to wear cameras. Already some lawmakers want that expanded. Police typically are against the idea, but one officer in California was able to refute allegations he had hurt a civilian thanks to his use of a camera.
According to Taser’s marketing materials, a Cambridge University study of the technology found an 88% reduction in citizen complaints and a 60% reduction in use of force when its wearable camera system is implemented. So weirdly, Taser could actually help reduce violence.