Sheriff Says He Won't Deploy Body Cameras Because He Doesn't Want His Deputies Criticized

from the christ,-what-a-coward dept

Something’s very wrong with Albuquerque-area law enforcement. The Albuquerque Police Department has been described as a “criminal enterprise.” These words didn’t come from an activist group or an enraged op-ed in the local paper, but rather from a departing District Attorney in a letter to the DOJ.

The DOJ is at least partially aware of the Albuquerque PD’s criminal activities. Its 2014 investigation concluded APD officers routinely engaged in indiscriminate force deployment. Worse, those above the officers did almost nothing to curb misconduct and brutality. Beyond shooting citizens at an alarming rate, APD officers were found to be tampering with camera footage — an accusation brought by a private employee of the department in an affidavit presented to a judge.

It seems the APD isn’t the only law enforcement agency in the Albuquerque area prone to unchecked acts of violence. Nor is it the only one actively disinterested in any form of accountability. In the last four months, the Bernalillo Sheriff’s Department deputies have shot nine people. One deputy — Charles Coggins — shot two people in 22 days, killing one of them.

In addition to the shootings, a deputy was caught on camera pointing a gun at a motorcyclist. This incident occurred while both the motorcyclist and the deputy were in motion, with the deputy pointing his gun out the passenger-side window. The deputy claimed he was “in fear of an immediate and impending battery.” Hmm.

Oddly, the deputy did not pursue the biker, despite being in so much fear he felt compelled to point a loaded weapon at him. He also offered no details on how a motorcyclist performing a wheelie equated to “impending battery.”

The nine shootings, along with this incident, have generated calls for greater accountability. The Sheriff’s Office is being pressured to issue body cameras to deputies, but Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales isn’t having it.

Gonzales says his department does not, and will not, wear body cameras because he believes the media will use the footage to falsely criticize officers.

“Gives a lopsided, one-sided story, which I think is a disservice to the whole community,” Gonzales said.

This is an incredibly stupid statement. First, it’s hard to believe footage captured and controlled by the Sheriff’s Department somehow morphs into a “one-sided story” — with that “side” not being the BCSD’s — the instant it ends up in anyone else’s hands.

Furthermore, there’s the inane assertion footage will be used only to “falsely” criticize officers. There’s a good chance it may be used to criticize officers, but under no circumstances would every criticism be “false.” This only draws attention to the statement Gonzales won’t make: he doesn’t want his officers to create footage that might be used to justly criticize officers.

What Gonzales wants is zero accountability. He doesn’t want any outside entities to question his officers’ actions or his disciplinary tactics. He wants to run an agency that takes the public’s money but owes them nothing in return.

Body camera footage is hardly a band-aid for police misconduct. Footage is often buried deep behind legislative walls and release of it is sometimes left entirely to law enforcement agencies’ discretion. When it is released, it’s sometimes missing critical moments and/or features (like audio). Sometimes it’s been captured from useless angles. Sometimes it’s been edited.

On top of that, even the most damning footage can be made useless by frame-by-frame analysis — a process that turns the recording into an abstraction that can be made to “show” whatever the person presenting it wants it to show. This tactic dates all the way back to the Rodney King beating more than 25 years ago.

And it’s not as though the footage can’t be exonerating as often as it is damning. But a lot of that depends on the mindset and actions of the officers wearing them. That’s what Sheriff Gonzales is really worried about: the footage might show his officers are as out of control as the public believes they are. But imagine being in the Sheriff’s shoes: holding so much power but so afraid of the people he serves.

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Comments on “Sheriff Says He Won't Deploy Body Cameras Because He Doesn't Want His Deputies Criticized”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“…you need to stop being a public servant.”

THE PUBLIC, elected me, and Will of The People rules. If they wanted legal and fair, they’d ‘a’ voted for the other guy. The voters want me, The Fascist Enforcer, who holds down the taxpayers’ costs of policing by keeping the press, public defenders, and teary-eyed social justice warriors out of police business wherever possible.


Re: Re: Re:

It takes a special kind of person to be accused of illegally violating people’s rights, and then to respond not by denying the claims, but by saying “sure, but they were asking for it.”

In some ways, the honesty is refreshing. “Ok fine, I’m not accountable. But let’s be honest, accountability isn’t that great.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sounds like Judge Dredd

“taxpayers’ costs of policing”

LOL – that’s a good one.
The sole purpose of the police is to protect the rich folk and their corporate masters (used to be rounding up the run away slaves). This “service” is paid for by all taxpayers within the jurisdiction, some are rich but not many.

So, yes – stopping the press, public defenders and the SJWs is the unwritten part of their job description.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"The only lopsided, one-sided story allowed is OURS."

"Gives a lopsided, one-sided story, which I think is a disservice to the whole community," Gonzales said.

Why yes, when the only thing people have to go on is what your officers say that does present a ‘lopsided, one-sided story’, a problem the cameras are intended to help decrease.

If his officers are really the shining beacons of virtue that he seems to want people to think they are then cameras would help show this. The only way they would be problematic is if the criticism was valid and he doesn’t want video evidence of misconduct/murder to confirm this.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Sheriff has nothing to worry about. He must not be aware that these cameras have a built-in feature of *magically* malfunctioning and will automatically stop recording the instant something bad is about to happen. Cops who wear body cameras know this. It’s kind of like Robocop’s [classified] prime directive.

