There is always a back story in Hartford City Hall, and quite often it gets in the way of doing the right thing for the people of Hartford.. Last nights Council meeting and the action on Mayor Bronin's resolution for replacement cruiser cameras, body cameras and Tasers was a prime example.
For years, residents of Hartford have been pushing for body worn cameras for Hartford Police Officers, as well as in cruiser camera video for all patrol units. The use of body cameras is just one step in furthering transparency and building stronger trust between residents and their Police Officers on the street.
Much work has been done on this by HPD Command staff and the community to develop policies and procedures that are acceptable to all, or most, parties involved.
HPD had apparently felt that they had reached that point and after an extensive search, a vendor was selected that would meet the needs and requirements of HPD. Axon is a national vendor that supplies camera systems and less than lethal defensive weapons (Tasers) to many police agencies across the Country. In most cases when the news broadcasts video of a Police Shooting, that is from an Axon body camera and their logo is evident on the video.
Several requirements made Axon the clear choice for Hartford. First and foremost from what I am told is that Axon was able to integrate all of their technology seamlessly and essentially remove the "human factor" from the camera process. Dash Cameras , and body cameras would begin recording immediately when an officer activates the lights or siren in their cruiser. The video would start recording immediately when an Officer un-holsters their firearm or Taser. Other systems require an Officer to press a record button on the unit to start recording, and in all honesty, does anyone think that would be the officers number one priority if they are in a use of deadly force situation?
And if the officer forgets to hit the record button because they are too busy trying to save their own life or someone else's, how does the community react when they are told there is no video because the officer "forgot" to activate their body cam?
HPD's requirement that the human factor be removed makes sense and is part of the transparency that we as a community are looking for.
One of the other major issues many Police Agencies struggle with are the high costs of storage for the body cam video. Axon's proposal includes unlimited "cloud" storage as part of their proposals pricing.
In order to receive the reimbursement for the equipment costs from the State of Connecticut, the deal needs to be closed by June 30th.
Now here is what I am being told about those dirty deals I mentioned earlier. One Council source told me that the vote not to approve the contract was a message to Mayor Bronin, who they claim thrust this decision on the Council in the final hours without allowing them proper time to consider the deal.
I am not really sure what the Council needs to consider, the City has a competent Police Chief that oversaw the project and with his Command Staff made the necessary recommendations. Can anyone on the Council tell me that they are better informed on this technology than Chief Rosado?
Now this makes more sense to me though. Apparently a Council member has a "fraternity" brother who is affiliated with the rival company trying to get the Hartford body cam contract. Even though that company didn't meet all of Hartford's requirement , the Council member was still trying to fulfill his loyalties to his frat brother through a multi million dollar contract.
It also appears that the opposing company is represented by a lobbyist who is also the brother of a high ranking City Official. So much for ethics and conflicts of interest. It is Hartford you know. Is it time for another Grand Jury. I find it hard to believe that no one was going to benefit by steering the contract away from the HPD chosen vendor to a less than qualified company.
I guess we will see what happens at the Special Council meeting Thursday night.