Mayor Richard Berry’s chief of staff, Gilbert Montaño, is offering assurances that a pending multimillion-dollar deal with Taser International to provide new body cameras for city police is “diametrically different” than the $2 million, no-bid deal Taser cut with APD in 2013. It certainly needs to be.
That deal, you may recall, led to a criminal investigation involving former police chief Ray Schultz and other Albuquerque Police Department officials. That investigation, launched by Attorney General Hector Balderas in 2015, is still in the works.
Taser is said to have paid Schultz for consulting work while he was technically retired but still on the city’s payroll. Other APD officials were said to have received perks from the company, including free trips to Scottsdale, Ariz., where Taser is based.
It appears the dark shadow those allegations cast on APD – and Taser – prompted city officials to take a different route this time.
Instead of a no-bid contract, the city drafted a detailed 64-page request for proposals that Montaño said drew responses from nine companies. A “selection committee” that spent months reviewing the proposals included police officers, various city officials, a university researcher, a Community Police Council member and a civilian police oversight investigator. That panel recommended Taser, but the proposal must still be reviewed by the city’s inspector general and submitted to the City Council for approval.
On-body camera recordings – when used properly – have improved policing in Albuquerque, one of the first large cities to adopt the technology. Though there are still questions about protocols and editing, recordings have been used both to protect officers from unfounded complaints, and to charge officers with crimes.
City officials say the deal is worth millions, but a final figure is subject to negotiations with Taser. City officials should be as judicious with taxpayer dollars as officials are being with vetting Taser’s proposal.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.