Less than two months after announcing all San Francisco police officers will be given body cameras, conflicting stories have emerged questioning the department’s commitment to such technology.
San Francisco police were given the go-ahead to buy 165 Taser-made body cameras late last year for a pilot program that never came to pass — which included three free years of data storage — yet department officials have publicly said the cameras were bid on and that data storage issues were the cause for delaying the pilot, according to KQED.
Before Mayor Ed Lee announced in March that The City would provide more than $6 million to equip all police officers with cameras, the department had publicly said it was working on starting a pilot program with $250,000 in federal grant funds. But costs associated with data storage and a yet-to-be finalized policy were holding back the launch.
But now it appears the department had years of free data storage as part of its no-bid deal with Taser and also had a policy in place despite statements to the contrary.
At the last report given to the Police Commission in January on the status of the pilot program, which would have given police supervisors cameras in certain circumstances, Cmdr. Bob Moser said the biggest hurdle for cameras now and in the future is data storage costs.
KQED found that the “department’s deal with Taser included three years of a free subscription to its cloud-based data storage system, Evidence.com.”
At the January hearing, Moser made no mention of the department being given the go-ahead to buy the cameras the month before or that the deal included three years of free data storage.
“One of my staff issued a blanket purchase order for approximately $250,000 authorizing payments for the project on Nov. 10, 2014,” Jaci Fong of the Office of Contract Administration said in an email to the San Francisco Examiner in December. “The project was grant funded. The underlying agreement was negotiated by the City Attorney’s Office and the Vendor’s General Counsel. The agreement is for a one year term with 2-one year options. The agreement includes 165 camera systems, accessories and evidence storage. For more details about the project, we need to refer to you to SFPD.”
When Moser presented his camera pilot program update to the Police Commission in January, he also noted that a program was stalled because there was no finalized policy.
Deputy Chief Mikail Ali, who along with Moser is working on a draft policy governing camera use, told the Examiner, “We had a policy.”
KQED reported that its effort to obtain even a draft policy on the pilot program were unsuccessful.
As far as the bid process as reported by KQED, even Chief Greg Suhr had a different story as of last week.
Suhr told the Police Commission it was his belief that the cameras were bid for by Taser when asked by Commissioner Petra De Jesus.
But the KQED report noted that it was Suhr who signed a purchase agreement letter giving Taser a no-bid contract.
“Suhr himself requested and received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Justice, which funded the program, in April 2013. He also signed a similar request to the city’s Office of Contract Administration, allowing the department to purchase cameras from Taser without considering other bids. The OCA granted that request in September 2013,” according to the story. Then another 14 months passed before the department signed a deal with the company.
KQED also reported that Suhr wrote that the department was “researching wearable cameras in May 2012 — a full year after he first publicly suggested SFPD would use them.”
Ali told the Examiner on Wednesday the department chose the no-bid option with Taser because of a specific feature not found on other cameras — a continuously recording 30-second loop, which makes a 30-second recording of all activity before the cameras are activated.