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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.

Internal Audit is one of several agencies investigating the procurement process for the department's Taser lapel cameras.

Aubrey Thompson, the police department's fiscal division manager, said in an Internal Audit questionnaire that Taser makes the best and most affordable on-body cameras, which is why the Taser contract was sole-sourced, which means no other companies bid on the contract.

"There was no comparable product on the market," Thompson said in the document. "The product is the best quality that we have found and the cameras are expected to cost less than the primary alternative that we found."

APD, under then-Chief Ray Schultz, in May 2013 purchased 600 Taser lapel cameras. At the time, it was the largest contract for the company, which makes and sells lapel cameras and other less-than-lethal devices for law enforcement, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser.

APD's contract with Taser is for about $1.95 million.

APD has a total of 715 on-body lapel cameras, which is the most of any police department in the country, Schultz said this week.

Schultz retired as the police department's chief shortly after the contract with Taser was finalized. He now is a consultant for Taser.

In addition to the audit into the procurement process, the city's inspector general is looking at Schultz's working relationship with Taser at the request of city councilors, said Debra Yoshimura, the director of Internal Audit.

And city councilors in April also asked state Auditor Hector Balderas to do an "independent review" of how Taser received a sole-sourced contract and if there was any improper behavior by Schultz.

In addition, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office has interviewed police about the Taser contract, according to Thompson.

Internal Audit asked police if the department acted questionably or committed fraud when it purchased the cameras or if police employees have developed too close a relationship with Taser.

Thompson answered "no" to all the questions, according to city documents.

Thompson said he is not aware of any legal actions pending against APD because of the contract with Taser.

Copyright 2014 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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