April 30, 2015

State Auditor: APD-TASER contracts likely violated city, state law

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Former Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz and Mayor Richard Berry

A report released today by State Auditor Tim Keller finds that Albuquerque Police Department’s relationship with an Arizona police equipment company led to “probable” violations of city and state law.

Taser-International

Update: Keller spoke to the press and New Mexico Political Report spoke to the city of Albuquerque. See that piece here. Post continues as written below.

The possible violations date back to former Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz’ close ties with Arizona-based TASER International. Schultz became a consultant just weeks after the city entered in a five-year, $1.9 million contract with TASER to buy lapel cameras for officers.

Schultz officially retired from APD in January 2014, but his communications with TASER began well before then.

“My last day with Albuquerque PD is September 6th as I will be retiring,” Schultz wrote in an email on Aug. 28, 2013 to TASER representative Andrew Grayson. “I will however, still have the ear of the Mayor and [the chief administrative officer] on department issues (at least through the election), so if you run into any problems give me a shout.”

Schultz entered “early retirement” on Sept. 6, 2013, which allowed him to earn credit with the Public Employees Retirement Association, but still stayed with APD through the end of the year.

The auditor’s “risk review” of TASER’s contracts with the city concludes that Schultz and representatives from the company discussed career opportunities while the contract went forward.

“As the September 2013 contract was being processed, the Chief and TASER were engaged in discussions of whether there was anything the Chief could ‘do for [the TASER representative] or Taser, especially to talk about my-our experiences,’” the report reads. “TASER was courting ‘progressive thinkers and great presenters,’ in which category it included the Chief.”

Schultz began consulting for TASER in October 2013 while he was still on the city’s payroll.

His “overlapping” of both jobs constitutes “the probable violation of City Conflict of Interest and Public Purchase ordinances and the Governmental Conduct Act,” according to the report.

Possible procurement violations

The police department’s relationship with TASER dates back to 2007, though the city had been purchasing the company’s items indirectly before then. That year, the department entered a sole-source contract with the company to buy laser sights, digital power magazines and other equipment.

Former Alb. Police Chief Ray Schultz and Mayor RJ Berry

By 2011, the police department entered another sole-source contract with TASER, this time for weapons.

When the police department started buying lapel cameras from TASER in early 2013, it did so based on the 2011 sole-source contract for weapons. The state auditor’s report finds these purchases improper, concluding that the sole-source contract didn’t cover the lapel cameras.

“Nevertheless, the APD impermissibly based its March 2013 purchases on that contract through contract release orders,” the report reads. “The APD extended the term of the 2011 contract, set to expire on March 3, 2013, for an additional two years” which extended the contract to March of 2015.

These purchases, according to the report, may violate the city’s procurement code.

During the same time period, the company offered several perks to high-ranking Albuquerque police officers.

From the auditor’s report:

For example, the OSA reviewed documentation that included two tickets to an October 1, 2012, TASER International & SunGard IACP Party at Stingaree Night Club in San Diego, California. The Chief and the then-Deputy Chief of Police were identified as a guests of TASER. On October 10, 2012, APD employees attended an “ALL-EXPENSE PAID” training certification program in Scottsdale, related to Evidence.com.  On May 28, 2013, the Chief spoke at a Major Cities Chiefs conference sponsored by TASER, in Grapevine, Texas, on the topic of “Improving Effectiveness, Efficiency While Building Public Trust Through the Use of Technology and the Cloud.”

The report, requested one year ago by Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Klarissa Peña, recommends the Albuquerque City Council take a more proactive role in city procurements. It also urges city government expand its role in purchases and enforcing conflict of interest rules.

New Mexico Political Report reached out to police department spokeswoman Celina Espinoza Wednesday afternoon, who didn’t respond to voicemail and email inquiries.

Scrutiny over the police department’s relationship with TASER isn’t limited to city contracts with the company. Last month, KRQE-TV reported that an officer involved in the infamous James Boyd shooting used a discontinued shotgun against the homeless man.

TASER discontinued the shotgun used against Boyd two months before the deadly shooting. An officer who witnessed the shooting testified in a lawsuit that the shotgun’s malfunction played a key role in how the Boyd events unfolded, according to KRQE.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

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Read the state auditor’s full risk review below:

 

OSA Risk Review of TASER Final.pdf by New Mexico Political Report

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