Review: No-bid deal for police body cameras was ‘greased’

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Auditor: ‘Very clear violations’ in ABQ’s Taser dealings.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque’s former police chief accepted perks and consulting work from Taser International before and after he helped the company land a lucrative no-bid contract to supply officers with body cameras, the New Mexico state auditor said Thursday. A state review in New Mexico has found the former Albuquerque police chief may have violated city and state ethics rules by influencing a contract to buy police body cameras. The independent review examined the City of Albuquerque’s contracts with TASER for lapel cameras and related equipment and software to determine whether the procurement process complied with relevant city ordinances and provisions of the Governmental Conduct Act.

State Auditor Timothy Keller’s report says former Chief Ray Schultz and his underlings gave Taser International an unfair advantage to win the $1.95 million contract in 2013 by circumventing the competitive bidding process. Ray Schultz, former chief of the troubled Albuquerque Police Department, helped to essentially rig a no-bid, $2 million contract for officer body cameras made by Taser International, Inc., a company for which he went to work as a consultant and pitch man months before officially retiring from APD, according to the report. The auditor is referring the findings of the year-long review to state and local prosecutors to determine if Schultz — who is now assistant police chief in Memorial Villages, Texas — or anyone else should face criminal charges.

The review also said “APD officials received certain benefits from Taser” during the years the city began testing and then planning expansions of Taser services. The benefits included two tickets to a Taser party at the Stingaree Night Club in San Diego and an “all-expense paid” training program in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Risk Review released by the Office of the State Auditor is separate from the investigations conducted by the City’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Internal Audit. Mayor Richard Berry’s administration has also said the city’s procurement office approved the sole-source procedure for hiring Taser, authorizing a no-bid contract.

He said it was also inappropriate for Schultz and other department employees to accept trips, meals and a party at a San Diego nightclub that were paid for by Taser. The findings are a blow for Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser, which has become a leader in the fast-growing market for cameras that officers wear on their uniforms. Keller’s review followed a series of KRQE News 13 reports that first showed Schultz had gone to work with Taser weeks after the city signed a lucrative contract with the company for body cameras and cloud-based video storage, then that he had been in talks with the company for months about a job before his retirement. In one email, obtained by News 13 after through public records request, Schultz assured a Taser representative that the body camera contract had been “greased” and would sail through a City Council committee. The company has covered airfare, hotels and meals for chiefs and associates who attend its training and networking events and hired Schultz and two other chiefs as consultants shortly after they retired.

The longtime lawman also boasted in a separate email to Taser staffers that, even after his retirement, he would still have the ear of Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry. Albuquerque’s first major purchase of body cameras, in March 2013, avoided competitive bidding by improperly relying on an earlier contract for other Taser equipment, Keller said.

That’s where the legal system will compel him to have this discussion with the citizens of New Mexico about whether the law was broken.” Balderas, at least, has significant knowledge of Schultz’s dealings with Taser. In February, Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley published a story that examined the financial ties between the company and police chiefs from Fort Worth, Texas to New Orleans to Salt Lake City. The auditor also is releasing his review at a time when body cameras for officers has become one of the most discussed and controversial topics in a national debate over police accountability and reform. And the harshly worded document from Keller adds an official voice alleging possible corruption to the growing list of problems at APD, which already is facing years of costly reforms after the U.S. We did look at several other vendors and several other pieces of equipment – it just so happened this is the piece of equipment that was used,” he said at the time.

None of the Taser camera contracts went out to bid, including the city’s original March 2013 test purchase for 75 Taser Axon Flex cameras and online video storage at the company’s cloud-based platform, The city also offered multiple, and varying reasons for why the full five-year, $1.95 million dollar contract for cameras, camera repair and online storage, signed six months later, didn’t go out for bid either. After multiple email exchanges with News 13 journalists, the city offered some circular reasoning: The contract was exempt because of a clause in a city ordinance that allows for purchases of goods required to match equipment currently in use. I think that would go a long way toward preventing that in the future.” The audit report calls into question or, in some cases, directly challenges many of the city’s year-old explanations for the contract process with Taser.

Since the mid-2000s, APD has spent millions of dollars on Taser-made equipment: first on the company’s signature stun guns and, in more recent years, also on body-worn cameras. The report detailing the DOJ’s findings, released last year, excoriated the department for overusing stun guns, often against people who posed a minimal threat.

As of April 2014, the city had spent nearly $1.5 million on its rolling, no-cap, sole-source contract for “Taser equipment, supplies and repairs” that was signed in March 2011.

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