Austin Activist Debbie Russell Asks the Hard Questions About TASER’s BodyCam Bid

Austin Activist Debbie Russell Asks the Hard Questions About TASER’s BodyCam Bid

[YouTube Link]

Debbie’s letter to Austin City Council:

Attaching my updated chart… see the new Houston numbers.

The “Houston.bodycams.faqs” attachment was an addendum to their contract approval item and as we are trying to do, they got some of the bigger procedural and policy issues down first before approving the contract. It also spells out that they bought the equipment only from WatchGuard, and chose to set up their own data storage, at a cost of a mere $236,100! They are paying way less than any other Taser-bodycam cities and saving enormously on storage by doing it themselves at a small one-time cost.

WatchGuard didn’t apply with Austin –and maybe they didn’t because maybe our RFP said they wanted vendors who offered both data storage and equipment to apply. I wouldn’t know b/c I’m not allowed to see the RFP. But why wouldn’t we look at the different cost options?

I’ve gotten a hold of a protest Utility made with the City /and the City’s response (attached) –they are the vendor that scored higher on cost than Taser.

Through this protest, it is clear the RFP was written to favor Taser from the get-go. It didn’t specify/rank some of the technical needs that APD now says they want with the addition of $5million in phones; and still the Taser/iPhone combo lacks a few important features the Utility cam provides. This is either crazy mismanagement or downright complicity with a preferred vendor. (How soon is Ott “retiring”?)

One MAJOR feature Taser lacks that Utility has is spot redaction. Taser says they can redact (and were scored well for that ability) but they can only redact the WHOLE image–it can’t redact specific portions of the video…meaning if we get Taser, we’re going to have to hire extra staff to manually do so. Utility’s proposal was for $9.6million (data storage included), so with Tasers, phones, extra admin*, we’re talking $18M+! Twice as much as Utility, with less tech capabilities.

So when the city’s response to the protest says “Technical requirement ## of the RFP doesn’t require *something*” they fail to address that APD decided LATER that they want the iphone to fill that after-the-fact requirement that wasn’t included/graded in the RFP.

So what about the other vendors that didn’t get scored? They didn’t meet the tech requirements supposedly…well the tech requirements were only partial in the RFP…so maybe they’re gonna sue too (I can only assume Utility will). How much MORE will we spend in legal costs????

If we approve Taser, we’re talking +/-$20million before all is said and done. We should be, and have the option to be, spending less than half that.

Thanks, Debbie

PS: REMEMBER TO ASK HOW MUCH OF THE CONTRACT IS DATA STORAGE! (Recall in my talk last week, El Paso’s Taser contract: $1.65 of the $1.7 million contract is for data storage only, not equipment)

*ask APD how many unfunded tech positions there are currently…at least some of those they are hoping to get funded through this deal.


HeadlineNews Links:

Lakeway Police first to use automatic body cameras

KXAN.comJun 12, 2015
LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) – As body worn cameras gradually become the … Austin Police have long sought a body camera system that turns on whenever an … Both departments use TASER International’s Axon body camera.

Austin City Council Delays $17M Body Camera Purchase

TWC NewsJun 9, 2016
AUSTIN, Texas — A $17-million decision on police body cameras has been … software for the city that could replace what’s offered from Taser.

PD clarifies request to pair officer iPhones with body cameras

KXAN.comJun 7, 2016
AUSTIN (KXAN) – A clarification is emerging on why Austin police are … field testing TASER’s body worn cameras after a successful Request for Proposal process. … Some officers chose to sync the body cameras to their personal cell … The project did not go out for bid since it was bid out by The Texas …

Cameras for Cops: Key details remain unresolved as proposal

Austin ChronicleJun 1, 2016
… take up the topic of body-worn cameras (BWCs) for the Austin Police Department. … Taser’s tendency to sell law enforcement agencies cameras at a low … Dale Richardson recently told the Texas House of Representatives’ …

Committee wants more specifics from police on body cameras

Austin MonitorMay 24, 2016
… $9 million contract with Taser International, the company known for the popular … A bill on body cameras signed into law last year by Gov. … Matt Simpson, a policy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, urged the committee … “What I see is a one-sided policy,” said Fatima Mann of the Austin Justice Coalition.

City to vote on body camera contract as groups ask to clarify policy

MyStatesman.comMay 18, 2016
If the body camera contract with Taser International is approved, the city … Union of Texas, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Austin …

About anomaly

SMiles Lewis has had a lifelong interest in all things anomalous. An early age proclivity at recalling his nightly dreams as well as several personal experiences with ESP, precognition and dream switching bolstered his interest in the paranormal. Shortly after high-school he joined the local MUFON chapter in Austin, Texas. He would later become a MUFON State Section Director for that group as well as leader of the local UFO Experiencer Support and Study Group. A lover of books, SMiles collected over 1000 titles before founding the non-profit Anomaly Archives that serves as the lending library of the Scientific Anomaly Institute (501c3). For over twenty years he has worked with digital audio, video and other bleeding edge internet technologies. He has published his own print journal (E.L.F. Infested Spaces), edited a local paranormal newspaper (Austin Para Times), maintained a large network of websites (, organized a national UFO conference (NUFOC-38), spoken to anthropologists about UFOs and parapsychology (Encounters with the Fantastic), hosted (and been a guest on) both terrestrial and webradio talk shows and has been podcasting since before the phrase existed. All these efforts and more have led radio talk show host Robert Larson to describe Miles as a “Gonzo Alt-Media Proprietor and Informationalist.” He is also the LOWFI-Texas State Bureau Chief of The League of Western Fortean Intermediatists. SMiles’ current projects include co-hosting PsiOp-Radio with Mack White as part of the many unique shows airing daily on his ANOMALY RADIO Network. He is active with several local non-profits which includes his service on the board of directors for the Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness Studies (INACS) and the Scientific Anomaly Institute‘s lending library, the Anomaly Archives. His writings can be found within the Archives of his print journal ELFIS and ANOMALY Magazine. In his day job with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission‘s Talking Book Program he manages a Volunteer Recording Studio and audio duplication department and has been a consultant on two digital audio development documents for the Library of Congress‘ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
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