November 4, 2021 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

All commissioners were present.

There was a ladder set up that made it look like they were installing something onto the ceiling. Maybe a video system? The commissioners also had new microphones on the Commission desk.

The first agenda item was for a crime scene laser scanner for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. They had only received one bid and that bid was from Leica Geosystems in Norcross, GA for

$92,858.89.

There was nobody from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to explain why the Commissioners should approve this bid or why this particular crime scene scanner was exactly what the Prosecuting Attorney needs for his trials.

Commissioner Gohagan asked why the the Prosecuting Attorney, Caleb Cunningham, had time to appear on the radio and television to talk about the purchase, but couldn’t make time to appear before the Commission.

Someone said CLERF (County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund) money would be used to purchase it, but the use of the money has to be approved by the fund’s board of trustees (Mo 50.565). The monies for this fund come from individuals who have been through court proceedings for various misdemeanor and felony offenses. The current balance of the CLERF Fund is $31,114.09.

Commissioner Gohagan moved to table the matter and it was tabled.

The second agenda item was a bid for an auditing company for the Auditor’s Office. There were no bids. The Auditor said there were only two companies that provide this service.

The third agenda item was the Budget Amendments for the end of the year. This would authorize the final changes and movement of money for the end of the fiscal year. This allowed money to be moved for items such as the Commission’s $250,000 it sent to the Sheriff to cover the pay raises for the deputies until the revenue from the Sheriff’s sales tax increase kicks in. I should have asked more about this, but I was still in shock about the crime scene laser scanner bid.

And that was that.

Frankly, I was surprised that the Prosecutor’s Office only got one bid for a crime scene laser scanner system considering that there are dozens of companies that sell these types of products.

As background, I was the Lieutenant who founded and supervised the Technical Services Unit of the Bureau of Investigation at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. I managed approximately twenty detectives who were forensic auditors, computer forensic examiners, and cell phone examiners. Among many other missions, we cracked cell phones, did on-location forensic exams during search warrants, and could download the data from suspects’ vehicle computers.

We had hundreds of items of forensic software and equipment. I was responsible for all of the purchasing and ensuring all the licenses were renewed and that the equipment was cutting edge technology.

Purchasing law enforcement technology is not something you can do through an ad in the paper. Usually, you find out about new equipment through trade shows at conferences, information you get at training classes, or through peers in your profession who recommend technology they’ve used successfully.

All of these vendors are national companies and many of them even sell to the international market. And they all want your business. So it makes me a little skeptical when I hear that there was only one bid because normally every vendor you contact will send you a quote for purchase unless you tailor the quote so that only one vendor can fulfill it.

Anytime you are looking to purchase a large package of law enforcement technology, you need to ask the following questions because the vendors make sure that all of the software that runs this hardware is proprietary:

How much will we have to pay annually to renew the software licenses?

How much do we have to pay annually for maintenance and technical support?

How much will training cost? If it’s free, do our employees have to travel for the training?

Do we have employees who want to learn how to use this technology?

Do we have a sufficient number of incidents where we would utilize this technology to justify the cost?

What are comparably sized local law enforcement agencies using for crime scene laser scanning?

Do they like the system or do they wish they purchased something else?

Can we use their equipment if we need it instead of purchasing our own?

There is a wide spectrum of crime scene scanning equipment on the market. Many of them are great at creating computer models that can be used in trial to show a jury exactly how a crime scene looked. They make measuring distances quick and easy. Jurors love visual aids. No argument there.

The most important thing is that you don’t want to purchase equipment that nobody is going to use and be on the hook for recurring annual costs which, by the way, is how these companies make most of their money. So if you’re going to ask someone to buy a piece of equipment like this for you, the least you could do is show up and explain why you want it.

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