Philadelphia officials recently announced that they had signed a four-year, $12.5 million deal to outfit all of the city’s 4,000 police officers with body cameras, and there are at least some people who are questioning how the deal was done. City officials originally announced their plan to purchase thousands of body cams last year, at which time they stated that would open the process up to a public bid and basically shop around in order to find the best possible deal on the cameras. Unfortunately, this is not at all what happened, and instead the city awarded the contract to Axon without opening it up for a public bid.
After awarding the contract to Axon, formerly known as Taser International, even some city officials expressed skepticism about how the deal was done. In fact, the city’s chief integrity officer admitted that ideally the process would have gone through a public bid, but that it just wasn’t possible due to the special situation surrounding the body cameras.
Philadelphia originally began trying out more than 10 different body cameras back in 2013, only a short time after the city spent approximately $1 million to upgrade the system it uses to store digital evidence like photos and body cam videos. The original plan was to try out the various body cameras and choose whichever one was deemed best. However, before that could happen, Axon took the step to purchase the evidence storage company that the city had just spent $1 million to switch over to.
Following its purchase of the storage company, Axon then made the storage system proprietary, which meant that the new system would now only be able to store footage shot on Axon’s own body cameras. In this way, the company basically forced the city to buy its body cameras and successfully shut out all of its potential competitors for the new $12.5 million body-camera contract. This obviously didn’t sit well with many of the competing companies, and there are at least some officials who have openly criticized Axon’s tactics.
Whatever the controversy is surrounding the awarding of the contract to Axon, the good news behind the deal is that all of the city’s 4,000 police officers will eventually be outfitted with body cameras in the near future. Under the terms of the deal, Axon will provide an additional 500 body cameras every six months until every one of Philly’s officers has one. In addition to the body cams, the city also announced that it would be providing its police departments with an additional 150 safer police cars that feature improved bullet-stopping capabilities and the ability to remotely change traffic lights among various other features.