- Reuters investigated the culture at Axon, the company that makes Tasers.
- Former workers told the publication they felt pressured to get tattooed or shocked with Tasers.
- Axon denied that employees were pressured to engage in activities against their will.
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Former employees at the company that makes Tasers told Reuters they felt pressured to get tattooed or shocked with Tasers while working there.
Axon Enterprise is an Arizona company known for creating the Taser, a stun gun that fires barbs meant to cause temporary paralysis. Tasers are widely used by law-enforcement agencies.
Former staffers told Reuters that the company had an all-in, high-pressure culture of loyalty that led to some staffers feeling pushed to be publicly shocked by Tasers in demonstrations known as “exposures.”
Axon denied that staffers were pressured to engage in the exposures. In a statement to Insider, the company said: “We strongly object to any implication that Axon pressures employees to engage in activities against their will.”
In a statement shared with Reuters, Axon CEO Rick Smith said being stunned by a Taser was “unpleasant” but defended the exposures by comparing them to law-enforcement practices. He said most of Axon’s law-enforcement customers offered officer demos as a way to develop a “deeper understanding of the technology, as well as an empathy for people on the receiving end.”
As part of its investigation, Reuters reviewed internal Axon records, including announcements, meeting notes, and 24 videos of staff members being shocked with Tasers. The agency also interviewed 63 current and former employees, including nine former executives.
Reuters said several former employees compared the company exposures to a scene reminiscent of ancient Rome’s Colosseum, including a former international support manager who said they were “like a scene from ancient Rome, gladiator-style.” That person added there was general pressure for staff members to be shot with Tasers, Reuters reported.
Four ex-staffers told Reuters that some Axon executives encouraged other employees to get company-themed tattoos. The company even brought tattoo artists to internal conferences this year and the last, the report said.
“The execs who got tattoos were considered to be the ones who were all in,” one of the former employees said. “It was like being branded.”
An Axon representative told Insider there was no pressure for staff members to participate in “exposures or obtaining an Axon tattoo.”
“We make significant effort to ensure people understand it’s not expected of them and most importantly, if they choose to participate, they are aware of the safety considerations,” the person continued. “Most of our board and many of our most senior executives have chosen not to experience Taser exposures and we estimate that about 99.5% of our staff do not have Axon-related tattoos. It has never impeded anyone’s career advancement, and it has never even come up as a topic in any reviews for hiring or promotion.”