RPD chief expresses disappointment with body camera provider

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ROSWELL, N.M. — Since 2015, each of the Roswell Police Department’s officers has been outfitted with body worn cameras.

Footage from the devices is used as evidence in court, training, and recording officer interactions with the public.

“It’s like a partner in my car,” said Sgt. Adam Rhodes of the Roswell Police Department. 

But some say those “partners” just aren’t doing the job, especially with problems like camera batteries not charging. Batteries supposedly charging for days are still not ready to use.

“Sometimes you log out six or seven before you get a battery. So it’s a pain,” Rhodes said.

Sometimes, video is recorded but unable to upload to computers and be stored. There are also complaints about how easily the camera cords can get pulled out.

Chief Phil Smith said he is disappointed with WatchGuard, the company that sold the department the cameras and equipment for about $100,000. He also describes WatchGuard’s IT and customer service as lacking.

Smith said, given the wear and tear the cameras can face, sometimes a professional is needed to repair them in person instead of just over the phone.

“Sometimes these cameras are not going to operate and we need that type of support to deal with things that are going to happen to the equipment,” Smith said.

He added that now many of the cameras cannot be used by officers on patrol.

“We started out with 75 units, we went to 40 units because they just weren’t downloading and they weren’t taking the charge. The other stuff we can handle, but now we are down to 22. So we’re concerned,” Smith said.

Body-worn cameras are not just a useful tool. In New Mexico, state statute requires that all law enforcement officials wear them and record their interactions with the public.

Smith said they haven’t lost any video and are in compliance with the law.

Nonetheless, Smith said he does not want to take any chances.

“It’s getting to the point where I don’t want my officers’ jeopardizing their careers. I don’t want the city being jeopardized. I want us to stay compliant with the law,” Smith said.

With its reputation as one of the leading providers of body cameras in the nation – and with New Mexico State Police among its clientele – Smith said he believed at the time that the department would be getting a new deal with WatchGuard.

Instead, the department is looking to go back to its old provider, Axon. Smith said the contract will cost more but that it will be worth the investment.

WatchGuard did not respond to requests for comment regarding the department’s complaints.