DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver District Court judge said Colorado State Patrol violated its own procurement process when it awarded a lucrative body camera contract to Axon.
Regardless, Axon was still awarded the contract, much to the frustration of a joint partnership group named Brite-Getac, who sued the Colorado Department of Public Safety and Colorado State Patrol.
“It’s going to cost taxpayers more and they’re getting a worse technical product,” said Steve Cave, an attorney who represents Brite-Getac.
The joint partnership sued in Denver District Court after it failed to win the state contract, which calls for equipping 750 troopers with body cams and dash cams in their patrol vehicles.
On Aug. 19, Judge Andrew McCallin determined “the award violated the procurement code” and awarded court costs to Brite Computers.
Cave provided the Problem Solvers copies of documents submitted to the state of Colorado suggesting Brite-Getac’s bid would cost the state $6.1 million over five years compared to $8.3 million dollars for Axon.
The Colorado Department of Public Safety emailed the Problem Solver records, including a spreadsheet that still suggests Brite-Getac was cheaper, but only by a smaller margin; $4.25 million for Brite-Getac versus $5 million for Axon.
Scoring sheets show Axon ranked lower
Scoring sheets submitted to the judge showed Brite-Getac scored higher on the technical evaluation: 801 points for Brite-Getac versus 775 points for Axon.
But the judge did not have the authority to force Colorado State Patrol to change its mind on awarding the contract. Instead, Judge McCalllin could only order the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration to “determine whether the best interests of the state require ratification, termination, or cancellation of the award.”
On Sept. 2, the department’s executive director Kara Veitch issued a letter “to ratify the award to Axon.”
“You have a violation of the rules and Colorado doesn’t care, we’re going to continue to violate the rules. What’s going behind the scenes it’s harder to speculate about,” Cave said.
Col. Matthew Packard, the chief of Colorado State Patrol, told Judge McCallin the ruling wasn’t as sweeping as Brite-Getac might suggest.
“All due respect to the judge, I would classify it as a technical violation,” Packard said.
Judge: CSP chose model not yet on the market
Packard rejected any suggestion that Colorado State Patrol showed favoritism towards Axon.
“I can say to you unequivocally there was no backroom deal, that we went into this process looking for the best vendor who was going to provide the best value to the people of Colorado,” Packard said.
When told Brite-Getac insisted it could save Colorado taxpayers $2 million dollars over 5 years, Packard responded, “I question their math.”
Packard told the Problem Solvers Axon provided certain financial advantages that could make the final cost difference just 1% over the life of the contract. He added Axon was a better value because he said it performed better during 40 days of field testing.
“Our folks that do records requests, that have to do redacting of videos for all those types of things said one product did not help them become any more efficient, in fact slowed them down. The other product was easy to use and made them more efficient,” Packard said.
In an interview with FOX31 Investigative Reporter Rob Low, Packard acknowledged there were a number of things Axon’s product, known as “Fleet 2,” could not do, even though they were listed as a requirement in the original Request for Proposal (RFP).
Fleet 2 does not have radar interface, it didn’t meet the field of vision requirements and it didn’t activate dash cam or body cam when a trooper hit the brakes or turned on a patrol car’s light bar and siren.
“But they provided other technological solutions that met those requirements, for example, GPS tracking on the cars that can measure rapid acceleration, deceleration, speed, those types of things,” Packard responded.
Brite-Getac’s lawsuit contended Colorado State Patrol mostly relied on technology based on what Axon promised its newest product, “Fleet 3,” could do — even though the original bid was based on “Fleet 2.”
Court transcripts reviewed by the Problem Solvers showed the judge found Colorado State Patrol appeared to pick Axon based on the potential of Fleet 3 instead of the capabilities of Fleet 2, and that the state violated its own rules by choosing a product — Fleet 3 — it never tested in the field.
Tammy Lichvar, the procurement director for the Colorado Department of Public Safety, seemed to raise that very concern in a Dec. 16, 2020, email when she wrote, “How does one write a contract for a ‘future release’? I don’t feel comfortable writing a contract for millions of dollars for something that isn’t on the market.”
When asked about some of Lichvar’s emails, Packard responded, “She was doing her job in my estimation. She was questioning the folks involved in this process and making sure that we were following all the rules.”
Packard insisted that’s exactly what his agency did when it used its discretion to go with Axon.
“We knew we would be good with Fleet 2. We were most impressed with that product as compared to what the other vendor had to offer. If Fleet 3 worked out, that was going to be fine, but we were comfortable with Fleet 2,” Packard said.
‘What’s to stop any given procurement official?’
But Cave, the attorney Brite-Getac, said that’s what Colorado State Patrol argued in court, and added that’s why the judge found the CSP and CDPS violated the rules of its own procurement process.
“I mean if at the end of the day if you can violate the law and continue to violate the law despite finding there’s a violation of the law, then what’s to stop any given procurement official from making a decision with no merit whatsoever?” Cave said.
Even though Colorado law allows the state to pick whatever vendor it wants, even when there’s a violation of the procurement process, the state will have to pay court costs to Brite Computers, which could cost taxpayers $150,000.
Under a law passed in 2020, every law enforcement agency in Colorado will have to have body cams by July 1, 2023.