Taser too big a name drop for cops

Australian Federal Police Holden Omega Series 2

The word ‘Taser’ has long been synonymous with police shocking would be assailants with a (usually) non-lethal jolt of electricity as an alternative to using deadly ballistic ammunition – but there’s now a high-powered push on in law enforcement to drop the brand name and switch to a far less confronting three letter acronym.

A ‘clarification’ issued on Friday by Australian Capital Territory Policing, the Canberra arm of the Australian Federal Police, has rebadged the firearm alternatives as ‘Conducted Electrical Weapons’ amid continued debate over if there is a growing tendency to use the devices to achieve compliance from difficult or non-cooperative targets, rather than neutralising a real physical threat.

“Conducted Electrical Weapons or CEWs (often incorrectly referred to as Tasers, a registered brand of CEW) are issued to sergeants within ACT Policing and AFP Aviation, and to individual members of the AFP’s Specialist Response Group (SRG) and Specialist Support Teams (SST),” the AFP statement said.

But changing away from the use of the term Taser – either as a generic noun or verb – presents an intractable dilemma for both cops and the device’s manufacturer, Taser International, which is understandably eager to diversify its brand recognition to include a growing range of evidentiary and forensic products targeted not just at police but also council rangers and security officers.

These days the Taser brand wants to be known as a company that also supplies video collection capabilities that can capture and store evidence in real time during police or enforcement operations, an innovation it is pitching as empowering authorities to show the wider context of events or incidents in the event of a complaint.

Marketed as “on officer video solutions” the products range from the Axon range of eyewear mounted cameras (integrated with Oakley eyewear frames) to chest height body-worn cameras.

The new products seem to be selling well enough, based on the company’s established reputation for manufacturing an effective and reliable weapons that are now often standard kit for frontline officers.

Even so, the big re-branding faces one major cultural challenge based on police training for officers discharging their ‘CEWs’ to shout “Taser! Taser! Taser!” as a final warning to those about to get a nasty shock.

In the ACT at least, police are not about to forgo their established pre-firing warning in favour of yelling out a convoluted equipment classification … or an acronym that would be meaningless in dangerous situations.

“‘Taser’ is the registered brand name of the Conducted Electrical Weapon that ACT Policing use,” an AFP spokesperson told Government News.

“Most people recognise and understand the name ‘Taser’, therefore we are not looking at changing our warning to people nor is it under review.”

That clears everything up then.


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