ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s newly mentioned plan for how he’ll spend thousands of dollars in funds earmarked for dash cameras may not fly with county commissioners.
It’s been about a year since Bernalillo County commissioners passed a resolution setting aside $500,000 for dash cameras to be implemented into sheriff’s office patrol rigs.
The topic recently reemerged at a news conference Monday, where Sheriff Manny Gonzales addressed questions about a recent deadly deputy-involved shooting, where deputies shot and killed a woman reportedly suffered from mental illness.
During the news conference, Sheriff Gonzales was asked several questions about police cameras, including body-worn cameras.
“A camera is not going to save anyone’s life,” Sheriff Gonzales said Monday, in response to a question about body cameras. “If you continue to ask me that question, I’m going to tell you the same thing, we need more deputies.”
However, there is one camera the sheriff has voiced support for in the past. On Facebook last November, Sheriff Gonzales wrote a post that said in part, “I support dash cameras.”
That was a message Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley heard loud and clear last year. O’Malley drafted legislation earmarking $500,000 in county funds for use in buying and installing dash cameras. That funding was outside of, and in addition to the sheriff’s office’s normal operating budget.
“(We) said yeah, let’s earmark $500,000 for dash cams to outfit the vehicles, all the vehicles,” said O’Malley, recalling the legislation during an interview with KRQE News 13 Wednesday.
While O’Malley says those funds were to expand the sheriff’s office’s dash camera program, Sheriff Gonzales announced Monday that he has a different idea of what he’d like to do with the money.
“We’re going to use that money for dash cameras that we have already on existing vehicles,” Sheriff Gonzales said.
Gonzales says he wants to upgrade the county’s eight existing dash cameras with newer dash camera technology, rather than buying more dash cameras to spread across patrol units for their 321 deputies.
The intent, according to O’Malley, was to increase the number of dash cameras in the county’s fleet.
“Yes, that was the idea, to have that discussion, so that would mean there would have to be a plan that was mutually acceptable to the commission and the sheriff, with outfitting the vehicle all the vehicles with dash cameras,” O’Malley said.
That discussion hasn’t happened yet, and since the dash camera funds are outside of the sheriff’s office’s main budget, the sheriff will have to sit down with commissioners before that money is spent.
“We can certainly make suggestions and that is that is our business,” said O’Malley.
The sheriff has also recently asked about using those dash camera funds to buy a high-definition FLIR camera for their helicopter. So far, that request has been denied.
While the sheriff’s office says it needs more deputies, the department also confirmed with KRQE News 13 that the department is currently fully staffed.