Thursday, June 09, 2016

Advocate: Police bodycam prices all over the map, Austin about to overpay

Longtime grassroots advocate Debbie Russell cc'd me on an email to the Austin City Council about the cost of bodycams the city is proposing to purchase from Taser International. The council postponed the decision to consider beefing up the APD policy governing camera use. But Debbie remains focused on the economics of the decision. Here's an excerpt from her letter:
I've been researching what Taser charged other cities for body cams, and we are NOT getting a good deal--in fact, with the additional phones -- I still can't believe this is the best solution: I bet Panasonic's app will work on their current phones (has anyone asked?) -- we are getting seriously ripped off.

The contract comes out to $7,177 per camera. WOW. Ft. Worth paid $3,333 per camera on their 2013 contract; and $6,750 per camera on their 2014 contract (tech prices are supposed to go DOWN, not up - as well as storage - which is built into all the contracts).  San Antonio paid $4,260 per camera. Dallas: $3,700. New Orleans paid $3,333 per camera. Taser's proposal to Houston was for $475 per camera - although they turned it down and went with a more expensive vendor ... 

Taser proposed a $57.6 million contract to Los Angeles for 7000 bodycams; putting it at $8,228 per camera. Negotiations shut down in April of this year because of the sticker shock. It was found that the chief there had ties to Taser (as did the Ft. Worth chief) - reminiscent of days when such ties were exposed when chiefs where selling city councils on the "amazing/must-have" Tasers.

So if we're getting another 2 week delay to work on the policy portion--I hope you'll also use that time to also find out why APD thinks Taser, Int. is so special (other than their 2 full-time lobbyists living in Austin to wine and dine them); why the other 9 vendors were turned down/what their prices were and why the heck we aren't considering going with the state data storage solution - which will save us tons of money. 
In a followup email, Russell noted the Austin City Council has also suggested outfitting officers with smart phones what would work in conduit with the bodycam equipment and Taser's evidence-storage services, calculating that, "if you add in the $5,029,200 for the phones, it actually comes to $10,135 per camera/system." Yowza! Good job, Debbie.

Check out the website from Open Austin promoting an opt-in process for making police bodycam footage public.


Anonymous said...

If you think Taser's true cost to the city of Houston was only 7% of what they were ready to charge Los Angeles, you might want to dig a little deeper. It was proven the contract proposal process in Houston was heavily flawed, councilmen and insiders all balking at some of the maneuvering done to insure the desired vendor won the bid. Still, Taser was hoping to make their money on the back end of things, a significant markup needed there to make the deal work.

But the reason why the prices are going up instead of down is because every city buying body cameras is being sold on all sorts of frills that jack up the prices, the newer generation equipment increasingly flexible and more reliable, proponents hit with a bait and switch tactic after agreeing in principle to obtain the cameras. Some of it has to do with how much lighting is needed, how weather impacts a unit, or even how the footage is downloaded, some convinced the footage should be kept much longer than others and others told how tying such gear into dispatch systems rather than rely on officers to tun them on is the way to go, everyone in the world offering all kinds of solutions, just so long as the price is right.

Anonymous said...

How can you make such statements that defines fundamental reasoning of any contract terms. If you're going to make such comparison of the cost of body cameras at minimum you should communicate quantity and the terms of the contract. Know where do you state how long the contracts are for of what storage capacity was sold.

So with that said what are you actually comparing.