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Las Cruces police officers to be outfitted with body cameras

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The Las Cruces police department will be the latest law enforcement agency in New Mexico to outfit officers with body cameras in the coming weeks.

Police officials said they expect to put 72 cameras on traffic and patrol officers.

“Our primary focus with this new camera program is to protect the officer,” Deputy Chief Justin Dunivan said. “Our second thing is to protect the department, reduce overall liability and enhance our accountability.”

Some officers have been using the cameras, which are only about 3 inches tall and weigh less than an ounce, for the past year. They can be worn on shoulder lapels, helmets and sunglasses.

The 72 Taser Axon Flex cameras cost about $320,000, Dunivan said. The department is using money from its general budget and will spend it over a five-year period, the Las Cruces Sun News reported.

Las Cruces police have tried using body cameras since 2011. The department was using 120 lapel cameras made by surveillance company Scorpion in 2012 until officers reported technical issues, Dunivan said. The police then began testing different camera systems in January 2014 and settled on the Taser Axon Flex cameras.

City and police officials are still determining policy on camera use and how long to store video. Officers are required to download video at the end of a shift to an online data management system. For now, they will save footage even after they exceed storage space.

“They will save it. But we have to make a decision on what video needs to be destroyed,” Sgt. Rob Benavidez said. “And we have to follow New Mexico state retention laws when it comes to physical evidence, video evidence and records recording.”

Calls for body cameras have risen in several U.S. cities where high-profile fatal shootings involving police occurred. The Albuquerque Police Department, which was the subject of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report last year, now requires all officers to wear lapel cameras in interactions with the public. In its report, the Justice Department blasted Albuquerque police’s rollout of the cameras, saying it had been so hasty that officers had not been properly trained.

 

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