Updated: June 25, 2020 12:42 PM
Created: June 24, 2020 10:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales has been an outspoken opponent of police body cameras, but now he is left with no choice after state lawmakers passed SB 8.
The bill will require body cameras to be worn by law enforcement officers. The governor is expected to sign the bill at which point agencies will have 90 days to get everything ready.
Some Bernalillo County commissioners were in favor of the body camera bill passing.
“This was a priority of ours. It went beyond Bernalillo County after a while. This needs to get done. All of the officers within the state need to get these cameras,” said Debbie O’Malley, a Bernalillo County Commissioner.
Body cameras and everything that comes with them also come with a hefty cost. In Bernalillo County, that price tag is upwards of millions of dollars—and the state is not helping out.
Last fall, the county looked into costs and found they’ll need a couple million to buy the cameras and store the video. There are also recurring costs to keep it all going.
Commissioner O’Malley said there’s $1.5 million ready to be used immediately, which will get everything started. Their next challenge is figuring out how to come up with the rest.
O’Malley said this process would have been easier if the sheriff had accepted the head start last fall.
“Oh, no doubt, and that was the thinking behind it at the time, was like, this was important to many people, not just a small group of people,” she said.
O’Malley hopes commissioners are involved with selecting equipment. That was that plan last October.
“The money doesn’t just go into the sheriff’s budget and off we go. It’s really about working together,” she said.
Commissioners believe Sheriff Gonzales will follow the law and get the cameras. A BCSO spokesperson sent KOB 4 a statement about the cameras that read in part, “[BCSO] recognizes its unique responsibility to uphold constitutional laws.”
BCSO is planning to hold a news conference Monday to answer more questions about the body cameras.
Funding for cameras is not just an issue for Bernalillo County. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office also need cameras too. Sheriff Shane Ferrari told KOB 4’s Nathan O’Neal that the state should have given more direction.
“We should have some kind of standardization in the state of New Mexico that not only covers the issues that are brought up with police performance and being able to record their daily activities but also protecting our citizens’ privacy and victim rights,” he said.
When it comes to funding, state Democratic lawmakers said they are funding sources available, including grants and federal money.
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