Councilor wants APD lapel camera accountability

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police’s challenge of recovering lapel camera video from the latest officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of 19-year old Mary Hawkes comes as some have pushed the idea of making lapel camera use a city law.

If there is in fact no lapel camera footage of the shooting, according to APD Chief Gorden Eden, Officer Jeremy Dear faces anything from a written reprimand to suspension.

APD policy requires officers to wear and turn on lapel cameras but it doesn’t outline specific punishments. For years since the policy was enacted, APD has had different incidents of officers failing to record video from their lapel cameras. But the punishments haven’t always been good enough according to some civic groups.

Members of the Police Oversight Task Force and the ACLU have recently discussed the idea of creating a city ordinance to require lapel camera use.

KRQE News 13 asked city council president Ken Sanchez about the idea on Wednesday. Sanchez said it’s an idea that he’d consider, but not immediately.

“I know that there is talk about legislation in the process for the council as an ordinance or a resolution but I think that should be the job of a police department and if they’re not doing it then I think then we need to intervene as a council to make sure that those cameras are being used,” said Sanchez.

So far, councilors haven’t taken up any lapel cam legislation.

The Department of Justice slammed APD officers failure to use lapel cameras at several times throughout the report.

The DOJ criticized APD’s own documentation practices:

“The department has also failed to implement its force policies consistently, including requirements that officers properly document their use of force, whether by lapel cameras, audio tapes, or in reports.”

At another point, the DOJ recognized the department’s purchase of the camera’s as helpful, but criticized officers use of them:

“…although the department is among a few of its size to mandate the use of lapel video cameras, the implementation has been highly inconsistent.”

The DOJ recognized ongoing changes to the department’s use of cameras:

“We observed a number of officers successfully using the lapel cameras during our onsite tours. In the time since our onsite tours, the department has procured new lapel cameras that are reportedly easier to operate. We have not assessed officers’ use of that new equipment.”

But the DOJ ultimately criticized officer’s attitude towards the cameras:

“However, the department’s failure to record incidents consistently indicates that officers have not embraced these accountability mechanisms.”

In May 2013, then deputy Chief Allen Banks told News 13 that 80 officers had been disciplined for not using their cameras.

News 13 asked APD on Wednesday how many officers have gotten in trouble since then, but the department said they couldn’t get us that information without going through the records department with an “Information of Public Records Act” request.

Councilor Sanchez believes the department needs to hold officers more accountable with their camera use.

“It’s in their policies and procedures to carry the camera, it just like their bullet proof vest. I mean they should make sure that they have the lapel cameras on,” said Sanchez.

The city’s Police Oversight Commission was recently told that Chief Eden is trying to draft a new lapel camera policy to hold officers more accountable, however, there is no timetable on completion or implementation of the policy.

In 2013, APD told News 13 that the most severe punishment the city has doled out for not using the cameras has been a letter of reprimand.

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