ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – For Albuquerque police officers, lapel or on-body video cameras are just another part of the uniform. Department policy requires, with few exceptions, officers record every interaction with the public.
On one hand, APD says that policy has created logistical problems, taking up 15 to 20 percent of a patrol officers’ time for that officer to process the video shot on his or her shift. All of that video also requires significant storage.
On the other hand, department critics have pointed to a string of high profile instances where officers didn’t turn on their cameras when they were required to, questioning those officers’ intent.
“These cameras have been instrumental in helping to raise some of the serious questions about accountability around APD for the last few years,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.
“We want to have it where we can capture the incidents and show people what’s going on and to be accountable,” said Deputy Chief William Roseman.”But we also have to make it realistic.”
The city of Albuquerque is tapping Dr. Paul Guerin with UNM’s Institute for Social Research to run a comprehensive $50,000 study looking into lapel camera use at APD.
“An audit to look at how on-body video should be used by patrol police officers and other police services, whether it should record everything or select items,” said Albuquerque chief administrative officer Rob Perry.
The study will also look at whether APD can better enforce its lapel camera policy.
Roseman says right now even officers who try to follow the policy are occasionally caught in violation of it because of technical problems. He says that his officers would prefer to go back to the older system where they were only required to record calls likely to result in citizen complaints.
“What I’m hearing from officers is they don’t mind the cameras they just mind the policy,” Roseman said. “The technology doesn’t match our policies we have.”
Simonson said narrowing the types of calls APD officers are required to record would be a mistake.
“You never know when a particular encounter could go awry, when it could be an instance of officer misconduct,” Simonson said.
Simonson hopes the coming study will also look at whether camera equipment is truly malfunctioning or if there’s a way of determining officers are intentionally not using them as well as whether the policy is being enforced properly.
Guerin has worked with the city before. In 2010, he led a study on red light cameras. The program was shut down the next year.