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CPOA says camera policy most violated by APD

A lapel camera worn by an Albuquerque police officer in 2014. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — During investigations of complaints against police officers in 2016, Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency found officers violated the department’s on-body camera recording rules more than any other policy.

So the oversight agency is recommending officers receive additional training on how to better use their cameras in line with policies, according to the CPOA’s annual report.

The report included data about the policy violations in which the chief of police handed down discipline, as well as other violations with which the chief disagreed.

The CPOA investigates complaints against police officers with an eye for policy violations, and the agency’s findings and recommendations for discipline are approved by the Police Oversight Board. Those recommendations are then sent to the chief of police, who can either sustain the findings or disagree with them.

Of 76 sustained policy violations – found during 41 CPOA investigations – 32.8 percent of the policy violations were for violating the camera recording policy. The CPOA also found general conduct was the second most violated policy at 26 percent, the department’s traffic enforcement policy accounted for 6.8 percent of the policy violations.

The CPOA also sent the chief notice of 52 policy violations that were found during 27 other investigations. But the chief disagreed with the CPOA’s conclusion and no discipline was imposed.

Of those policy violations, 11 were for violating the on-body camera recording policy and 11 were for general conduct, according to the annual report.

“It certainly comes up consistently,” Ed Harness, the director of the CPOA, said of on-body camera policy violations.

Albuquerque police policy calls for officers to record arrests, search warrants executions, traffic stops, use-of-force encounters and any other situation when a police officer thinks that a recording would be of value, according to the most recent policy posted on the CPOA’s website.

The CPOA found that mechanical errors or battery issues accounted for 24 percent of the on-body camera policy violations, according to the annual report.

Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, said that the department is planning to roll out new on-body cameras next month, which police officials hope will reduce the number of times officers fail to record encounters. The cameras are wireless so the cord can’t come unplugged like the current cameras officers wear. And officers will each have two so if one runs out of battery or storage during a shift or there’s another issue, he or she will have a spare, she said.

The new cameras were purchased after the city of Albuquerque in May awarded Taser International, which recently changed its name to Axon, with a five-year, $4.4 million contract for 2,000 on-body cameras for police officers and cloud storage. The city selected Taser after they responded to a request for proposals along with several other companies, which were all examined by a selection committee that included police officers and an investigator from the CPOA.

“As the first large department in the country to require on-body cameras for all of its officers, APD has been a national leader in this area,” Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a prepared statement. “As a leader in this challenging area, we are committed to continuing to implement this important technology and value the CPOA’s role in that process.”

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