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Taser bids up to $12.8 million to provide city body cameras for five years

Taser International wants to charge Baltimore up to $12.8 million over five years to outfit 2,500 police officers with cameras, according to a bid unsealed Wednesday by the city's spending board.

The Rawlings-Blake administration will begin price negotiations with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company after rejecting proposals from nine other companies before seeing how much Taser wanted to charge.

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The price is significantly less than the earlier predictions by administration officials, who had said they expected the body camera program to cost the city $8 million to $10 million per year.

David Ralph, deputy city solicitor, said the bid was just a starting point. The city will now begin negotiations with Taser on the price of the equipment, warranties, maintenance and data storage.

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"Those prices can change," Ralph said. "We're going to try to negotiate various aspects of the program to determine what is in the city's best interest."

Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the bid represented the price Taser wants to charge for a five-year contract. He would say little else, citing confidentiality agreements included in the bid.

A spokesman for Taser declined to comment. The company charges $400 to $600 per camera and $15 to $89 a month for accompanying technology, according to online information.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young believes the cameras will be "worth their weight in gold," Young's spokesman Lester Davis said.

"You can't put a price on it," Davis said. "It is the centerpiece of reforming the Police Department."

A final contract with Taser is expected to come back to the board for approval by the end of February.

The city tested cameras from three companies during a pilot program launched in October, including devices made by Taser, Brekford Corp. and Atlantic Tactical Inc. More than 150 officers tested the devices and preferred Taser's camera. They liked its ability to keep track of information after the video is shot, its storage capacity and its battery life, according to police officials.

Officials said Taser was the only company that met the city's requirements for the program, based on a critique by a panel of unnamed officials. The other nine bids the city received in July were rejected. The city will not say who was on the panel, how the bids were scored or why all except Taser were rejected.

The city's spending board approved Taser's bid on Jan. 20 and referred it to the law department for review. Libit said the review was requested because of confusion over multiple options described in the bid.

Councilman Warren Branch, chairman of the public safety committee, said he is waiting for more information from the administration on Taser's proposal.

"I am hopeful that we will get them, and when we get them that we will get a good product at a reasonable price," Branch said.

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