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Editorial: It’s not OK to ignore APD’s on-body camera mandate

The latest allegation of an Albuquerque Police Department officer’s excessive use of force leaves only one conclusion – some officers aren’t taking policing reforms or use of on-body cameras seriously.

The newest incident, in which Officer Cedric Greer allegedly set upon a drunk man he was dispatched to aid, might never have come to light if a conscientious police cadet riding along hadn’t come forward.

Greer is facing misdemeanor criminal charges based on a State Police investigation of the March 20 incident, which Chief Gorden Eden described as “disgusting.”

Eden says APD has its own internal investigation underway with a promise that it will be concluded swiftly. That is as it should be, because it is reprehensible that a police officer paid to help citizens would prey on them instead, apparently for sport.

Cadet Andrew Henry, fellow officer Jerry Rauch and an eyewitness all said the man was cooperating with police at the time he beaten.

Greer, responding to a “down-and-out” call at a Central Avenue motel, allegedly punched the man in the head and ribs, causing his head to slam against the pavement, and wrenched his arm while asking him several times, according to a criminal complaint, “Who’s the man?”

But that exchange wasn’t caught on Greer’s or Rauch’s lapel cameras, because they weren’t activated until after the beating, when Rauch said he was going “live.”

After he and Greer turned on their cameras, the recordings show Greer acting politely to the man. How convenient. By the way, Greer is not the first APD officer to fail to turn on his camera, for whatever reason.

And that’s despite an APD policy adopted after a string of officer-involved shootings that requires officers to record nearly every encounter with the public.

A U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which found APD has had a pattern or practice of excessive use of force and civil rights violations, dinged APD hard for not strictly enforcing its body camera policy. A settlement agreement between the police department and the DOJ calls for several reforms, including the revision of APD’s camera policy. A University of New Mexico study of the policy is scheduled to be completed in June.

Meanwhile, until the policy is changed, the operative word to APD officers is to follow it – to the letter. Cameras not only can reveal bad behavior by officers, but also bad behavior by suspects.

And everyone should also remember that cameras can highlight good police work. And that’ s what the public wants to see in Albuquerque.

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.