Friday, September 5, 2014

Lapel Camera contract is source of audit for one retired Arizona Police Chief

Police in Ferguson wearing body cameras
Since day one of the push by Politicians and Civil Rights attorneys for all officers in the US to wear lapel cameras I have been skeptical of their true motives.  People like Benjamin Crump, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton usually have ulterior motives when they insert themselves into cases where a person of color is killed under what they deem "suspicious" and unjustified circumstances.  I know from researching some of these cases since Tawana Brawley that it is not always about unjustified shootings or racism, it is, in many cases, a political agenda with monetary rewards for all involved, especially lawyers and civil rights "leaders".

I wholly agree that lapel/body cameras are a potential win/win for officers, citizens and, at the end of the day, tax payers.  Now that there's viable hope in preventing cover up and corruption by the officers on the street, let's find a way to prevent corruption inside the Police departments themselves.  An (alleged), case in point happened in Albuquerque recently.  The Chief of Police, Ray Schultz, entered a sole source contract with Taser International to purchase 600 body cameras for his entire force at the cost of $1.95 million.  That is $3,250 per camera.  Chief Schultz retired from the force shortly after procuring this deal and now works as a consultant for Taser International.
Albuquerque Police Defend Camera Contract Albuquerque police officials defended APD's sole-source contract for lapel cameras with Taser International, telling the city's Office of Internal Audit that the contract did not violate any city, state or federal regulations.
If the price Albuquerque police paid for their cameras sounds steep, that's because, according to this article about body cameras via companies like Taser International, the price Albuquerque paid was akin to highway robbery.  The article states that Taser's cameras cost $399 to $599 each. At the high end of those two prices, 600 cameras should have cost approximately 1/3 of what Albuquerque paid. I am not factoring in cloud storage, but it surely would not be over 1/2 million for the department to use virtual storage for their video recordings.  Taser credits the video evidence taken from cameras for cutting down on court resources and for quickly resolving officer complaint cases. The police unions, by the way, vigorously oppose the cameras.

What about the software needed for these cameras: Brian Ruttenbur, an analyst at CRT Capital Group, warns that even if the wearable camera movement takes off, there will be fierce competition in the space. He says what makes Taser unique right now is that the company has a partnership with Amazonthe only company providing private cloud solutions at present.  (You may also be interested in: Jesse Jackson targets over diversity)

A surge in stock numbers is credited to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Despite the recent uptick, Taser's stock is still down over 5% for the year
Taser stock up 30% - August 19, 2014: 9:46 AM ET  Investors are betting that allegations of heavy-handed police tactics during the Ferguson conflict will spur sales of the video cameras.  Pilot programs using Taser's products are underway in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, and London. New York may soon follow suit as a result of scrutiny of its controversial "stop and frisk" policing.
Even smaller police departments like Rialto, California, a city of 100,000 with a police force of 115, have been experimenting with Taser's cameras for some time.
Taser is one of only main two companies currently making the cameras. The other, Vievu LLC, is private. 
About 50 cameras were donated by two private companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally, after the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown spawned protests around the country demanding officers wear body cameras.  Reports have been favorable from the officers - apparently embarrassing for the protesters caught on these cameras they wished for.

Are they worth the price?  My opinion is they are worth a "comparable" price.  I would love never to write about another race hoax or frivolous lawsuit involving police departments or Sheriffs offices again.  I'd love to never have to hear about senseless police brutality by rogue cops or innocent people being imprisoned and labeled "felons" for the rest of their lives due to a small town yahoo police department only out to make extra money for the good old boys.  I especially would love never to hear how unfairly police treat one race as opposed to another.

Until then, we are left to shake our heads and wonder, justified lawsuit, civil rights shakedown, or political agenda?
Former top lawyer for city Public Advocate says NYPD cops roughed her up during unwarranted arrest files lawsuit.  Chaumtoli Huq, 42, says in the suit filed late Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court that she was waiting for her husband and two young children outside a Times Square eatery when cops arrested her for no reason. A former top lawyer for Public Advocate Letitia James isn’t exactly advocating for the NYPD’s policing practices.  
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, left, has called for NYPD cops to be equipped with cameras to record their interactions with people.
 In a blistering lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Manhattan Federal Court, Chaumtoli Huq, 42, says NYPD officers used “unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force” when they arrested her without cause while she was leaving a pro-Palestinian protest in July. The bust was “characteristic of a pattern and practice of the NYPD in aggressive overpolicing of people of color and persons lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” the suit says. [link]
In the past ten years NYPD has spent over $1 Billion dollars on lawsuits.  A good example of how the cameras will save Police departments a ton of  "go away" money in frivolous lawsuits (not that all are frivolous by any stretch),  happened in Daytona Beach after officers stated wearing the personal cameras can be found in this video.  Police answer a domestic violence call and find a man with a knife to a woman's throat, when the man refuses to put down the knife, police shoot and kill the man.  When other officers arrive the victim is standing outside yelling that the officers did not have to shoot her assailant. (Graphic Video)

It appears the number of "use of force" complaints have abated significantly when body cameras are used by police departments.  The Mesa police department claims a 75% drop in those complaints since using the Axon-Flex (Taser Intl.), cameras.

Interesting asides:
  • One of TASER’s more important promoters was Bernard Kerik, the corrupt former New York Police Commissioner and Rudolph Giuliani protégé, received over $6.2 million by exercising TASER stock options.
  • Andrew Meyer was wrestled to the ground and shocked by campus police after questioning 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry at a September 17, 2007 forum.
  • During his 2007 campaign for president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to purchase thousands of TASER ECDs for use on demonstrating youths.