Public Defender’s Office challenges BCSO in court for lack of body cameras

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been about three months since all law enforcement agencies have been required to outfit their officers with body cameras. The Public Defender’s Office in Albuquerque says there’s one major agency that is still not following the law, and they’re taking them to court.

It’s no surprise the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has been resistant to body cameras for years, but Monday, the sheriff announced body cameras are officially coming. The Public Defender’s Office hopes this can be the start of the department’s compliance.

“You can read a police report and get one thing, but when you actually see what happened without anybody else’s commentary, it’s sometimes a completely different story,” said Lucia Moran, Assistant Trial Attorney with the Public Defender’s Office.

Since September, the Public Defender’s Office has filed 14-motions challenging cases where BCSO deputies did not wear a body camera. In these motions, they ask a judge to throw out the case or even prevent the deputy from testifying.

So far, the Public Defender’s Office says no cases have been dismissed yet because of this law, but they’re hoping to see consequences for agencies not following the law. During a press conference Monday, Sheriff Manny Gonzales announced there is no delay with implementing body cameras and that we might be able to see them on all his deputies by 2021. “Don’t be mistaken. We’re embracing the cameras. I’ve never opposed the cameras. I’ve been uncertain about them, but there’s reason. It’s because we have priorities here,” said Sheriff Gonzales.

Sheriff Gonzales also adds his department is currently in the training stage and the reason why it’s been taking a while is because of funding issues. KRQE News 13 asked Sheriff Gonzales what he thinks about the Public Defender’s Office filing motions against his deputies who don’t have cameras, and he says he believes a judge will rule in his favor because he believes they’ve been complying with the law.

The Public Defender’s Office says as long as agencies continue to not have body cameras, they will continue to challenge it in court. A spokesperson with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office says they support law enforcement wearing body cameras, but do not agree with dismissing cases if one is not worn.

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