Nearly six months ago we announced our moonshot goal to cut gun-related deaths between police and the public by 50% in the next 10 years. Since then, we’ve worked diligently to gain input and add structure to this effort, while simultaneously launching the TASER 10, Axon’s first major contribution to make an impact on the numbers.
We’ve hosted dozens of formal roundtables, industry event sessions, and informal conversations with public safety leaders, community members and other companies to gain insight and garner support. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a number of them. I’ve compared notes with colleagues who have done the same, and we want to share some of the themes that have emerged, and what Axon is doing to address them.
1. There’s curiosity about how we got to the 50% goal. Many people we’ve talked with have asked how we came up with the 50% target. Axon’s data analysts closely reviewed 500 use of force reports from the Washington Post’s 2021 Fatal Force database, as well as data from several major global public safety agencies. They looked at the conditions that were present in fatal encounters, extrapolating insights and matching it to where we know technology is headed, with advancements like those included in the TASER 10 energy weapon. This analysis is what led us to feel confident in a bold but achievable 50% reduction in these types of incidents.
We’ll share much more about the data in the near future, but as it stands today, there isn’t a great unified database of police-civilian gun death that captures information from both sides. That’s why we’re partnering with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR), a non-profit organization that supports criminal justice and community initiatives. IIR is helping build a database by scrubbing through multiple sources like police reports, news articles and more. This crucial data will provide a clear picture not only of the numbers, but of deeper underlying factors.
Clearly, this is a challenge, but that's the mission and passion of a true “moonshot goal.”
2. There’s natural skepticism, but clarity and deeper understanding can help change that. Without knowing the context of the data, some people were unsure that the goal can be reached. At best, they asked thoughtful questions, and at worst, they downright scoffed at the idea. But when given a chance to listen and respond, we were able to share more about why we think we can get there, and in many cases turned disbelievers into people willing to give it a chance.
Some of the concerns, however, were very real. Front-line officers fear it might weaken police, some of whom feel there is already diminished respect for the profession. Others feel that because society itself has become more violent, there are much deeper issues to address. No matter the initial skepticism, all agreed that being very clear about what the moonshot is, and what the moonshot is not, will have a huge impact on winning over supporters.
3. Training is seen as critical to this effort. The moonshot effort has three pillars: Technology, Training and Trust. Public safety and community leaders alike are particularly excited by advancements in training, and especially in virtual reality (VR) training. VR allows first responders to train for a variety of scenarios with more repetition, including scenarios like mental health crises that too often overlap with police-civilian gun incidents. You can't train on certain topics once and be prepared; you must have multiple exposures with opportunities to learn from missteps and successes. VR enables this, and when paired with other training initiatives, can help complement other moonshot efforts that fall within the other pillars.
4. There’s agreement that it must be done—together. I remember one speaker specifically who raised his hand and said, “We don’t want just a 50% reduction; we want ALL lethal encounters to end, but we have to start somewhere.” That sentiment was shared across many sessions, from public safety-oriented conversations, to our “Share the Table” events with community members.
Specifically, some expressed strong support for community messaging to be a part of this campaign, so that community members can understand the issues, embrace the technologies and other solutions. Others voiced the need for a legislative focus around the issue of firearms, or for more funding for training, and how each of these might contribute to reaching the moonshot goal.
It was inspiring these past few months to see people get excited about this initiative, and I continue to learn something from every conversation I’m lucky enough to be a part of. The team at Axon is actively discussing some of the ideas brought forth, so please keep them coming.
Eric Kazmierczak served for over 24 years at the Tucson (AZ) Police Department, striving always to lead with professionalism, excellence and respect. He began his career as a police officer and rose through the ranks to serve as Deputy Chief, the second in command for an agency of over 800 sworn officers serving over 540,000 community members. Now at Axon, Eric helps connect public safety customers to technology solutions that protect life, which he sees as a continuation of the oath to service he took when he started his career. Eric is a husband, father, dog dad, and avid cyclist.