New report details major recommendations for BCSO

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BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. — The Bernalillo County Sheriff Office’s Advisory and Review Board released its second annual report Tuesday. The report includes suggestions and recommendations for BCSO developed from community input and concerns.

Retired Judge Tommy Jewell is one of the 9 appointed members of the board. He said they do not have oversight authority and are meant to provide concentrated feedback to the sheriff’s office and Bernalillo County Commissioners.

“Nobody likes to hear that they’re doing anything wrong,” he said. “There’s that feeling that they’ve been called to the principal’s office, and it’s not handed in in that way.”

Jewell says the board’s first report – released in early 2021 while Sheriff Manny Gonzales was running the department – was met with pushback and defensiveness. He says he’s already encouraged by Sheriff John Allen’s participation with the board.

“He was knowledgeable about the issues that we had seen before, and beyond that, seems to be taking the department and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, and making whatever corrections or whatever, amendments to sop and other operations in the department,” Jewell said. “I think it’s early with this new sheriff, and Icertainly don’t want to prejudge, but there’s a definite new tone.”

Listed below is the summary of the board’s 9 major recommendations from the 2022 report.

  1. Disclosure of Crime Statistics and Response to Media Requests

BCSO should update its current quarterly posting of crime statistics on its website to a more timely and immediate reporting schedule, in line with the practices of other law enforcement agencies such as APD. In addition to posting information on social media, BCSO, on a regular and timely basis, should release information concerning crime statistics to the public and the media, and respond to media requests, without first requiring an IPRA request, subject to the need for confidentiality.

  1. Conflict of Interest in Investigation of Officer-Involved Shootings

In investigations of officer[1]involved shootings, the standard practice of having the shooter’s agency designated the “Lead Agency” risks being or appearing to be a conflict of interest. The designation “Lead Agency” in the agreements governing such investigations (i.e., the MATF Agreement and the MOA) should be replaced with language that more accurately describes the cooperative and joint investigative process that actually occurs according to information provided by BCSO. This issue was initially brought to SOARB’s attention in 2021 by Ms. Elaine Maestas, whose sister, who suffered from mental illness, was shot and killed by BCSO deputies. It should be noted that after “extensive investigation”, the Bernalillo County Attorney General decided not to prosecute the deputies involved.

  1. Edited Video Footage

BCSO’s default policy should be that complete body-worn camera and other video records be released as long as release does not interfere with a law enforcement proceeding, constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or fall into one of the exceptions listed in this report. Policies should clearly state the process for responding to public and media disclosure requests, including the review and redaction process.

4. Standard Operating Procedures

a. Public Input on SOP

BCSO’s website should provide a simple form to allow public comment on SOP, comparable to that on the APD website.

b. Use of Force – “Duty to Intervene”

SOP §314 provides that Deputies have a “duty to intervene” to prevent the use of excessive force by BCSO deputies. BCSO should consider whether the term “duty to intervene” could be further defined in SOP to provide a very clear understanding of the range of actions that may be required to comply with the “duty to intervene.” For example, BCSO lesson plans and guides used for training purposes since at least 2016 state that “intervention may take the form of one or more of the following actions: strongly caution the other officer; physically restrain the other officer; immediately report the incident.”  

c. Contract Signing Procedure

The procedure for reviewing and entering into contracts should be specified in SOP. Such procedure should include prior-to-signing legal review for all but the most routine contracts.  

d. Operations – Area Commands

SOP §100-3(A) states that there are three Area Commands: North, South and East. A map delineating the boundaries of each Area Command should be added.

  1. Metropolitan Crime Initiative

SOARB recommends that BCSO attend the entire series of MCI meetings every year, including at least some direct participation by the Sheriff, as cooperation among all law enforcements agencies – local, county, state and federal – can only enhance law enforcement efforts and public safety.  

  1. Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies

SOARB recommends that BCSO consider the advisability of once again gaining CALEA accreditation.

  1. BCSO Participation in TV Program “On Patrol: Live”

SOARB recommends that BCSO cease participation in “On Patrol: Live” If BCSO is not willing to cease participation, then at the very least, BCSO should discontinue participation until provision can be made: (a) to allow any member of the public to opt out of being filmed by OPL cameras, just as the OPL Contracts provide that only those BCSO Deputies that have consented will be filmed by OPL cameras; and (b) to give BCSO the right to prior review of all BCSO-related video, whether filmed by BCSO or OPL cameras, and the right to veto the airing of any video BCSO determines presents inaccurate information, or a security or safety risk to BCSO or the public.

  1. Process for Legal Review of Contracts

Although, according to the Bernalillo County Attorney’s Office, BCSO has the right to enter into contracts without legal review by the Bernalillo County Attorney’s Office or any other attorney, BCSO should exercise its discretion in favor of putting all but the most routine contracts through legal review before they become effective, to minimize the risk of entering into contracts that raise concerns such as those raised by the OPL Contracts, which were not submitted for legal review until months after they became effective.

  1. Concerning Imagery on BCSO Recruitment Vehicle

The recruitment vehicle at issue should be taken out of public view immediately until all offensive images are removed. Going forward, before using imagery on BCSO vehicles or property other than items such as the standard BCSO logo and contact information, BCSO should thoroughly vet such imagery to ensure it is not offensive, frightening or off-putting to the community, including researching the images on Google and other internet resources, consultation with authorities on hate symbols, and extensive communication with members of the community to get a sense of community sentiments about such images.

View the full annual report below: