City of Boise Ethics Out-of-Focus in Bodycam Bungle 

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When the Wall Street Journal launched a probe into no-bid contracts in a number of American cities eager to purchase police body cameras, Journal reporters Zusha Elinson and Dan Frosch zeroed in on the city of Boise.

In particular, the Journal found that Taser, one of the the nation's leading manufacturers of bodycams, stun weapons and other electronic tools, regularly lured representatives from police departments to so-called "technology summits" at Taser's Arizona headquarters, with most expenses picked up by Taser.

The Journal detailed how Boise Deputy Police Chief Eugene Smith traveled to Arizona on Taser's dime, then returned home to help put together a sole-source deal for the city of Boise to buy its bodycams from Taser.

What's more, an official at Boise City Hall had asked that the police department instead consider the Panasonic Corporation, but police officials went with Taser.

The Boise Guardian blog, run by longtime local government watchdog Dave Frazier, was the first Idaho media outlet to take note of the Journal's expose, and Frazier's headline didn't pull any punches: "BPD Makes Wall Street Journal as Dupe of Taser." When Frazier talked to Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, the chief didn't hold back, either.

"I screwed up," Bones told Frazier. "I never should have approved the trip for Deputy Chief Gene Smith. It was a mistake."

Mike Journee, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter, conceded to the Wall Street Journal that the "trip was not handled appropriately" and Bieter has since ordered new ethics training for city employees, particularly those who deal with outside vendors. 

As for the bodycams from Taser, the Boise City Council voted Dec. 15, 2015 to approve a nearly $1.5 million, five-year contract with the company, which includes the cameras, redaction software and cloud storage of video captured by the cameras. 

At the time of the Boise purchase, Boise Police Overseer Natalie Camacho-Mendoza hailed the introduction of bodycams to the Boise police force, telling Boise Weekly, "Transparency is very important."

The equipment from Taser is expected to arrive in Boise sometime this summer.
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