Council Approves $4.4M Deal With Taser

Council Approves $4.4M Deal With Taser

The council voted 5-3 to give the contract to Taser, with Councilors Klarissa Peña, Dan Lewis and Ken Sanchez voting against the approval.

The City Council has approved a $4.4 million contract with Taser International to supply the Albuquerque Police Department with 2,000 lapel cameras.

The contract approval on May 1 came amid an unresolved criminal investigation into circumstances surrounding a 2013 no-bid contract awarded to Taser by former Chief Ray Schultz.

The council voted 5-3 to give the contract to Taser, with Councilors Klarissa Peña, Dan Lewis and Ken Sanchez voting against the approval.

Lewis questioned City Attorney Jessica Hernandez about the time frame of the New Mexico Attorney General’s investigation into the 2013 no-bid deal and asked for an update on the matter.

We don’t have any information from the Attorney General’s investigation that would cause us to not move forward with that procurement, we don’t have any specifics,” Hernandez said. If in the future, some new information came to light that we do not have right now, we could reevaluate that information at that point and decide if that means that the city needs to take any new steps.”

There has been no direct communication concerning the investigation between the city and the AG’s office, Hernandez said.

Lewis voiced his concerns over other ongoing investigations against Taser across the country, and the city’s questionable past with the company.

I’m a little surprised that this contract would come before us, right now, in light of all the smoke, all the red flags surrounding this company,” Lewis said.

City officials emphasized a termination provision in the contract and noted that the U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement agreement with the city requires APD officers to use body-worn cameras.

Whether we like it or not,” Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said, “It’s [Taser] an industry leader. One of the reasons why is they’ve been doing these lapel cameras and memory systems longer than anyone else. They’re used in most major cities across the country. There certainly has been some criticism, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything where they basically wrongfully convicted someone.”

City Inspector General David Harper said the AG’s investigation into the 2013 contract is more focused on Schultz than it is on Taser.

One city employee who was heavily involved with the selection process had a previous conflict of interest with Taser, in which the expert accepted multiple gratuities from the company including air fare, food, beverage and entertainment, said Sanchez, citing city auditors.

Although this information does not necessarily impair the objectivity of the [person] or the department, it gives the appearance of a biased agent,” said acting City Auditor Lawrence Davis.

Councilor Patrick Davis emphasized the point that there were several other people involved in the process.

No matter what happens with the previous contract or any questions, that I share, about the way in which this company may have tried to influence contracts in other contracts,” Davis said. “Has anybody raised a specific flag that would cause us to deny this based on any procedural violation of our code?”

Hernandez responded: “Based on our agreement with the DOJ, we need to take this step. So, those are the reasons this decision can still be made at this point. We don’t know when we’ll get that final bit of information from the Attorney General’s office and it’s not a decision that can afford to wait.”

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.