Created: 07/25/2014 9:35 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
There are serious questions about the relationship between the Albuquerque Police Department and weapon manufacturer Taser International.
$1,554,608 that is how much money the Albuquerque Police Department has spent on Taser products since 2011.
Former Police Chief Ray Schultz played a big role in securing the Taser contract. The contract was sole sourced---meaning, no other company was allowed to bid. Once the contract was secure, Ray Schultz retired, and then got a job and paycheck from Taser International.
“When we are spending millions of dollars of the taxpayers', there should be comparables and comparisons of who offers the best product for the department. There are companies capable of doing the work. Is Taser the company? We don't know that because no other company had the opportunity to bid on these contracts,” said city councilor Ken Sanchez.
Sanchez called on the state auditor to investigate the facts.
City Councilor Dan Lewis asked the attorney general to look into it too. KOB has also taken a critical look at Taser International.
Our investigation took us to Scottsdale, Arizona. Where we learned the Albuquerque Police Department is used as a beta testing ground for Taser. The new spokesperson for APD, Janet Blair, has publicly said that APD and Taser work together to test products.
In an email she wrote, "We are a laboratory of sorts for perfection."
“Basically, we are paying millions of dollars to Taser and we are the testing ground for their equipment and that is very unfortunate for the police department, along with our citizens,” said Sanchez. “The Albuquerque Police Department and the citizens of this community should not be the testing ground for Taser, especially when we are paying them that kind of money."
We took these concerns to the city's Mayor, Richard Berry.
“Does it make sense for Albuquerque to be a beta testing site or a laboratory as an APD spokeswoman called it?” KOB’s Chris Ramirez asked Mayor Berry.
“I do have confidence that no one at APD would intentionally be a beta testing site or working with the manufacture to do something that would put someone in harm's way. The intention is to make the product better so that Albuquerque and around the country, there's better products for the police department to use. But I think you have to be careful in the way you do that. I have confidence they are cautiously going about this,” answered Berry.
On the surface, the company looks pretty good. Stocks are up, sales are up, but all you have to do is look under the surface to see there are some serious problems here at Taser International.
According to Taser’s own internal documents, every year, the company increases its warranty budget because more and more defective and failing products are sent back to the plant. Taser is spending a record amount in 2014 fixing defective weapons and on-body cameras. And when Taser products don't work, people often get hurt.
Right now, Taser is fighting 18 different lawsuits, all having to do with wrongful death or personal injuries because of their products.
Not too long ago, Taser was wrapped up in 55 lawsuits. One of the worst is a case out of charlotte, North Carolina. 17-year-old Darryl Turner was working in a grocery store when he got into an argument with his manager. Officers tased him in the chest. The spot where they were trained to shoot, but the electricity was close to his heart and immediately sent him into cardiac arrest. He died moments later and the community was furious.
A jury sided with Turner's family that the Taser product killed the teen. The jury ordered Taser to pay $10 million to the Turner family.
If Taser does not have the best product, we should not be purchasing our equipment from Taser and we should be looking elsewhere,” said Sanchez.
But when the city denied any other company to bid for the equipment, none of these facts were explored. Nobody checked Taser’s safety record, and nobody checked to see if any other company made a safer, better product.