AGO signs $15 million contract with WSU for police use of force database

September 08, 2023 08:04 AM

(The Center Square) – The Washington Attorney General’s Office has signed a $15 million contract with Washington State University to develop a public police use of force database.

The RFP was created via Senate Bill 5259, which the Legislature passed in 2021. In the original bill language, the contract was to go to WSU, but the bill was later amended to make it a competitive bidding process headed by the AGO.

The RFP called for the creation of a police use of force database that would include collaboration with the newly created Office of Independent Investigation and is “throughout the scope of work,” according to the RFP.

The RFP also called for a feasibility analysis for a database of public recordings of police use of force, a concept AGO attorneys warned had legal risks. Under the RFP, the AGO will ultimately decide whether to proceed with the project.

The contract, signed in August, and the RFP process has been the focus of an ongoing dispute between the AGO, WSU and Police Strategies President Bob Scales, a former prosecutor whose company considered collaborating with Seattle University to bid on the project last year. Police Strategies data was used in a recent police use of force analysis published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

Scales has accused AGO and WSU employees of collaborating to ensure the university, a client of the AGO’s that has a division branch at its campus, won the bid. Scales has also accused the WSU president of meddling in an ethics investigation related to the RFP after he filed a complaint with WSU’s provost, who handles ethical complaints, with the president saying there would be no investigation. Scales has also accused the AGO of actually writing the letter.

WSU was ultimately the only bidder on the project and the only time in a decade an RFP put out by the AGO received just one bid. The AGO awarded WSU the contract earlier this year before entering negotiations. According to emails obtained by The Center Square, the AGO and WSU hired attorneys from the same private firm to negotiate the contract.

Scales wrote in an email to The Center Square one of the reasons his company did not bid on the project was due to its “onerous conditions” that included the following provision: “Bidders are cautioned that this is a competitive solicitation for a public contract and that the AGO cannot and will not accept a bid or enter into a Contract that substantially changes the material terms and conditions set forth in this Competitive Solicitation and Contract. Bids that are contingent upon the AGO making substantial changes to material terms and conditions set forth in the RFP or Contract may be determined to be non-responsive. The AGO will consider the number and nature of the items on the bidders’ Contract Issues List in determining the likelihood of completing a Contract with such bidder.”

WSU’s response to the RFP did not mention OII, or the feasibility analysis. That proposal received high scores by AGO reviewers but received much lower ratings from members of the AGO’s advisory group that made recommendations for the RFP.

However, according to the grant contract agreement obtained by The Center Square, the scope of work now includes it, to be completed during the first fiscal quarter of 2026.

Other program tasks mentioned in the scope of work include:

  • Provide Mindfulness-Based Anti-Racism training to project staff and subcontractors (third quarter of fiscal year 2024)

  • Establish an ongoing point of contact in each law enforcement agency (third quarter of fiscal year 2024)

  • Start collection of CAD data from agencies for prepopulating the use of force reporting form (third quarter of fiscal year 2024)

  • Prepare bi-annual report to Legislature and Governor; submit draft to AGO (second and fourth quarter of each fiscal year, with first report four quarter of fiscal year 2024)

In an email to The Center Square, Scales wrote that “they (WSU) are not going to do all the tasks in the schedule and those things that they choose to do will not be done on that timeline. There is zero accountability here and the AGO cannot do anything to harm WSU because WSU is their client. The AGO will protect WSU no matter how poorly WSU performs.”