Picture This: LAPD’s $31 Million Body Camera Deal Keeps Getting Worse

PREVEN REPORT-A message from the City of Los Angeles to Taser International CEO Rick Smith: “Rick, it has been a pleasure doing business with you and now, without further ado, we are going to kick your ass.” Why? It’s hard to explain with our hands trembling in rage. 

Rick Smith announced two weeks ago that Taser International will offer body cameras and cloud storage free of charge for a year to any eligible police department in America. “We’re taking a pretty big financial risk,” he said to Fast Company magazine, “but we looked at this and we frankly feel that the benefits are so overwhelming. If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves.” 

To avoid conflicts of interest, Taser will not offer the eye-popping promotion to agencies with whom it’s already pursuing business. 

Let’s see. One year of free cameras and cloud storage for every police department in the country. But wasn’t it just ten months ago, on June 22, that you charged LA $8 million for “one year of body cameras and cloud storage?” And didn’t you tell us that this was a great deal -- the best possible, as required by your “most favored” pricing policy? Is the remainder of the $31 million contract – years 2 through 5 -- also a great deal? 

“If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves,” we’re told. If that’s true, then why did LA get charged the $8 million? It would have been a rip-off, apparently, even if we hadn’t paid a nickel for year one. But we paid $8 million. 

No worries. Taser can just refund us for year one -- extend the deal to LA. 

But Rick Smith fears not because, he says, we’re already in his fleecing machine and so it would be a conflict of interest to give us the promotion. 

All this and then in return we receive a defective product -- a camera which endangers civilians and officers by failing to produce an accurate account of an encounter. The cameras can’t see what the officer looks at since they “chop” the heads off of those being spoken to and they get blocked when the officer assumes the shooting stance. 

Ahem … Mr. Mayor?

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.