- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Albuquerque Police Department has one of the largest caches of body cameras for a law enforcement agency of its size, and its policy for using those cameras is one of the toughest in the nation.

It’s also nearly impossible to follow and is at the root of most disagreements between Police Chief Gorden Eden and the city’s independent review officer.

That’s why department officials say a new policy for lapel cameras is being crafted and will be in place next year.

“The officers, in certain situations, have a hard time complying with it,” Deputy Chief William Roseman told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1zYvlVg). “Hopefully, once we get a new policy in place . it will give (officers) a little more flex so common sense can come into play.”

Albuquerque officials recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to overhaul the police force following more than 40 shootings involving officers since 2010. Under the agreement, the city must provide better training for officers, but some critics say it should have come down harder on enforcement of camera policies.

Since Eden became chief in February, Independent Review Officer Robin Hammer and her staff have investigated citizen complaints and found 152 cases in which an officer violated a policy. Of those cases, Eden disagreed with the review officer 23 times.

Most of the disagreements were over camera policy violations, Hammer said. Under that policy, officers are required to record most interactions with the public in their entirety.

Rudeness is the most common complaint, and often an investigation into rudeness led to uncovering a camera violation.

“Ours is probably the strictest policy in the United States, and it’s not a policy that is implementable,” Roseman said. “It doesn’t take in human factors from equipment failure to things just happening.”

In addition to remembering to turn on a camera during a fast-developing situation, city and police officials have raised concerns about other aspects of the policy. They have questioned how it affects victim’s privacy rights and how recordings affect discovery as criminal cases wind through courts.

Officers also spend 15 percent to 20 percent of their shift saving and logging lapel camera footage, officials said.

Because of those concerns, the city in August approved $50,000 for the University of New Mexico to study the department’s camera policy. The study is expected to be finished next summer.

The community group APD Forward has said a strong lapel camera policy that requires most interactions to be filmed is crucial. The group has agreed that interactions between police officers and victims, witnesses, confidential informants and certain cases where officers go into private homes shouldn’t be recorded.

But Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, said officers should be recording during all traffic stops, arrests and when serving a warrant.

“That’s absolutely essential,” he said. Use-of-force cases “arise from routine traffic stops and escalate from there.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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