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No video in several of officer’s arrests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear’s lapel video wasn’t recording when he allegedly punched a man while trying to arrest him during a Downtown brawl in January 2013.

His lapel video wasn’t recording when he allegedly kicked a man in the genitals during a traffic stop a month later.

And police were unable to recover any video from his lapel camera after he shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who he said pulled a gun on him after a suspected car theft, last month. The camera’s manufacturer is examining the camera, police have said.

There were at least two other instances, which didn’t involve use of force, when he didn’t record his full encounters with the public, according to Dear’s personnel file obtained by KOAT-TV.

Under department policy, officers are supposed to record every interaction they have with members of the public.

It’s unclear if Dear was ever disciplined for any of the previous incidents in which he did not get video of his encounters.

APD Chief Gorden Eden came under fire when he announced that there was no video in the Hawkes shooting.

The availability of lapel video has become a hot topic among critics of the department, who argue that the cameras are used selectively and that there should be harsher punishments when incidents aren’t recorded. The Department of Justice, which concluded the APD had a pattern or practice of using excessive force, also mentioned the department’s lapel camera practices in its findings. The DOJ report said requiring lapel camera use is a good policy but that it’s inconsistently used and not enforced strictly by APD.

“We found very few examples of officers being reprimanded for failing to record force incidents,” the report reads. “The fact that few officers were reprimanded for this failure suggests that supervisors have also failed to insist on this form of accountability.”

A pattern

In January 2013, Dear helped break up a Downtown brawl and, in the process, he “did strike (the 22-year-old suspect) several times in his facial area with a closed fist,” according to his description of the incident. Dear wrote that the man had struck him in the jaw and was resisting arrest, according to the personnel file. His lapel video was not on, but his partner’s was on for the beginning and aftermath, according to the file.

A month later, in February 2013, Dear pulled a man over for speeding. That man filed a citizen complaint, alleging Dear used excessive force by pulling him out of his car, kicking him in the genitals and setting the handcuffs too tight when he was arrested for reckless driving. The man urinated in his pants because he was scared of the officer, according to the complaint.

Dear denied the excessive force allegations and was not disciplined for the incident because there was no outside evidence, according to his file.

Dear said his lapel camera died soon after he initially approached the man and the independent review officer – who investigates citizen complaints and presents findings to an independent commission – said that was the only violation of department policy she could find. Dear told her he tried to turn on his camera but that it wouldn’t work, according to the file.

“Officer D. should have recorded this incident in its entirety. Even though his lapel video camera apparently malfunctioned, he should have called another officer to the scene who did have a working lapel camera prior to making the arrest,” reads the IRO’s letter to the complainant. “… Officer D. was required to tag the portion of the video that he did have into evidence. He failed to do so.” It’s unclear from the file whether Dear was disciplined.

Police union president Stephanie Lopez said she wasn’t concerned by the fact that some of Dear’s interactions with the public were not recorded. She said, generally, the number of times the cameras fail is small compared to how many calls officers respond to and that they are bound to malfunction to an extent.

“People need to remember that cameras are a machine and they do sometimes malfunction,” said Lopez, who attended one of Dear’s hearings after a citizen complaint. “At the end of the day, the lapel camera is a machine. I don’t think it’s negligent or malicious on officer Dear’s part.”

City response

Mayor Richard Berry said Friday that changes to the lapel camera policy would be coming soon, but declined to elaborate.

Many citizens have taken their complaints about lapel cameras to City Council meetings, which have become heated in recent weeks. Council President Ken Sanchez said he expects the council will tackle the topic at some point.

“I would prefer to allow the chief to deal with policy decisions but, when he’s not taking that responsibility and the mayor’s not taking that responsibility, I think it’s up to us,” Sanchez said. “I think every officer should be using a camera. I think it protects them as well as it protects the public.”