Ferguson protests send Taser stock soaring
NEW YORK — As the protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of Michael Brown, shares of Taser International have soared 25%.
The company is most well known for its taser guns that shock people, but it also makes wearable video cameras used by law enforcement.
Investors are betting that allegations of heavy-handed police tactics during the Ferguson conflict will spur sales of the video cameras.
The thinking is simple: If the film is rolling, officers might be less inclined to engage in any form of police brutality. At the same time, the videos could provide another layer of credibility for police by showing what they are seeing when they are out on patrol.
Interest in equipping police with body cameras has swelled nationwide. Pilot programs using Taser’s products are underway in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, and London. New York may soon follow suit as a result of scrutiny of its controversial “stop and frisk” policing.
Even smaller police departments like Rialto, California, a city of 100,000 with a police force of 115, have been experimenting with Taser’s cameras for some time.
Taser is one of only main two companies currently making the cameras. The other, Vievu LLC, is private.
Video police reports: It’s not just the cameras that are exciting traders. Taser’s service includes software that could make it easy for officers to upload audio and visual evidence. In the future, these videos could replace police reports.
Taser could also benefit from strong demand for its flagship electroshock products, commonly known as taser guns. As municipality budget constraints begin to ease as the economy improves, police departments are more likely to stock up on the devices, according to analysts at Dougherty and Company who cover the company.
Taser guns still make up the bulk of Taser’s business.
Despite the recent uptick, Taser’s stock is still down over 5% for the year.
Brian Ruttenbur, an analyst at CRT Capital Group, warns that even if the wearable camera movement takes off, there will be fierce competition in the space. What makes Taser unique right now is that the company has a partnership with Amazon, the only company providing private cloud solutions at present.
Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco are all creating their own private cloud solutions. Once they do, more companies will create camera hardware and link up with them.
Google, for instance, already has its Google Glass device. “There are multiple companies that can provide an even more robust solution,” Ruttenbur said.
Furthermore, Ruttenbur argues that police departments are notoriously slow at implementing any sort of new technology.
“Taser wants to replace Taser guns every five years, but police officers keep their weapons for 15, even 20 years,” he says.
Then there’s the police unions, which hold a lot of sway and have vigorously opposed the cameras. “You talk to any police officer on the street, they do not want video on their bodies,” Ruttenbur said.AlertMe