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Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Taser Truth, Still No Transparency

More truth comes out about the Taser, Inc. purchase made on September 26th, 2011, when City Council voted that evening to spend $1.83 million dollars of our money to purchase a new model of X2 Taser, after the X26’s had been removed from every officer on the street a month earlier. 
A thorough internal review by CMPD officers was said to find only a couple of minor issues with a couple of units.  However, The Chief decided his officers’ intensive review was not sufficient and spent more money with PERF, an outside consulting company, to perform another audit.  Perform, but not complete. 
Before the audit was complete, Taser came to town, with a big luncheon spread and a contract for purchase of all new X2’s, barely announced the Friday prior to a vote for approval on Monday, September 26th.  This is the same day the contract was signed by at least the company, and presented as an order in place with Tasers on the way.  It is a violation of Federal Law to spend Asset & Forfeiture money without prior written approval from City Council.  Asset & Forfeiture is generally money seized from illegal activities.  It seems like an area that should be explored and explained, since $400,000 of the money is said to come from Asset & Forfeiture funds.  Really, the whole thing should be explained when someone from the City signs a contract with no public input, before the completion of a consulting study we are paying for, and before City Council even asks a question, much less has a vote.
Despite Andy Dulin’s recent statements about the $5 Million to buy new cars for the Police Department, and how Council wants to give CMPD everything they want, it’s past time to review the financial practices.  Dulin’s comment seems to be true, but the items coming before council and the ones that aren’t coming up for vote need more scrutiny.
Here’s one web site ad for exactly the same “negotiated, discounted price” on our contract for the identical product:  Southern Police Equipment
Taser X2

SKU: 22002
Manufacturer: Taser Less Lethal

Our Price:

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Available to Law Enforcement onlyBottom of Form

This is just one site, one distributor.  Call any distributor of Taser products in America and see that they are offering the same “discounted price” Monroe and Council claimed was negotiated as the great deal we couldn’t pass up to get the so-called new and improved, ‘safer’ models.  This price applies if you turn in one or fifty or 2000 units, functioning or not.  This fact was confirmed with numerous distributors.   More than one distributor said “There is NO negotiating with Taser, Inc.  With that company, you get their price.”
Put those facts together with the focus on legal and press issues when Taser, Inc. treated command staff to lunch during their all-day meeting on September 26th, and you can understand that Taser’s motivations for offering the “discount” of exactly the same amount to any individual or multiple purchase of the X2 for trading in the X26 are likely tied to the enormous dollar amounts in product liability lawsuits tied to the X26 tasers, including a $10 million judgment awarded due to a 37-second-long shock given to an unarmed teenager in Charlotte.   An attorney would have to explain exactly the impact to the City and any officers involved of this paragraph included (click to enlarge) :

It seems likely Taser, Inc. wants to be sure they are able to say the company took steps, thus shifting liability, or at least organizing some sort of defense for the next trial.  One can hope there are sincere motivations and actual safety improvements, both for the officers and anyone who may be on the receiving end, no matter the circumstances.  There should have been testing, approvals, and officer involvement before this was done. 
It’s hard to say if the products are actually safer for anyone.  CMPD’s officers’ report was not released.  To anyone’s knowledge, there has been no “test run” of the new products by CMPD officers or anyone known to the department.  The purchase was made before the PERF consultant study was complete, and it’s unknown whether that study is complete, what the results were, or if they studied the new X2.
Was this the way to decide to spend about $2 Million dollars? 
There's a discount indicated, but a discount from what numbers, exactly?  And what was possibly done or given in exchange when you start looking around the Internet and see the number of times Charlotte's CMPD is used to promoted and advertise Taser, Inc?  Is that related to any prior lawsuit settlement?  Is this whole deal related to that previous settlement?  Here’s what we’re obligated to purchase, according to the contract (click on image to enlarge) :

Of course, the contract also clearly states that (click on image to enlarge):

So, does that mean that the City gave express written permission for Monroe to give a quote for the press release for Taser, Inc. found here ?
Press Release Source: TASER International On Tuesday October 4, 2011, 7:30 am EDT
SCOTTSDALE, AZ--(Marketwire -10/04/11)- TASER International, Inc. (NASDAQ: TASR - News), a global provider of safety technologies that protect life, prevent conflict, and resolve disputes, today announced the first major city to purchase and upgrade to the new TASER® X2™ electronic control devices (ECDs) for all patrol officers. TASER
The City of Charlotte City Council unanimously approved the largest order for X2s to date, including 1,600 of the new TASER X2 ECDs equipped with the new Auto Shut-Down Performance Power Magazine (APPM), extended warranties, 7,400 TASER® cartridges and related accessories.
X2s, 2,180 TASER cartridges and various related accessories. Further information is not being released at this time.
These orders shipped in the third quarter of 2011.
"At the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, we have a deep commitment to enhancing the safety of our community and our employees," said Chief Rodney Monroe.
In addition to upgrading to the TASER X2, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has also engaged the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to perform a review of the department's policies, procedures and training on ECDs.
To learn more about the X2:
According to the alert reader who forwarded the information, an Attorney for the City says the City Manager has not signed the contract yet.  What?           
Legally, what are they doing?  Has this been approved or not?  Are there tasers on the way or not?  Were the others already removed and shipped away?  Is the deal off?  Was a legal problem discovered which negated the deal?  How much longer will Police Chief Rodney Monroe and City Manager Curt Walton continue with this type of backward, covert financial dealing before the City Council and Mayor Foxx step up and participate in some real investigation and oversight?
Again, we deserve the full and open answers until this makes sense.  People's lives are on the line. 

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