Law enforcement agencies exploring body camera funding, tech options

New Mexico

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Law enforcement departments throughout the state are now less than two months out from the deadline to get body cameras.

Some of them are still trying to figure out what technology to get and how to pay for it.

The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office is looking into a cell phone app that can make department-issued cell phones double as body cameras, according to Chief Deputy Jeff Noah. It’s one option the department is eyeing to come into compliance with the new state mandate requiring all law enforcement departments to wear cameras.

“The deputies mount them right on their uniform and it records their calls and it automatically uploads to the cloud, so the deputies don’t have to have any involvement. They can’t alter it or delete it,” Noah explained.

The app vendor called Visual Labs is one of several also being tested by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.

In an email, a BCSD spokesperson said the department has talked with a California department that uses the app from Visual Labs and is also testing out another vendor called BodyWorn.

“We continue to test numerous companies and have yet to make a decision,” a BCSD spokesperson said. “Funding sources are being explored.  We are in the process of applying for several grants.”

Right now, Valencia County uses audio recordings only, adding that they’ve never had lapel cameras in the past because they’re too expensive.

Noah said this program would cost $100,000 in the first year and would be used by 55 people including field deputies, detectives, the impact team, and court security.

“We do not have the funding,” Noah stated. “We’ve been working with the county manager and the county commission. I’m going to have to go in front of them at some point and ask for money from the general fund to pay for it.”

Another cost is adding a new position within the department to sift through the video and release the footage to fulfill public records requests.

Overall, Noah said the cameras are expected to be a benefit for the department, and the technology can even be programmed to turn on automatically when staff gets calls for service.

“It also has a holster alarm, so if they draw their weapon out, it’ll start recording automatically,” Noah said.

Smaller departments, including Albuquerque Public Schools Police and University of New Mexico Police, are still weighing their body camera technology options. They don’t yet know the cost or how they’ll be funded. APSPD would need 58 lapel cameras for its force and UNMPD says it would order at least 40.

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