Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Austin City Council Should NOT Waste 10 - 15 Million Dollars

If you agree with the below, please email all council TODAY regarding Item #57, and ask them to choose Utility over Taser, re-issue RFPs, or take more time to consider this. #SayNoToTaserAustin

Tomorrow at the Austin City Council meeting, why is Council considering spending potentially $10-15 million more on body cameras for police than it needs to, and getting a lesser product in the process?

APD says they want body cameras, but they and City Management have brought a seriously flawed proposal forward with the recommendation of Taser, Int. They are charging us WAY more than they've been charging other cities (see chart above and watch testimony). Also, not only does Taser’s product lack extremely important technical options like wireless upload, geolocation, live video streaming, spot redaction (Taser would have us hire more staff to manually redact and to manually upload) and automated recording* (which has been shown to decrease assaults on officers and officer use of force), but APD wants us to buy them all new iPhones in excess of $5 million dollars to support the technology…but that won’t solve many of the issues.

Another vendor, Utility, has the necessary technical support to truly make body cameras a win-win for APD and the community, but the RFP was obviously written to favor Taser, Int. Which is par for the course for them—across the country, it’s been revealed that they have hired retired chiefs who got them the city’s contract and flown officers/chiefs around the country to promote Taser’s product. In New Mexico, the Office of the State Auditor investigated and found “weaknesses in the procurement process” and that the Albuquerque police chief violated conflict of interest and public purchase ordinances. Haven’t we had enough managerial scandals under Marc Ott already?

While Taser has received many suspect no-bid contracts, Austin at least pretended to have an RFP. The vendor in our case that actually scored better on price was Utility – which, at $9.6 million, saves us $7.6 million dollars, including not having to buy new phones. With Taser, we’d have to hire new staff to make up for the technical shortcomings, that will cost us…and vendors are suing cities with no-bid contracts and flawed RFPs – so that will cost us an extra million or so.

In Houston, they went with a vendor that just provided the body cams, and not the data storage as our RFP called for (which Taser solely offers), and set up their own data storage system for $236,100. In El Paso, who went with Taser, $1.65 of the $1.7 million in the contract was for data storage alone!

We don’t know how much our data storage breakout is (until it is approved; how’s that for transparency?), but there are other options and we should explore them.

We should scrap the RFP and re-issue three: one for equipment/data storage: one for equipment only and one for data storage only. The RFP MUST include the tech needs state above (the current one obviously failed to include those). The Texas Dept. of Information Resources has a new body cam data storage system they are offering, which would be at least half the cost of Taser’s price, and it would drop over time as more cities sign on and storage becomes cheaper. Meanwhile, Taser wants to lock us into an unprecedented 7-year contract at an exorbitant cost, lacking a lot of options that serve both police and the public.


Base Contract
Additional APD staff, 7 years
Taser, Int.
$12.2 million
$5 million
$500,000-$1.5 million
$500,000 - $1.5 million
$18.2-$20.2 million
$9.6 million
$9.6 million
$8.6-10.6 million


If we go by Houston’s model, and used a company like Watchguard (which couldn’t have applied under this RFP), and used the upper-end of how many body cams Taser now tells us they are negotiating for, 2200 (despite documents citing 1700), we’d see a contract of around $4.3 million dollars. We could go with the state Dept. of Information Resources data storage system, which would likely come in at $785,000** per year to start, but go down over time: say, $4 million for 7 years, at most, coming in at $8.3 million.

But if we then set up our own data storage system, and added Houston’s $236,100 cost in, that comes to $4.5 million. Likely, techhies in this town will say we need to go cloud-based for better cybersecurity, which will cost significantly more, but likely no more than $1 million for seven years. So at worst, this type of set up would cost us $5.3 million total; saving us $14.9 million!

One thing that's clear: Taser's product costs too much and does too little!

*The Taser body cams San Antonio PD bought has automated recording. APD has told us Taser isn’t offering that yet—but will in the future. So what are we buying now from them, old models – at a much higher cost per camera than San Antonio paid?

**DIR representatives testified before a legislative committee in April, 2016, saying they would charge half of what Taser has been charging; and using El Paso's data storage/equipment breakdown, I extrapolated an approximate breakdown for us.

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