Professor Tiefer on city’s body-camera contract with Taser

Professor Charles Tiefer, quoted in a Jan. 19 Sun story, said it was “odd” that Baltimore officials had awarded a body-camera contract to Taser International without knowing how much the company would charge.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced this week that Taser had been picked to supply more than 2,500 city police officers with the cameras, beating nine other vendors. However, the city did not know how much the Arizona-based Taser would charge for its equipment and services, or for maintenance and cloud storage, when it made the announcement.

The cost was to have been made public Wednesday, but when the bid amount was unsealed at a meeting of the city’s Board of Estimates the paperwork was immediately sent for legal review. A spokesman for the mayor said the earliest the amount would be made public was next week, at the next Board of Estimates meeting. The body cameras are expected to cost between $8 million to $10 million a year, The Sun reported.

Rawlings-Blake said the contract was awarded based on technical merit. Tiefer, a former member of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that both price and technical merit are generally considered when awarding  government contracts.

Tiefer said that the city’s process “may well produce” a good contract and that Baltimore might have been wise to focus on the program’s technical factors.

But, he said, “[i]t’s just odd that price was apparently not a factor at all, or even a known aspect, in the award.”

To assure the public that the contract is worthy, Tiefer suggested the city describe how Taser outperformed the nine other bidders and reveal their prices.

“That would allow the public to understand whether Taser is the most expensive of the bids, which would be a little worrisome, or even [in] the middle of the bids, which would be reassuring,” he said.

Learn more about Professor Tiefer.

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