FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Free trips around the country taken by a former police chief and paid for by a city vendor. A relationship between Fort Worth’s former police chief and the company it bought body cameras from, Taser International, is now under scrutiny.
I-Team Reporter Mireya Villarreal has been investigating this story since December, more than a month before Jeffrey Halstead left the Fort Worth Police Department.
Through several open records request, Villarreal gathered information about the city’s ethics policy, their sole source bidding process, and Halstead’s business relationship with Taser International.
“We’ve been hacked by the group Anonymous in the last two years,” Halstead said at a conference in April 2014.
At the time, Halstead was still Fort Worth’s Police Chief. But he wasn’t at the conference to talk about Fort Worth, he was there telling a group of police officers how great Taser International’s Axon body cameras are.
“Three employees have saved their careers because they were one of the fortunate ones carrying a camera,” he told the group.
The I-Team uncovered, since 2012 Halstead traveled across the country, speaking on behalf of Taser International, at least four other times. When we questioned the police department and city leaders about these trips, both said were only made aware of the trips once the I-Team started requesting documents in December.
“We are going to go back and review our ethics policies, in light of, to look at how trips are taken. Whether they are with an active vendor,” Mayor Betsy Price said.
Former Chief Jeffrey Halstead used the city’s Sole Source Bid policy to push the body camera deal through. That means he didn’t have to get any competing bids from any other company that makes body cameras.
“How are you able to go back and say Taser was the right one for us,” Villarreal asked Mayor Price.
“Well, there was a committee in place through the police department through some of their advisers who looked at all the body cams available and weighed out whether Taser’s product was that much ahead of everybody to make it a sole source bid. And they felt comfortable that it was,” she answered.
The I-Team also got a hold of emails between Halstead and an assistant city attorney that discussed Taser International’s contract. Halstead was determined to get the contract on the city’s March 25, 2014 agenda, so the company could get paid sooner.
On March 18th, one week before the meeting, the two exchanged several emails. Halstead saying, “this is of the highest priority”.
The assistant city attorney responded by saying, “Understood. I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
Fort Worth is considering a change to their ethics policy and will review their bid process.
Neither Taser International nor Halstead returned our calls for comment.
SCROLL BELOW TO READ EMAILS BETWEEN HALSTEAD AND TASER INTERNATIONAL: