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City Investigating NYPD Contract With Body Camera Maker, Source Says

By  James Fanelli and Eddie Small | February 6, 2017 5:15pm 

 Sergeant Andrea Cruz demonstrates the Vievu LE3, a pager-size camera worn on the front of an officer’s shirt.
Sergeant Andrea Cruz demonstrates the Vievu LE3, a pager-size camera worn on the front of an officer’s shirt.      
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DNAinfo/Natalie Musumeci

CIVIC CENTER — The city Department of Investigation has opened a probe into a $6.4 million contract inked between the NYPD and a Seattle-based startup that makes body cameras, according to a source in the comptroller's office with knowledge of the situation.

The source said the comptroller's office was informed late Friday of the pending investigation into the deal with camera maker VieVu. It was not immediately clear what is the focus of the investigation.

Comptroller Scott Stringer's office subsequently postponed making a decision on whether to accept or reject the contract — a step that is required under city rules. Rather, Stringer's office sent the contract back to the NYPD in order to gather more information.

“We support body cameras, and we think this reform is an important step forward," said Tyrone Stevens, Stringer's press secretary.

"Yet it’s our charter-mandated responsibility to ensure that any contract is free of possible waste and fraud — and it’s what the public expects."

VieVu beat out other larger body camera manufacturers — including Taser International — in September to win the contract with the NYPD.

The police department announced last week that it plans to equip every patrolling officer with the devices by the end of 2019. VieVu's bid cost a third of what some of its competitors had offered to do the deal for. 

The startup's selection led to backlash from some competitors, including Taser, which filed a formal protest letter with the NYPD and waged a lobbying campaign against the deal.

Meanwhile, several police departments from around the country have recently called VieVu's cameras faulty.

Under city rules, Stringer's office had 30 days after the NYPD submitted the contract to either approve or reject it. On Friday, just before the deadline to make a decision, his office decided to not register the contract.

"We want to be fully confident of the contract’s integrity, and we want to be certain there are no investigations, legal questions, or otherwise on the matter," Stevens said.

"Vigilance on issues like these is important and we look forward to receiving further information from the NYPD.”

Despite the comptroller postponing a decision, the city Law Department said Monday that it was moving forward with the deal.

"Because the comptroller has not raised an objection concerning the integrity of the procurement process, he may not lawfully refuse to register the contract under the Charter," the Law Department said in a statement.

"Consequently, the contract is deemed registered upon the expiration of the 30-day deadline by which the comptroller must either register the contract or raise a lawful objection."

City Hall said it learned on Monday that the DOI had opened an investigation into the VieVu contract last year.

"There is absolutely no merit to the notion that this procurement was conducted to anything less than the most rigorous standards and DOI has found nothing that suggests otherwise," mayoral spokesman Austin Finan said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also defended the selection of VieVu at a press conference on Monday. He said a lot of the negative information that has been put out about VieVu was part of a smear campaign by one of its competitors.

"I’m confident we have the right company," the mayor said. "I’m confident that we are on schedule, and the comptroller's specific action does not change the trajectory of this."

DNAinfo New York reported on Friday that, in the past month, three police departments from around the country either ended their contracts with VieVu or have called its cameras into question.