Austin police body cam rollout put on hold by judge

Body worn camera (Courtesy: Utility Associates)
Bodyworn camera (Courtesy: Utility Associates)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A District Court judge has placed an injunction on the city of Austin’s plan to roll out body-worn cameras furnished by TASER International after a competitor sued earlier this month. A hearing to debate the disagreement is set for Aug. 2 and 3, the attorney for Utility Associates Pete Barlow tells KXAN.

Austin police have been training on the new TASER Axon-style cameras ahead of a general roll out for downtown officers set for Sept. 30, police sources say.

In her order dated July 14 and set to expire Aug. 4, Judge Gisela Triana ruled APD should do “nothing in furtherance” of the contract City Council approved in early July after months of debate over cost and the department’s video release and privacy policies. It’s not clear if APD will stop the training.

TASER’s five-year bid came in at $12 million, $3 million more than Utility’s bid for its Bodyworn product.

In a July 8 letter to the Austin city manager and mayor, giving notice of the intent to sue Utility’s attorneys contended the city of Austin did not require the winning bidder, TASER International, to comply with the city’s published Request For Proposals nor did it comply with its own Solicitation instructions.

We reached out to the city for reaction to the injunction. “We are complying with this temporary ruling while the case works its way through the process,” wrote a city spokesperson.

In a response to KXAN Monday, Utility CEO Ted Davis wrote, “We expect based on the evidence that we have in hand today that the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) will remain until the case is brought to full trial.”

“Utility has documents that confirm our protest assertions, confirming the city of Austin was fully aware that Taser International failed to meet seven of the RFP Mandatory requirements. Our protest should have been granted and not denied,” Davis wrote in an email, not specifying which seven requirements.

The suit and injunction did not come without effort. On May 27, Utility filed a protest of its failed bid. The city denied the protest June 8. Utility then filed a Motion for Rehearing on July 5 and a second protest the same day, according to the attorney letter.

A portion of the APD cost for the cameras is expected to be offset by a Governor’s Grant worth $750,000. In response to KXAN’s query, John Wittman a spokesperson in the Governor’s Office, said, “This will not affect their grant, however, we do fully expect them to use appropriate procurement practices.”

Utility also takes issue with APD’s plan to buy an iPhone for each officer to use in conjunction with the TASER Axon cameras. APD executives have said the plan to buy the smart phones preceded the body camera RFP. Both items appeared side-by-side on agendas for council to approve. The iPhone cost this year will come from the IT Department’s budget, and not from APD’s, city records show with the five-year cost at $5 million.

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