“Cops” for real, every day, every stop.
Next time an Albuquerque Police Department officer rolls up on a traffic stop, both the driver — and the officer — can expect to be on camera, though not on a television show.
Starting Sunday, APD will require officers to use small, digital lapel-mounted cameras, or as a last resort audio tape recorders, to record all calls involving citizen encounters. Officers now are required to record calls most likely to result in citizen complaints, such as disorderly conduct arrests and home and vehicle searches.
Officers can be reprimanded for not using their recorders or fired if they repeatedly fail to record, and this should be strictly enforced in order for the recording policy to be effective. In light of recent concerns over use of force and a high number of police-involved shootings, the recordings could provide evidence that exonerates an officer or backs up a citizen’s claims.
Any officer who cares about repairing APD’s standing in the community should welcome the effort and carefully ensure the camera is operating during all calls. Perhaps knowing a camera is on will improve the behavior of everyone involved in a police stop.
There are some obvious challenges to implementing the policy and managing the voluminous data it will produce. Chief Ray Schultz says the expansion is likely to create a “logistical nightmare.”
And APD should recognize that the recordings are public documents and expect to provide them in a timely fashion when presented with a public records request. Although APD has released video recordings of two of the 24 officer-involved shootings since 2010, the Journal is awaiting a response to a request for recordings, if they exist, from the other shootings.
Keeping the videos hidden away will only compound the department’s problems.
This new effort has the potential to shine more light on APD’s operations — and ultimately help restore public trust.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.