BPD Makes Wall Street Journal As Dupe Of TASER

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.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Holy Cow!! That’s $6,000 PER CAMERA!!

    Mass produced, they shouldn’t cost more than $100 each. What a ripoff. It’s the big pharma tactic that produces pills that cost 20 cents + $50 in marketing expenses (free vacations) per pill. That deal needs to be voided now!

    EDITOR NOTE–We haven’t seen the contract, but one of the big issues with the body cams is “data management.” Storage of the images and retrieval are important. For evidence purposes it takes more than a download to a laptop.

    As an aside, we read recently that more data (all sources) is being saved DAILY than in the previous 2,000 years!

  2. Business as usual.

    How is that any different than former Chief Masterson getting “a free” trip to Orlando right before he retired paid by CISCO- another BIG time police vendor- just to accept an award?

    You scratch my back with tax dollars, I’ll scratch yours with gifts.

    Its always easy to ask for forgiveness if the gift comes to light– much like the Chief is doing now.

  3. Wow, what a shady deal! Come on Chief Bones, you have to do better than that. Having worked in government purchasing, I know that sole source usually means “shady deal” that is going to cost the taxpayers extra money. Very disappointing.

  4. Mr Editor, a good portion of all that data being saved is happening in Bluffdale, Utah where the NSA is recording and saving every phone call and email in the entire world, in violation of our 4th Amendment to the US Constitution against unreasonable search and seizure.

    “…domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations…” ~ACLU of Massachusetts

  5. Good for Bones! Admit the mistake and move on.

  6. When will a defense lawyer subpoena the NSA communication records of the police and prosecutors in effort to get a mistrial based on all the funny business that goes on in trial preparation so as to put on a good show by the prosecution? The data is there; it has been saved and is readily accessible. In fact not making it available is grounds for a mistrial. By all means please keep recording everything; it will hinder the convictions which are based on thin facts and the rehearsed stage performance of witnesses.

    Blame Bieter. He wants big city everything, including big city problems in the police department. This camera thing WSJ discovered is called wrong. Perhaps it is called corrupt. But what can we expect from a department the gets as much money, equipment, free personal cars, and numerous other perks from the Mayor without question. Compare the Sheriff budget to BPD. The Sheriff dept does a better job too.

  7. Steve Rinehart
    Apr 20, 2016, 11:13 pm

    Says something about the job requirements for being deputy chief. In many local governments, and in many businesses, managers are required to take ethics training. Just basic stuff, like ” bribes and special favors are not allowed.” Gee, no such training in Boise city government, Mr. Journee?

  8. What happened to Idaho Code in this? The Chief could be guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony (IC 6757-26 (2),and(3)IC 6757-34. The Mayor should look closer into this.

    EDITOR NOTE–These laws apply to STATE government. However, we believe in this case there was no malintent on the part of the coppers. They seem to have thought, “It doesn’t cost taxpayers anything, why not go take a look.” After the Wall Street Journal “explained” the intent of TASER, the coppers will no doubt look at the motive behind future offers from vendors.

  9. Gene Rapp Sr.
    Apr 21, 2016, 10:27 am

    I have personally known Deputy Chief Eugene Smith and Chief Bill Bones for many years. Both men are honest hard working officers that treasure integrity and good character. Their efforts in this matter were nothing more than an attempt to learn as much as they could regarding an important purchase and there is no doubt in my mind that they did look into other product lines. Their only objective was to find the best product with storage capacity options, including easy retrieval for all those who may need the information. I know these men and would trust them with my life!

  10. Interesting. It is not right for a State employee but okay for a city employee? Regardless, that trip influenced the procurement and should never of happened.

    EDITOR NOTE–Not right for ANY government employee. Just ILLEGAL for state employee.

  11. My impression of Bill Bones is that I’d trust him with my life and that he is the most honest and straightforward guy I’ve ever met in a government position. Hope he runs for Mayor someday.

    As for the “data management” issue. If it costs that much, something is terribly wrong with the system design.

    EDITOR NOTE–Agree on Bones, don’t know about the data issue.

  12. idaho crystal
    Apr 21, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Having a lot of experience with Gov’t purchasing, both Federal and State – (But not City) – One thing that’s emphasized universally is the importance of avoiding at all costs, not just improper purchases, but anything which might be *perceived*, by the public or media, as an improper purchase.

    The one and only thing wrong about THIS purchase was to make it a sole-source request. If they had allowed it to go through the RFQ / bid / competition process, there wouldn’t be any issues.

    In fact, if they had let the vendor know that attending the workshop and accepting the “gifted” travel would actually make the vendor ineligible for a sole-source purchase and/or make the traveler ineligible as a requester – It might have been fine also.

    As it is now, the whole request / contract should really be scrapped and redone as a full competition procurement.

  13. The city and county commissioners, & sheriff have been “rigging” RFP’s, bids and contracts to do business with whomever they want for years. Only difference here is they got caught and called out.

