Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ditch Taser, Let's Get Good Body Cameras Now

image: Austin Chronicle

(My email to Council, with an abbreviated version delivered in person at today's council meeting during the budget hearing-Item 44, 23:50 in...I also spoke earlier in the day about the process for selecting the new city manager, Item 35, 14:45 in):


What I’m asking today is: allow for the funds for the body cameras in the budget; put an item on the next council agenda to approve the Utility, Assoc. proposal or bring them in first for the demonstration they should have gotten according to the plural “top vendors” of the RFP…then put it on the agenda and approve it - before the November trial date (so it will be canceled). 

We’re almost done negotiating a pretty good policy – let’s put this Taser mess aside and go forth with the better product at a WAY better price.

By approving the Utility bodycam contract now, you can not only avoid wasting more money on a lawsuit the City's sure to lose, you can fund other public safety needs with the nearly $9 million in savings, like the under-funded EMS, libraries, parks, after school programs…and can afford to not cut funds from forensics as is currently proposed, but invest in it: in better systems and better oversight. Also, some could be used to fund the DNA lab rape kit backlog, which is a separate item from the APD funding. 

Let’s solve more cases and fund more prevention efforts.

Sufficient funding was already approved to move forward with Utility: you didn't approve the Taser contract in June, you approved the funds ($12.2 million) ...but now we know you didn't approve enough for the Taser contract, as Taser left out the full 8 years of costs and Procurement did nothing to correct this, AND Taser did not include the iPods that were thrown at you last minute, which Procurement also knew about.

You were COMPLETELY misled by James Scarboro, head of Procurement, and possibly others, to which I’ll leave for investigators to determine.

The City confirmed at the Aug. 3rd TRO hearing that Utility met all of the mandatory requirements, so Council has the absolute authority to award this RFP to Utility without further input from Purchasing.

Here’s why Taser should have been disqualified and doesn’t deserve any more of our time/energy, in court or otherwise:
  • Taser submitted an incomplete RFP, not filling out the pricing form, and instead, including their own spreadsheet, which failed to calculate the full breakdown of costs such that no one could check the lone total amounts they submitted, giving them an unwarranted cost advantage on its face over the other vendors. Yet staff didn’t disqualify them (as they did other vendors with one infraction), nor did they seek a corrected version/additional information from Taser…passing on this incomplete info to evaluators and Council, such that y'all were unaware of the additional costs involved when you voted for approval.
  • Taser should have been disqualified for not meeting RFP mandate 1.1, as they didn't have a "mobile viewing device" included in the proposal. Up until 15 minutes prior to council voting on June 23rd, they did not have a solution (it was not included in their addenda product list issued that very morning)—at the last second, they decided they could use an iPod Touch as this device. This is the reason y'all went ahead and passed it instead of delaying the vote AGAIN to further investigate the inconsistencies, and to provide Utility, Assoc., with a chance to demonstrate their equipment; something they were denied despite the RFP stating the top vendorS would be brought in for this - not just one. 
  • Procurement lied about the mobile viewing device/iPod Touches being included in Taser’s RFP. An email between procurement and Taser clearly stated: "The price of the iPods was NOT included in the proposal" and ("NOT" in ALL CAPS as Judge Naranjo noted at the hearing), but staff reported to city council it was anyway at the June 23rd council meeting and in the appeal answers to Utility.  Then Scarboro lied under oath about what that email said, or  a lawyer would say, "obfuscated" with his consistent response, "that's not our interpretation.” The Judge was none too happy about that. See below transcript's a doozy.
(notice Taser's sign off: "Protect Life, Protect Truth" -- irony much?)
  • In the hearing, Scarboro also goes back and forth on whether this was a public safety procurement as a red herring legal strategy to try to knock out the TRO. He knows it's not because that requires several steps including Austin City Council approval, according to the procurement code, but he testified that it was a public safety procurement anyway. 
  • There’s one more thing…and it’s the most damning of all; but I can’t reveal this now as it’s being saved for trial.
As you can see, the lawsuit is MUCH more than a "pause in the process" as you were told yesterday (at 92:38 in). You are still being seriously misled.

Austin can avoid more lawsuit costs and get body cameras much sooner, if we just approve Utility instead of losing in trial and having to start all over again—putting off body cameras for at least another year.


COUNCIL APPROVED: $12.2 million
Taser's corrected bid + iPhone = $20.4 million
Taser's corrected bid + iPod = $16.7 million
(Taser confirmed in that email that “the PD can purchase any iOS or Android device” 
like the phones they already have, so they need only iPhones or iPods, not both, but they have to have iPods to after-the-fact meet mandate 1.1)

Utility’s bid = $9.6 million, or to year 8: $11.5 million
-- leaving money leftover from June vote
Utility's savings:  $8.9M or $5.2M respectively

While you’re at it, if you reverse the iPhone approval (based on the misinfo that they did/didn't need it to make the Taser bodycam system work), then we're talking about $10.2 million in savings.  Remember there are no apps they need for any of this system that can't be found for the android phones they already have.

We could do a LOT to help people with $10+ million dollars to avoid sending them into the obscenely expensive justice system.


(It seems the RFP process involves a lot of subjective interpretation -- and Scarboro is SO very 'understanding' of the rest of us not getting that. The judge, not so understanding...):

Judge Naranjo: I'm going <back> to the iPods.  And it says -- and I'm specifically looking at the answer. It says: "The price of the iPods was not included in the proposal."  That seems pretty clear that it wasn't included in the numbers that they gave you. I'm just trying to understand -- and then it adds that the cost of $199 per iPod.  I'm trying to understand where do you, in that language, determine that it was included in the proposal?

Witness James Scarboro: Your Honor, I could certainly see how somebody can come to that interpretation.

Judge Naranjo: I'm looking at it and that was in caps. And since it says the price of the iPod was not included in the proposal, the cost is $199 per iPod. That seems to me that just -- that it would be extra.

Scarboro: I understand.

Judge Naranjo: Huh?

Scarboro: I understand the interpretation, our interpretation. And when I discussed it with Ms. Vincent and with other individuals that are in our office that were associated with this particular procurement, their interpretation was, they were just confirming the iPod was included with the offer as being within the price offer already and not priced separately. But I do understand –

Judge Naranjo: But that's not what it says.

Scarboro: I understand.

Judge Naranjo: All right. That's the only question I have.

------end transcript segment------

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