Posted at: 04/25/2014 10:15 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Albuquerque Police Department officers are supposed to turn on their lapel cameras for every contact with citizens. Then, at the end of the shift, they’re supposed to upload and turn in the video as evidence. But numbers show that doesn’t always happen.
Criminal defense lawyer Barry Porter says lapel video has made huge changes in the courtroom.
“it's a good tool for the prosecutors to have,” Porter said. “It's also a really good tool for us to have to check whether the officers complied with the constitution, have they violated the client's civil rights... it's just a win for everybody.”
Records show public defenders made 566 requests since January for lapel videos, but about 20 percent of those requests came back empty, meaning officers’ cameras didn’t work, weren’t turned on, or recordings weren’t logged into evidence.
“If we don't have that documentation then we don't have that evidence to back up citizens claims about what happened at the scene,” Porter said. “That's frustrating and it doesn't really serve anyone not to use this technology that's available.”
Mayor Richard Berry touts the cameras as a key transparency measure for the department, but realizes there’s still work to be done.
“Being one of the first departments in the country to use them on a regular basis, we've certainly seen some of the growing pains to go with that - from both a technology standpoint, from a training standpoint and from an accountability standpoint,” Berry said.
Berry says he and APD Chief Gorden Eden met Friday to discuss plans for additional training and accountability measures for use of lapel cameras.
The NM Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is asking a legislative criminal justice reform committee to create a statewide lapel camera policy. Currently, very few law enforcements in the state have lapel cameras.