New BCSO sheriff raises concerns over body cams used by deputies

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a new problem in the long saga surrounding the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department’s body cameras – is their new system a lemon?

Newly-elected Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen seems to think so after talking with the rank and file in the BCSO. He says there’s a myriad of problems that have his deputies more concerned about administrative or technology problems, rather than fighting crime. 

Some of these problems directly contradict what we heard about the multi-million dollar worn camera system when it rolled out in 2020. 

So we asked the sheriff, what is he going to do about it?

“It was irritation, I’m irritated as we speak,” said BCSO Sheriff John Allen. “What are the strengths of this department, and what are our weaknesses? And I found the body-worn system is one of our weaknesses.”

“I didn’t invest in a camera, I invested in a digital evidence management system,” former BCSO Sheriff Manny Gonzales had previously said.  

Gonzales brought in the body cameras – that are also cell phones – after state law mandated them for all law enforcement agencies.

“The system itself and the cameras – there’s a problem there,” said Allen. 

Allen says the audio from the recordings can be “terrible” in the wind or rain. He has concerns about body cameras not recording calls, and it takes their own department two or three days to get video from Utility Associates Inc., the company the county signed a $3.8 million, five-year contract with.

“A lot of people will get the terms convoluted, of editing and doctoring videos. There’s two different terms,” Allen said. 

Back in October, BCSO leaders released edited portions of dash and body camera footage from a deadly deputy shooting from the month prior.

It’s unclear if the system’s limitations played a role in the decision to release part of the video.

KOB 4 requested the full unedited video. The parts BCSO did not initially publish showed the graphic life-saving efforts deputies attempted a minute and half after shooting and killing the man.

“I keep telling people, talk to your people who were doing the work – and boots on the ground. What makes their jobs easier, and you better listen to them, on what helps them and what is negative toward their job?” said Allen. 

Now, Allen is looking at all options.

“The question will be, am I looking to get out of a contract? Yes, I am. Am I looking to stay in the contract if something better is approachable from that company, yes I am. I’m looking at all avenues,” he said. 

Allen says the idea to examine the body camera system came after hearing concerns from the sheriff’s Office Review Board raising over editing body camera video. He says he’s committed to transparency.