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Editorial: Why can city claim it’s camera shy if cops can’t?

“The city didn’t want to be video recorded in a case about an officer who didn’t use his video recorder. We’re talking about police officers. They are public figures. It’s ridiculous for them to assert any type of privacy.”

– Thomas Grover, attorney for fired APD officer Jeremy Dear

Just when you thought the Albuquerque Police Department couldn’t dig a deeper hole regarding its non-use of lapel cameras, the city picked up a shovel.

Last week, a city Personnel Board postponed a hearing for Dear – fired in November for allegedly being insubordinate, untruthful and failing to comply with an order to record interactions with citizens while on duty – because it didn’t want television cameras.

Dear’s attorney was quick to point out the irony, and make it clear he and Dear had no problem with cameras in the hearing. “None of this does Jeremy any good because he wants to go back to being a police officer.”

Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy said city hearing officer Patrick Bingham didn’t want to be videotaped and likely neither did the city’s witnesses, all of them APD officers.

Why is “want” a consideration? It certainly wouldn’t matter to a skeptical public whether Dear “wanted” to turn on his lapel cam before he fatally shot suspected car thief Mary Hawkes, 19, on April 21.

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APD officials have changed their response more than once since the shooting, from saying they “were unable to recover lapel-camera footage” of the shooting to “refusing to specify whether it was Dear who failed to follow the rules or the camera that failed to work” to “would not say whether the lapel camera … malfunctioned or if (Dear) failed to turn it on.”

Dear’s hearing is on hold until Bingham gets an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office about whether or not he can ban cameras. Let’s be clear that the focus is supposed to be on Dear and his actions – and he has no problem being videotaped.

By going camera shy, city and APD officials have turned the lens on themselves and their apparent unwillingness to let the public see what constitutes justice in this case.

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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