Any time a Sandy Springs Police officer activates a Taser, their body camera will automatically turn on in an upgraded package the City Council approved on Dec. 2.

The contract with camera and Taser-maker Axon, which costs $2.3 million contract over five years, will equip all 170 sworn officers, Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc said. It also includes the latest version of the electric shock weapon, called the Taser 7.

An Axon publicity photo showing how an officer wears a Taser, holstered on the belt, and body camera, affixed to the center of the chest.

The automatic camera activation is a backup to manual activation that officers are already required to do, Zgonc said. SSPD policy requires officers to turn on their body cams when approaching a member of the public for any reason.

“What we train our officers to do is manually turn the camera on before they ever get out of the car,” he said.

Turning on patrol cars’ blue lights also activates cameras.

“You’re not going to have a situation where [an officer says], ‘Well, I just forgot to turn the body camera on,’ because it’s going to be automatically turned on,” Zgonc said.

Zgonc told the City Council that SSPD planned to purchase 40 new body cameras to equip the remaining officers. Captains, majors and the police chief were included in the plan.

Zgonc has worked with Axon since 2008, when Tasers were purchased. In 2017, the city bought 92 body cameras from Axon followed by 38 more body cameras and 135 in-car cameras. The new contract consolidates the city’s existing contract with Axon. Adding the Taser 7 and other features will cost approximately $50,000 less than just buying the 40 new body cams, according to Zgonc’s report

Axon suggested that the city bundle in the new Taser 7, which Zgonc said is more effective than previous models.

City Attorney Dan Lee said the first year of the contract is approximately $100,000 lower because of equipment trade-in.

Zgonc also explained that the annual costs vary for years two through five because equipment upgrades factor into the costs. Training with the equipment and cloud-based storage are included in the contract, he said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.