  14. I guess that this will slow down the BPD’s progress to body cams– and it was already glacial.

  15. Brian McNary
    Apr 22, 2016, 10:28 pm

    I too have known Bill Bones for a long time and he is a straight shooter and great guy.

    The one thing noticeably absent from all of this talk- is the absolutely antiquated, worst bid laws in the United States. Idaho law allows all sorts of rigging and sole sourcing- How do I know this?

    I watched it first hand for nearly 25 years. I’ve seen everything from sole sourcing giant contracts (million plus) or obtaining financing for projects and steering the financing to friends in the investment world.

    I don’t fault the greed and corruption inherent in the system per se- so much as the lawmakers in this state that could address this issue but never do.

  16. Enough with the “I trust him with my life crap”. It’s about trusting them with free flowing tax money. And there is a very apparent problem if we are reading about it in a NYC paper.

    The mayor says he’s concerned. He sent a e-mail about ethics to everyone on the city payroll. Does this mean he’s go to do something about the three vehicles for every employee policy? Mayor you got enough extra city vehicles to pay for a few feet of light-rail.

  17. Important wake-up call for Team Dave & BPD. It may have been an innocent mistake; it was definitely an ignorant one.

    I agree about the gold-plating of these gov’t contracts. The camera and secure data pkg should be put out to bid, especially inviting local techies, who could easily design and build an iron-clad custom system for a fraction of the price which could then be marketed nationally if not internationally. This is NOT rocket science!

  18. Warren Tyler
    Apr 23, 2016, 11:14 pm

    It doesn’t take much research to find that Deputy Chief Smith and Taser have had a long standing relationship of proposing “single source contracts” between this company and the City of Boise. This is 2010, a recommendation from then “Captain Smith” on encouraging acquisition of Taser non-lethal devices without a competitive RFP even way back then:

    In terms of the $1.5 million data storage, that supports 5 years of storage for 250 cameras. Some basic math = $1,200/camera/year for storage. If you look at a competitors’ pricing for, which provides top level pricing for $948/camera/year, which would have been a savings of $63,000 savings per year. And, that is for the top of the line service. If you look at the pricing, the “Pro” service would have saved even more:

  19. Choosing equipment:

    In a high tech and high risk environment it really sucks when some Senator or Mayor or bean counter chooses the equipment. There is an enormous amount of very expensive equipment which remains turned off because it’s too much trouble to use it. I want my police officers to have as easy a time as possible with all the equipment they are dragging around. They have a difficult job. Sometimes they’ve got less than a second to make lethal decisions… I don’t want them concerned about the poor interface of all the various different gizmos and multi-page bureaucratic rules attached to each.

    So, what I’m harping about here on this blog is the ridiculous cost and noncompetitive process of the entire police equipment marketplace. It needs intervention. The only thing cops get at reasonable prices are the cars… and that’s only because cops are not the sole purchaser of cars. So to fix this problem, let the police officers and leadership quietly pick the equipment that fits best for the department, then have professional procurement people hammer the prices down to something reasonable by playing the manufactures against each other. A nationwide network of procurement people could also link orders for bulk discounts.

    I think the Boise department is pretty good, but Mayor, and Chiefs, it could go either way as the city grows. How about you make Boise famous for the best police department in the land also?

  20. No bid deals are OK if you are spending your own money and feel confident the provider is not shaking you down. However, in the public sector, bids with proper specifications for the item in question show good faith with public money and eliminates cronyism.

  21. BPD probably has a special relationship with TASER, after all it’s their equipment that they use on people’s privates.

  22. Scrutinize them all, please
    Apr 29, 2016, 8:51 pm

    So the assistant chief of police took a trip on the dime of the new camera company. The mayor took a trip on behalf of the city citizens and instead rode home on Airforce One. Did anyone? anyone? ever look in to the money that was spent to send the mayor to the conference of mayors, and the cost of him playing hookey? Never a word was said when he was not doing his job and just doing something else.

    Does anyone know of any financial accounting of this episode?

    EDITOR NOTE–It gets worse. Almost without exception the mayor, staffers, and councilors go to Sun Valley to be lobbied by the private, commercial special interest business group CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
    to discuss how to improve BOISE. No logic at all relaxing and spending tax money at Sun Valley to learn how to sell hotel rooms in Boise!

  23. Mike Murphy
    May 30, 2016, 8:42 am

    Yet another reason (like we really need more!) to demand that the Mayor and City Council direct Chief Billy Bones to seek and secure peer accreditation.

    We are constantly advised to utilize the services of peer accredited providers be they technicians, surgeons, or plumbers.

    Yet we don’t demand the same from those that hold our liberty and even our lives in their hands.

    Why is that?

    And while the BPD has made strides, and is home to a great many fine professionals, it still shields rogue officers from scrutiny behind the guise of “Personnel Matters”.

    For more information on law enforcement accreditation, visit the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies @ [ ]

    – – –

    P.S. For those that incorrectly believe the POST Academy in Meridian bestows accreditation, it’s important to know that the POST Academy is itself unaccredited.

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