ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tuesday night, county commissioners made their recommendations to the sheriff’s department for dash and lapel cameras on deputies. But Sheriff Manny Gonzales says he will not be taking their advice.
While Sheriff Gonzales says cameras don’t solve crime, commissioners say not having them may be costing the county quite a bit in court. County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley says the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is no stranger to lawsuits.
“With every use-of-force issue, we have been sued on all those cases,” she said.
While she wouldn’t confirm the county is losing money as a result, she did say that’s one of the reasons they are pushing so hard for lapel and dash cams for all field officers.
“The camera is not a biased bystander. It records the engagement between the deputy and an individual. It is important to have that,” O’Malley said.
Commissioners are ready to give the sheriff’s office $1 million to start implementing the cameras. But Sheriff Manny Gonzales says that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
“We know this could be something in the tens of millions of dollars,” he said.
While many criticize the sheriff’s office for being one of the few law enforcement agencies in the state without cameras, Gonzales says his deputies are more reliable than the footage.
“The courts rule it’s the interpretation of the deputies on scene. They have a story to tell,” Sheriff Gonzales said.
If Gonzales doesn’t comply, the ACLU says there is nothing in state or common law prohibiting the county from making an ordinance forcing the sheriff’s office to get cameras.
“It’s something we are encouraging the commission to do; they should put some real teeth into the resolution,” Peter Simonson, an ACLU spokesperson, said.
But O’Malley says they don’t’ want to take that route.
“It is a collaborative approach, method, let’s come to the table together,” she said. “It’s worth discussing.”
When asked how BCSO would react to a law being put in place forcing them to get body cameras, Sheriff Gonzales said he would comply with all ordinances.
The sheriff’s office does have eight dashcams. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office says it “strongly encourages” the sheriff to get cameras because it improves public confidence in law enforcement.