ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) - A county commissioner noting the high number of deputy-involved shootings and pricey lawsuit settlements wants to review two Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office policies.
District 3 Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins is not questioning any recent pursuits or use-of-force cases but said there needs to be a review of two BCSO policies to help protect deputies and taxpayers.
Stebbins is sponsoring a resolution to be introduced to the commission Tuesday that would require the county manager to work with Sheriff Manny Gonzalez and hire a third party to look into the BCSO's practices when it comes to pursuits and use of force.
"Why have we had this jump in use-of-force cases?" she asked. "Is it something that's going on in the community or is there something we can change in our policies to keep our deputies safer (and) to keep people in the community safer?"
The resolution states the number of incidents involving the use of deadly force has increased every year since 2016, and that comes with a wave of lawsuits resulting in substantial financial settlements.
"We had a settlement last week for $1.5 million and the county commission bears the burden of that," she said.
Stebbins' resolution states it's crucial that an outside organization reviews BCSO's current policies to look for potential liabilities and "make recommendations for changes where appropriate."
She said it's a way of supporting the Bernalillo County Sheriff.
"He's indicated that this is something he's planning to do," she said.
She wants a quick review. The county manager would have to give the commission a status report by the end of March.
It's unclear whether the matter of BCSO getting lapel cameras will come out of this survey. Stebbins said it's up to the sheriff to ultimately decide whether to get them. The county commission can purchase the equipment but can't require BCSO to use it.
Stebbins said the sheriff has voiced support for this project before.
The county commission will vote on the resolution Tuesday.
The BCSO released the following statement to KRQE News 13 Monday night:
"Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III is moving forward in conducting an independent audit of the department use of force policy. The Sheriff and command staff are in the process of identifying subject matter experts for this review. The Sheriff has been in dialogue with the County Manager for several months regarding this matter. The sheriff will provide an update on the progress tomorrow at the Bernalillo County Commission meeting and welcomes the County Commission's support."
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