PHOENIX (AP) — Questions are being raised about the purchase of 1,000 new-model Taser stun guns by the Arizona Department of Public Safety at the request of a procurement officer with ties to the firm.
DPS set out to buy 800 Tasers and accessories in 2009 for about $800,000. But the purchase had grown to 1,000 newer-model X3 Tasers and accessories at more than $1.9 million 13 months later.
DPS acknowledged to the Arizona Republic (bit.ly/ssHT5m) that the DPS officer who requested the more expensive model is a Taser senior master instructor.
Sgt. Bud Clark did not file disclosures noting his relationship with the Scottsdale manufacturer, as state law requires for procurement officers.
DPS spokesman Bart Graves told the newspaper that the agency is “looking into why he didn’t file that paperwork.”
The department began taking steps to replace its officers’ aging Tasers in the spring of 2009 and initially got approval for 500 units at an approximate cost of $400,000, records show. By the end of summer DPS had received an estimate for 800 Tasers and accessories from a Prescott vendor for $880,000.
But that Taser model was becoming increasingly obsolete, and in 2010, Clark requested that the agency amend the contract to cover a new model, the Taser X3.
The newer model has three cartridges that allow officers to simultaneously fire the electrodes at up to three people or fire three shots in more rapid succession.
“We had an 83 percent reduction in officer-injury rates when deploying the Taser. Sixty percent of our deployments do not capture the suspect on the first shot. Three shots will give the officer a better chance of striking on first deploy and further reducing officer injuries,” according to a DPS statement on the purchase.
The agency received 1,000 Taser X3s at a price of about $1,600 each a year ago. DPS administrators also turned in more than 400 of the older model Tasers for a rebate of $75 each.
DPS used money from photo-enforcement citations to pay for the new Tasers. A legislative measure earmarked such funds for the purchase of ballistic vests, stun guns and other safety equipment, said Phil Case, DPS’ chief financial officer.
“Normally, we wouldn’t think of turning over our stock of anything that quickly,” Case said. “In this case, we did because of that infusion of photo-enforcement money.”
DPS Sgt. John Ortolano, president of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, said there were concerns about the X3 among officers who have used the device.
“The technology difference is day and night compared to the (older-model) X26 but the biggest thing is (the X3) is a big bulky item. If you carry it on a drop-leg holster, it’s like you strap a cinder block to your leg,” Ortolano said. “The thing is just so big that it’s a problem.”
The city of Chandler will soon receive 350 new Tasers for $470,000. They’re smaller and about $350 cheaper.
Ortolano said the X2 model that Chandler ordered is more manageable and that it was well known it would be available soon when DPS ordered the larger version.
DPS officers would have likely raised concerns about the bulk of the new Tasers had the product gone through the field testing that is common when the agency rolls out new products, Ortolano said.
Rifles were purchased out of the same fund that paid for the Tasers, and Ortolano said officers tested four brands before settling on the Colt tactical rifles they now use.
“Why didn’t we buy 20 or 30 (Tasers) and get feedback instead of doing a huge purchase like this,” Ortolano asked. “In this particular instance, a lot of people have a lot of questions as to why things appeared to be done differently.”
Information from: The Arizona Republic, www.azcentral.com