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The Albuquerque NAACP this week requested a meeting with Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales to discuss the adoption and funding sources for body cameras.
Gonzales has long resisted the use of body cameras on deputies, maintaining there is no proof they would be beneficial and that there were more effective ways to spend county money.
The meeting request was made in a June 8 email letter sent by Albuquerque NAACP president Harold Bailey, which also said the civil rights organization wanted to discuss the establishment of a multicultural citizens advisory board, and implement a multicultural/multiracial training program for deputies.
Gonzales was in receipt of the letter and was reviewing it, sheriff’s office spokesman Connor Otero said Thursday.
Bailey said he has heard Gonzales speaking against the use of body cameras at county commission meetings.
“It didn’t make sense to me at that time, and now, with the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the urgency of it seems to have been amplified,” he said.
When video is present, discussion and debate concerning law enforcement and civilian encounters are more focused, Bailey said.
“The sheriff should embrace it because it would allow people to see what actually happened, it would protect his officers in case they were accused unfairly, and it would protect the public at the same time,” he said.
Bailey said his email letter to Gonzales was copied to Bernalillo County commissioners, several of whom responded to him and indicated they supported his efforts.
Bailey wasn’t the only one to weigh in on the issue this week.
On Monday, attorneys and staff in the state’s Law Offices of the Public Defender participated in marches and called for Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies to wear body cameras.
On Tuesday, state Attorney General Hector Balderas called for legislation to require police officers in New Mexico to wear body cameras and to ban the use of chokeholds during arrests.
On Thursday, Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier issued a statement saying he was joining members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association in denouncing the actions of the Minneapolis police officers who have been charged in connection with the death of Floyd, and acknowledging “accountability as a cornerstone of reform.”
He said APD is “implementing anti-racism training and participating in diversion programs.”