Taser International Inc. credits its use of active-duty police officers as trainers as a major ingredient in its rise to become the No. 1 seller of stun guns, reports the Associated Press. Like other cash-strapped startups, Taser offered some of those officers stock options as an incentive. With the Arizona-based company now under state and federal investigation over safety claims and accounting issues, questions have arisen about whether the officers’ moonlighting represented a conflict of interest when their own departments were buying Tasers.
Jim Halsted was a police sergeant in Chandler, southeast of Phoenix when the police chief asked him to make a presentation to the city council in 2003. Halsted touted the benefits of arming Chandler’s patrol squad with Taser stun guns. In May, after 17 1/2 years with the Chandler police, Halsted quit to become Taser’s Southwest regional sales manager. A city councilwoman who set in motion a conflict-of-interest investigation after Halsted’s sales pitch said it wasn’t clear to her from the presentation that he got a paycheck from the company. The inquiry found that Halsted hadn’t violated conflict of interest laws. That doesn’t mean he acted ethically, said Marianne Jennings, a business ethics professor at Arizona State University. “Utilizing off-duty law enforcement officers to train other officers is standard industry practice,” said Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle.