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Editorial: APD’s lapel cameras only helpful when used

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Three times is not a charm.

When it comes to turning on his video lapel camera in some critical situations, Albuquerque Police Department officer Jeremy Dear has struck out.

Raising the question: Is the officer just a forgetful sort in the heat of confrontation, or is he a scofflaw when it comes to following APD policy, which requires officers to record every interaction they have with members of the public. And, if so, what is his motive?

There was no lapel camera video:

  • In January 2013, when Dear allegedly punched a man while trying to arrest him during a Downtown brawl.
  • In February 2013, when he allegedly kicked a man in the genitals during a traffic stop.
  • On April 21, after he shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was suspected of stealing a vehicle and who he said pulled a gun on him.

Chief Gorden Eden has deflected questions about whether Dear activated his camera or if it malfunctioned. APD has sent it to the manufacturer for analysis.

The police union doesn’t appear to be concerned about Dear’s lack of recording ability. But it should be.

Dear’s is just one bad example – and it’s unclear whether he was disciplined for the lapses – but it points to the need for APD to strictly enforce its camera policy. The transparency provided by the cameras protects both the officer and the other person involved in the event. And the cameras likely offer one of the best hopes for restoring public trust in the police.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which after a 16-month investigation determined APD has a pattern or practice of using excessive and deadly force, noted that implementation of the lapel camera policy “has been highly inconsistent” and is not strictly enforced.

There’s no need to wait for a DOJ consent decree to start coming down hard on officers who just won’t cooperate with this meaningful reform.

Council President Ken Sanchez said perhaps the council should take steps on the camera issue and asked what the mayor and chief were waiting for. Good question.

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.

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