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Pittsburgh Enters $39M Contract for Axon Police Tech

The city has signed a 10-year, $39 million contract with Axon Enterprises for the latest models of body cameras, in-vehicle cameras and Tasers as they become available.

(TNS) — Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday approved a 10-year contract worth more than $39 million to buy body cameras, in-vehicle cameras and Tasers for city police.

The proposed contract originally came in at around $45 million, but officials said they negotiated a lower amount without losing any necessary equipment or services.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Axon Enterprise Inc. will provide the city with the latest models of body cameras, in-vehicle cameras and Tasers as they become available over the next decade.

Police Chief Larry Scirotto said the upgraded equipment will include sensors to activate body-worn cameras when an officer takes a Taser or firearm out of its holster. The system also will activate in-vehicle cameras automatically when an officer's emergency lights are turned on, he said.

This is an upgrade from the current system, which requires officers to activate body cameras manually.

The $39 million contract also includes software that stores video and uploads it automatically, without requiring officers to manually upload videos as they do now.

Also included in the contract are virtual reality headsets that allow police to undergo simulated training and software that will allow police to survey people about their interactions with officers after 911 calls.

During a meeting last week, council members expressed concerns about the contract's cost.

Councilman Anthony Coghill, D-Beechview, who chairs the public safety committee, said officials negotiated the costs down without losing out on any of the services or equipment included in the contract. The only difference, he said, is that the contract is now priced to serve up to 900 officers instead of 950.

Coghill said officials do not anticipate having more than 900 officers within the next decade. The bureau now has 800 officers and Scirotto has projected that it will have about 870 within a year.

The contract covers up to 165 vehicles, though the city now has fewer, according to Jake Pawlak, who heads the city's Office of Management and Budget.

Coghill acknowledged that council members were initially "sticker-shocked" by the original contract cost, but he said the equipment is necessary for police to do their jobs, provide transparency and ensure there is video evidence when matters go to court.

Councilwoman Barb Warwick, D- Greenfield, said she felt the contract cost was still "extreme."

City Council approved the contract on a 7-0 vote. Councilmen Ricky Burgess, D- Point Breeze, and Bobby Wilson, D-North Side, were not present for the vote.

Coghill said he hopes to next tackle the need for new vehicles for all of the city's public safety bureaus. While money was budgeted for the police cameras and tasers, he said, there's no cash budgeted now for new vehicles. Coghill said he is working with Mayor Ed Gainey's administration to determine where they could pull the money from to begin buying new vehicles.

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