With the nationwide clamor for police “body cams” making headlines, the sale of the devices is highly competitive.
TASER, known for the non-lethal shocking devices that put people to their knees with a blast of high voltage electricity, is one of the leaders in manufacture and sale of the body cameras.
It seems they have been wining and dining coppers across the USA to come to seminars and get themselves eventually declared as the “sole source provider” of body cams–a move which eliminates competitive bidding.
The WALL STREET JOURNAL did an investigative piece which reveals a pattern of TASER paying for trips to Arizona on the part of public officials, mostly police. Boise PD was prominently featured in the story as one of the departments which sent a high ranking officer to see their wares.
“I screwed up. I never should have approved the trip for Deputy Chief Gene Smith. It was a mistake,” Chief Bill Bones told the GUARDIAN.
Here is an excerpt from the WALL STREET JOURNAL:
Last spring, as Taser sought the Boise contract, it invited deputy police chief Eugene Smith for a paid trip to its technology summit in Scottsdale, featuring speakers from the company and other police departments.
“Hope you can come down to Scottsdale. It’s a great time of year to visit,” Taser’s David Flowers wrote to Mr. Smith in a March email.
Mr. Smith emailed that he was “interested in attending” and asked how he could make arrangements to “stay a couple extra days.”
Taser paid for his flights and lodging during the conference, but not for extra days Mr. Smith spent in the area, the company and a Boise police spokeswoman said.
Following his trip, Mr. Smith helped prepare a sole-source deal to buy body cameras from Taser—even as a city technology official urged him in an email to consider Panasonic Corp. products.
Late last year, Boise approved a sole-source deal with Taser for 250 cameras and five years of storage for nearly $1.5 million. Haley Williams, the police spokeswoman said the city’s decision was made after three years of industry research. Mr. Smith didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Craig Rader, president of the California Association of Public Procurement Officials, which represents state and local government contracting officers, said it isn’t standard or ethical practice in public contracting for companies to offer free trips to conferences for government employees to learn more about their products.
Ms. Williams said the city accepted the invitation along with “dozens of other representatives from law-enforcement agencies that use or were considering Taser products.”
The city is now reiterating the standards with city employees, according to Mike Journee, a spokesman for the Boise mayor.
“We completely agree that this single trip was not handled appropriately,” Mr. Journee said. “We hold our employees to pretty high standards.”
Though he added that Mr. Smith accepted the trip innocently and “there was not ever any indication that he felt this was inappropriate.”
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