NEW YORK CITY — Comptroller Scott Stringer's denial of a police body camera contract because it was being examined by the Department of Investigation was a "cheap stunt," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Speaking on the "Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC Friday morning, de Blasio said Stringer's refusal to approve the $6.4 million contract to purchase body cameras from the Seattle-based startup VieVu, was without merit.
"I'm going to use a legal term, Brian, that was a cheap stunt by the comptroller and he had to retreat from it very quickly," said de Blasio.
The mayor said the comptroller's office can only weigh in on a contract if "there is a specific problem with a contract procedurally" and not on "the larger policy matter" in question.
The city is going ahead with the purchase of the cameras in spite of a pending investigation from the Department of Investigation and Stringer's refusal to register the contract.
Stringer's office had 30 days to approve or reject the NYPD’s contract, and last Friday, just before the deadline, it announced it would not sign off, citing a 2015 Department of Investigation report that raised 25 concerns about how the program would be implemented.
The city says it has responded to 23 of those concerns and decided to move forward with the contract over the comptroller's objections because the NYPD insists there is no ongoing fraud investigation of the contract and only "policy" or "internal procedures" concerns such as how the video will be stored and for how long.
The city has the funds for the contract and the Law Department also signed off on it.
"The role of comptroller is if there is a specific problem with a contract procedurally they can weigh in. They cannot weigh in on the larger policy matter," said the mayor.
The criticism from de Blasio set off a flurry of responses from Stringer's office. Stringer is often mentioned as a challenger to de Blasio, who is running for re-election this year. His office says he does not oppose body cameras.
"The mayor's credibility gap just widened dramatically," Stringer spokesman Devon Puglia tweeted.
"The word 'investigation' may not rattle the mayor, but it certainly raises red flags for us," added Stringer spokesman Tyrone Stevens on Twitter.
“Open and honest government is what being progressive is all about. It’s unfortunate that the Mayor can’t accept that," Stevens added in a statement.
Speaking at an unrelated press conference in The Bronx, de Blasio said "body cameras are necessary for accountability and transparency in the relationship between our police and our community" and that the contract was too important to delay any longer.
The mayor said he was unaware of any fraud investigation.
"If DOI finds something new that would be given an absolute full attention. But we are not slowing down on body cameras," he added.
The city's vow to move forward comes as at least three other cities have questioned the quality of VieVu's cameras, DNAInfo New York reported.
Departments have raised issue with the camera's field of vision, battery life and video uploading capabilities. All three are concerns that could affect criminal prosecutions where the video is used.
"We wanted to put on the record that we have some grave concerns," John Rivera, the president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, told DNAinfo. "These cameras are faulty."
New York City was ordered to equip 1,000 officer with body cameras as part of a federal discrimination lawsuit over the city's stop-and-frisk program, which a judge found discriminated against black and Latino men.
As part of a new union contract with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, all patrol officers will be equipped with body cameras by 2020, and the union dropped its lawsuit against the use of the devices.