Critics say lapel-cam policy needs work

Created: 04/23/2014 10:15 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Using lapel cameras more effectively was a key recommendation from the Department of Justice to the Albuquerque Police Department.

The impact video can have is clear. A recording of officers shooting James Boyd in the foothills sparked mass protests and a federal investigation. Images of Omaree Varela during a child abuse call months before police say he was kicked to death by his mother sparked the city of Albuquerque to reevaluate its handling of abuse cases.

The department’s lapel camera policy mandates that officers use cameras on all high-stakes calls. But critics say too often, they forget or choose not to turn them on.

“It's one thing to have a policy, it's another thing to enforce that policy. Unfortunately what we've seen in the past is APD has not been very assertive in enforcing the policy,” ACLU of New Mexico executive director Peter Simonson said.

The Department of Justice agrees. In their findings on APD, they write that use of lapel cameras has been “highly inconsistent,” with officers forgetting to turn on cameras “numerous times.”

APD says officers who break the rules are punished with anything from a reprimand letter to suspension, but the DOJ says they believe APD rarely follows through with those consequences.

APD critics says cameras are crucial to reducing use of force and citizen complaints.

“We feel like every encounter should be taped. We understand officers have experienced some inconveniences in terms of turning on the cameras when they're in the heat of the moment but there must be ways to work around that,” Simonson said.

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