New Taser initiative garners little praise from critics

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Embattled stun gun manufacturer Taser International remains in crisis communications mode as it rolls out a product designed to hold accountable law enforcement agents who use the weapon.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: Embattled stun gun manufacturer Taser International remains in crisis communications mode as it rolls out a product designed to hold accountable law enforcement agents who use the weapon.

Taser announced this month that it will begin selling cameras that attach to the guns and record everything that happens once they are turned on. The company is promoting the cameras, set to go on sale in the first quarter of 2006, as the means to obtaining an irrefutable record of events leading to a Taser shock.

"Our main concern was how law enforcement would embrace this, and this was extremely well received," said Steve Tuttle, Taser's VP of communication. But he noted that the new device was not enough to satisfy Amnesty International, which has publicly challenged the safety of Tasers.

"We developed something that promotes accountability...and yet our good folks at Amnesty International don't approve," he said.

Amnesty spokesman Edward Jackson, who was not available for comment before press time, was quoted in news stories questioning whether cameras would fully address the potential abuse of stun guns.

Taser is also hoping that the camera will help revive the company's flagging sales and boost its stock price, which has taken severe hits for more than a year as media scrutiny of the company reached critical mass.

Tuttle said that Taser's plans to break into the mass market have been put on hold. "Given all the crisis that we've been through...we have really stayed focused on our number one client, and that's law enforcement and military," he said.

Taser works with Dittus Communications, as well as Wexler & Walker for public affairs. Tuttle said he is pleased with both agencies, but noted that the company's media crisis "hasn't stopped." 

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