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Las Cruces OKs $1.8M for police body cameras, more

An officer demonstrates an Axon body camera. (Courtesy of USA Today)

LAS CRUCES – The city will upgrade its existing police body camera equipment and soon provide body-worn cameras to codes enforcement and animal control officers.

The Las Cruces City Council voted 6-0 to approve a sole source contract for upgraded body cameras, Tasers, video storage software and related equipment with Axon Enterprise at its Nov. 16 meeting. District 2 Councilor Tessa Abeyta Stuve was absent.

The contract with Axon will cost the city up to $1.8 million over five years and includes annual renewals.

The Scottsdale, Arizona-based police technology company is the current provider of the Las Cruces Police Department’s body-worn cameras, video storage and maintenance. Axon also supplies the Las Cruces police with its non-lethal, electrical Taser brand weapons, which are interconnected with the body camera system.

The contract will upgrade all LCPD’s body cameras to the Axon Body 3, their latest model, and boost the police department’s inventory from 140 to 214 cameras. It will also upgrade the police department’s older Taser weapons to the latest Taser 7 model and pay for Axon’s cloud-based video storage service, Evidence.com.

The city will also purchase related accessories and virtual reality police training.

The contract was sole sourced since the city has an existing contract with Axon, and the company is the sole manufacturer of the Axon Body 3 camera, Taser and Evidence.com, the city said.

Legislation passed during the special legislative session this summer requires all New Mexico state and local law enforcement officers to wear body cameras while on duty and record footage when interacting with the public.

According to the new state law, officers must activate their body cameras “whenever a peace officer is responding to a call for service or at the initiation of any other law enforcement or investigative encounter between a peace officer and a member of the public.”

The law also requires that agencies retain and store footage for at least 120 days.

Axon says on its website its technology aims to reduce police violence, and increase transparency and accountability in policing.

This contract wasn’t entirely spurred by the special legislation since the current contract was expiring and the equipment needed to be upgraded anyway, according to LCPD officer Robert Benavidez, the administrator for LCPD’s body camera system.

The Taser 7 “turns on body cameras in the area” when used, Benavidez said.

The contract also includes the purchase of two Axon virtual reality “empathy training” units for Las Cruces police officers.

The VR training will put officers in one of “hundreds of scenarios” that simulate different types of police encounters, such as with people who have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia. The units use an Oculus brand headset.

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