Barre police chief wants to buy new Tasers now, says city will save money
By David Delcore
Staff Writer | September 23,2013
BARRE — City councilors are being told it’s time to buy new Tasers even though the ones their police officers are carrying aren’t quite four years old and, according to the manufacturer, their useful life is five years.
Councilors will consider what is being pitched by Chief Tim Bombardier as a cost-saving proposal when they meet Tuesday night and, if they follow Bombardier’s recommendation, it may be the last time they have to publicly discuss replacing the controversial weapons that are generally less lethal than guns.
It’s not because the 18 new Taser X2s that Bombardier wants to buy will last any longer than the 21 Taser X26s that the city acquired with a federal grant four years ago next month.
It’s just that, in addition to an “upgrade” that will come at a one-time cost of roughly $20,000, Bombardier is asking the council to take advantage of a Taser promotion that, he says, will save the city money in the long run.
It’s called the “Taser Assurance Plan” and for an annual expense of $3,582 — $199 for each of the 18 new Tasers — the city will receive an extended warranty, a spare stun gun, and a guarantee that all of the electronic control devices will automatically be replaced after five years.
The cumulative cost of the five-year plan — $17,910 — compares favorably to the $22,250 price of acquiring the new Tasers now.
In a memo to City Manager Steve Mackenzie, Bombardier indicated if the council acts swiftly it can trim $2,700 from the cost of the upgrade by selling its four-year-old units back to Taser International for $150 a apiece. After Sept. 30, he indicated the buy-back offer would drop to $100-per-Taser, or a credit of $1,800.
Assuming the council approves Bombardier’s request, funding for the new Tasers — $19,550 — would come from drug forfeiture funds, while the first of five annual $3,582 installments would have to be built into the budget from the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2014.
According to the last completed audit, the city had approximately $130,000 in drug forfeiture funds available for use heading into the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
Though Bombardier indicated the city’s Tasers are approaching the end of their recommended five-year service life, he did not provide much in the way of a written justification for upgrading the soon-to-be four-year-old weapons now. He did indicate that if the city doesn’t act before Sept. 30 it would receive a reduced credit for its existing Tasers, effectively trimming $900 from the projected savings.
However, barring a significant spike in the price of the devices the city could save more by waiting a year to pull the trigger on the proposed upgrade than it would by taking the full credit that is being offered today.
Taser International rolled out the “assurance plan” last year as a way to provide budget certainty for law enforcement organizations that use the devices it manufactures. The theory was that by creating a predictable annual line item that guaranteed replacement of Tasers every five years, departments — including many far larger than Barre’s — could avoid having to make expensive requests for equipment upgrades every few years.