Not Just a Tagline
Three new ways the Axon network will protect life
Our Inside Axon blog series is updated every Wednesday and features letters from executives within Axon. This week's post was written by Darren Steele, Axon's VP of Marketing, Training and Communications. Check again next week for more experiences and insight from Axon leaders.
Something is Different Here
Seven years ago, I walked through a car park towards a giant three-story steel cylinder, wondering how to get in. As I approached, two doors appeared and slid open, then quickly closed behind me. I found myself inside a large, circular room. It was dimly lit by recessed blue lighting and was empty except for an optical scanner and iPad screen. I was impressed.
As I passed on my creative agency credentials, the inner doors slid open to reveal a massive atrium, criss-crossed with catwalks and a beehive of activity.
This company was different.
After my meeting, I did what any agency guy would do. I looked up all the attendees on LinkedIn and was impressed again. Many of these people came from top universities and top tech companies. I'd been a part of similar teams at Microsoft, but I hadn't seen anything quite like what I was seeing now.
Yeah, something was different here.
Fast forward six years and I'm on the team. Very quickly I realise that we face a headwind every day. As a tech disruptor and a category king with product lines associated with controversial events, our company is under attack from competitors, litigators and opportunistic reporters on a daily basis.
I was intrigued. How does a public safety company attract such a stellar team away from tech giants? And why does this team put up with sustained, misleading attacks on the products they work so hard to create?
The answer is simple. They feel the work done here is both urgent and essential to the safety of our communities.
They're here for the mission.
Changing the Tagline
On 5th April 2017, we officially changed our company name from TASER International to Axon. In the shadow of that announcement was another significant change.
In the months leading up to the name change announcement, we had several brainstorms and debates over the tagline. Over the years, it had evolved from simply ‘Protect Life’ to also ‘Protect Truth’. And now we were considering a third statement to capture our growing network of devices and apps. We toyed with options like ‘Protect Time’ or ‘Protect Focus’ as we thought about our plans to eliminate the distraction of paperwork.
Then a member of our board made a suggestion that was brilliant in its simplicity. Why not return to our roots with the shorter tagline of ‘Protect Life’? Everything we do is a means to one end – we want safety in our neighbourhoods for police and citizens alike. And ultimately, our core mission is to protect life.
At the time of writing, we estimate more than 180,000 people have been saved from death or serious injury because our TASER weapons were used instead of a firearm. This is the original metric behind the ‘Protect Life’ mission.
It brings it home when we hear the stories, like the mother who thanked our president after a TASER was used on her special needs daughter as she was threatening an officer with a knife. This mother was so grateful that her daughter's life was spared that she actually came to work for the company.
So we decided to return to our roots and our original tagline, and expand the definition to capture the breadth of the Axon network. Protecting truth and time are as important as ever, but they are steps towards our core mission.
Here are three new ways that we're protecting life.
Protecting Life: Truth to Stop a Riot
On 17th February, a teenager was fatally shot by an officer in Baltimore, USA. After the shooting, the Baltimore police released their Axon body-camera footage, which clearly shows the suspect carrying and pointing a firearm at the officer in pursuit. The Axon watermark at the top right-hand corner of this footage is a public assurance that the chain of custody has been recorded and preserved.
Any loss of life in our communities is a tragedy, but the footage captured by the body camera prevented the tragedy from compounding by presenting a clear, accurate narrative. Our goal is to protect police officers and citizens alike. And because of the HD footage, pre-event buffer and full shift battery, the details that matter most were captured clearly.
It's presumptuous to claim that the release of this footage brought an objective truth to a community in time to quell civil unrest. We honestly can't know what would have happened in this case without it. But as transparency increases through the use of body-worn video, we believe some cases of civil unrest will be reduced, protecting officers and the citizens they serve from unnecessary injury and death.
Protecting Life: Tech to De-Escalate Force
This is so simple, it's surprising how large the impact has been.
The TASER X2 is more than a weapon. Perhaps the most under-rated feature on the X2 is the arc switch, a simple button that allows an officer to trigger a warning arc before actually firing a TASER. This feature was specifically designed to help the officer gain compliance after the warning and to de-escalate the situation. We've seen evidence of this with customers, including research in the UK that shows 84% of subjects surrender when confronted with a TASER smart weapon.
A peaceful surrender without any use of force is a victory. And our team will continue to innovate ways to de-escalate force through training and technology.
Protecting Life: More Service Time to Save Lives
Police officers have two jobs. One is to protect and serve. The other is to enter data and file papers. In some areas, officers spend up to 65% of their time doing paperwork – that's two thirds of their time spent behind a keyboard instead of in the community.
With the recent acquisition of two artificial intelligence companies, we're working to eliminate the paperwork burden from officers. Our goal is to triple the time these officers spend serving their communities as a result.
As camera and artificial intelligence technologies come together to automate report writing, officers will have considerably more time to spend on community-based policing. They'll be on patrol for everything from pavement chats to dance-offs. And they'll be nearby when we need them most.
More Than a Tagline
I remember a time at Microsoft when I led a project that had a positive impact on 40 million people. I felt like I was making a tiny imprint on the world. And in a small way that may have been true.
But at Axon, I feel an urgency I haven't seen anywhere else and the potential for a far greater impact. It feels a bit like carrying a bucket of water down the street just as the house next to you bursts into flames. After more than two decades of building a team and technology network to protect life, we've seen the sparks of strained relationships and civil unrest erupt into a firestorm of new challenges.
We're certainly not the entire solution, but we're here with a bucket of water. Our people and our technology are making a difference, and we're about to deploy a firehose of new solutions. We will relentlessly seek out new ways to protect life.
So if you notice that something is different here, you're right. The words ‘Protect Life’ are much more than a tagline and the work we do at Axon feels like more than a job.
It's our mission.