TASER Is Cashing In On Police Body Cameras
The increase in TASER's revenue stream from body cameras coincides with several officer-involved deaths over the last few years
The company best known for its stun guns saw a huge spike in sales last quarter stemming from a rush of demand for its line of body cameras in the wake several high-profile police shootings that sent shockwaves across the country.
In the quarter ending on September 30th, TASER reported net sales of more than $50 million, a 13 percent increase from the same period in 2014. The revenue from body cameras, body camera accessories and data storage, however, increased by 150 percent from the third quarter of 2014 to more than $36 million, a new record for the company.
“It’s been tremendous,” said Steve Tuttle, TASER’s vice president of strategic communications. “We’ve had to hire people to keep up—we’re putting so much into the business just to meet the demand.”
The increase in TASER’s revenue stream from body cameras coincides with controversial officer-involved deaths over the last few years. The biggest recent spike in revenue from body cameras came in the fourth quarter of 2014—October 1 to December 31—when the profits from the company’s AXON body cameras and Evidence.com data management system went from $15.3 million the previous quarter to $24.6 million, according to data that Vocativ obtained from TASER. The spike almost immediately followed the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both of whom were killed on July 17, 2014 and August 9, 2014, respectively.
The second biggest spike was in the second quarter of 2015, April 1 to June 30, when revenue from body camera sales jumped from $22.9 million to $30.6 million. Early in the second quarter, on April 19, Freddie Gray died while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department after an April 12 arrest. Like in Ferguson, the controversial officer-involved death sparked highly publicized riots in Baltimore, and led to more calls for body cameras for police.
TASER says nearly 30 law enforcement agencies from across the country—including agencies in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Washington D.C.—placed large-scale orders in the third quarter. Roughly 100 other agencies made smaller orders of fewer than 50 cameras, Tuttle said.
As Vocativ reported in July, rank-and-file officers are generally in favor of equipping officers with body cameras.
“I have seen [body cams] save the officer’s butt more than once when a complaint comes in,” a New York State Trooper who asked to not be identified said at the time. “If you are doing your job correctly there’s no reason to care if you are wearing one or not.”
In December, the Obama administration asked Congress to allocate more than $250 million in federal funds for law enforcement agencies across the country to buy body cameras and develop a system to record interactions with civilians. The request came in the wake of Brown and Garner’s deaths, both of whom died in the hands of local police.
The Justice Department announced in May that the federal government would provide $75 million over three years to local law enforcement agencies to purchase 50,000 cameras for their officers. The first wave of funding was dispersed in September—$20 million was granted to several law enforcement agencies across the country, $17 million of which is to be devoted to “the purchase of body-worn cameras, $2 million for training and technical assistance and $1 million for the development of evaluation tools to study best practices.”
It’s unlikely that the spike in third-quarter profits is due to the federal funding because most departments haven’t had a chance to spend the money yet, according to Tuttle. “It’s not like they walk into our office with a credit card,” he said.