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Former Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announces his retirement last year at Fort Worth City Hall (photo by Jeff Prince).

Associated Press reporter Ryan J. Foley connected some interesting dots through the use of public records, and shows how Taser, the company that makes stun guns and body cameras, works with police chiefs to help get cities to approve of large purchases. The company also hires recently retired chiefs, such as Halstead, to travel around and help market its wares.

The whole thing smells of a conflict of interest, especially in Fort Worth, where police use of Tasers was linked to at least five deaths. The City of Fort Worth paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Patrick Jacobs, Jr., who died in 2009 after being tased for 54 seconds in the neck. Several cities in Tarrant County suspended the use of Tasers after that and other incidents began creating a backlash among concerned residents.

For years, Tasers were billed as a non-lethal way of dealing with suspects. And then people began dying. Often. Taser later issued warning labels with Tasers that said, well, they’re kind of lethal after all. For instance, if someone is tased for more than 45 seconds, or hit with more than one Taser at a time, or the suspect has certain medical conditions, tasers can be deadly.

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Fort Worth Weekly has written many stories about the problems with tasers over the years, beginning with Tase-Mania (July 25, 2007). Fort Worth stuck with the company through thick and thin. That loyalty appears to be paying off for Halstead now, as he travels the country shilling for Taser and their line of body cams.

Body cams, unlike tasers, haven’t killed anybody. They can prevent misunderstandings and theories that often surface after police shootings in which there are no witnesses or cameras.

Still, if a city wants to buy body cams, it should be able to do so without one of its highest paid employees acting as a defacto Taser salesperson and promoter.

 

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