David says:

Well, if video evidence would be one-sided

that means that every time there has been word against word in court, video evidence would have conspired to show the word of the officer as belonging to an alternate reality.

I have to agree with the sheriff here that employing body cameras in that case would not be the right measure.

Instead every officer needs to get fired, every verdict based on their evidence reversed, and a new force hired. It would make sense to equip those with body cameras just to make sure that kind of policing does not repeat.

But the current force sure sounds like a lost cause.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Well, if video evidence would be one-sided

A new force wouldn’t help. The problem isn’t that the police act like criminals, the problem is that they are allowed to act like criminals. Body cams won’t help either as long as the policy (official or not) is to cover up crimes by cops if at all possible. What you need is someone at the top who gives a shit and will hold people accountable.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

A bigger disservice happening is the amount of money his out of control department is going to cost the tax payers.

Cameras are everywhere, people have them in their pockets that shoot with a clarity you wouldn’t believe.

So if you just want to have the only side of the story be the public’s holding the camera more power to you. I guess the big reason would be what in the hell could possibly justify that officer hanging out the window pointing a gun at a citizen. So we have to draw our conclusions from the image we have, a reckless cop decided he might shoot someone for doing a wheelie. When questioned he deployed the age old cop defense of I was scared for my life… and somehow you let him write this in a report?

There is no possible threat posed by the biker heading away from you, the only threat is that officer holding a gun on an unarmed person he’s not even trying to arrest for pissing him off.

Citizens in this town need to get their heads out of their collective asses & replace the chief. It hasn’t happened to you yet, so its not really happening isn’t reality. Do you want the change now or after the cop draws on your child & fires because he was afraid the 15 yr old was going to over power him and steal a nuclear weapon.

JoeCool (profile) says:

What happened?

When I lived in Houston, Texas, a few decades back, I knew officers who hadn’t fired their gun ONCE in 20 years, except at the gun range. I knew one who had only DRAWN his gun once in 20 years. Albuquerque certainly isn’t any bigger than Houston was then, and Houston had it own share of gangs and “bad parts” of the city. It seems the biggest change is the training and accountability. Today’s officer spends 99% of their time training to shoot to kill, and 1% on actual police work. They don’t seem to be accountable to anyone… they certainly act like it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What happened?

Police will LIE left and right to get you to say things! They make up their own laws. They have their own standby’s to get you if they want like Resisting Arrest!!!

The biggest problem is the UNIONS that do everything they can to protect all the bad PIGS. Which is most ALL police. because if you’re a so-called good one, yet stand there while the thug PIG is stepping all over someone’s rights, and making up B.S. laws and so on and so on. You’re just as bad. It’s all about that Thin Blue Line. That needs to go.

The police whip out their guns and just shoot people. You know you’re 9 times more likely to be killed by a Cop than a Terrorist!!!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Fun history fact...

An awful lot of mobs, mafias and organized criminal gangs emerged because the authorities at the time we not doing their jobs but were oppressing / bullying the commoners, robbing and murdering them at will. Eventually, the people started crowdfunding champions to resist the lord’s conscripts (or the church’s pikes) and protection rackets were born.

Given that Trump likes the US Sheriffs, they’re taking liberties with how they do their jobs. They’re part of Trump’s army now. (In contrast to the US Army or other servants of the United States).

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trump's army now

It’s true. We had been seeing police militarization get worse with time from through the Bush and Obama administrations, though it’s hard to say if brutality was less of a problem
(Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to believe police brutality was of major concern.) Or just that we’ve become aware of it in this age of eyes.

Still, in Obama’s last year mechanations were beginning to start some reform, and the chiefs were saying that police behavior was sabotaging public trust. But that all ended when Trump got elected.

So it’s not to say Trump is to blame for the whole thing, though he has been encouraging asset forfeiture, loose cannon enforcement, abuse of nonwhites, especially suspected undocumented immigrants, and prioritizing nonwhite crime over white crime. And the Sheriffs, CBP and ICE are all allied with Trump, not the United States, having shown as much by defying court orders regarding policy on the field.

Does that apportion blame to your liking?

dcfusor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Trump's army now

Ah, the (dis)advantages of age. You evidently only go back as far as Bush (2?). I go back to just after Eisenhower. The America I grew up in would be ashamed of the one we have now, it’s only gotten incrementally worse, like the boiled frog, since I was a kid. The idea that either political team or any one personality can fix what’s wrong is utterly false, they all fail in one way or another, kind of ratcheting in the direction of “worse” in a divergent process. Government responds to the people degrading by degrading them more, and the loop is complete. We are now at full “don’t get caught” instead of “don’t do wrong” and it’s happened over the timescale I’ve witnessed first hand.
Fix the problem, fixing the blame doesn’t really help, there’s plenty go around anyway.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump's army now

You’re not Anonymous Coward above.

At least according to my non-white friends, the police were pretty awful throughout the 20th century, at least to them. Now they’ll lay into anyone who probably can’t afford a lawyer, no matter the color.

It was in the Aughts that I learned that SWAT, what was a unit used exclusively for hostage-barricade, was highly trained and usually kept in metropolitan areas, is now volunteers from the precinct, and now will bust into (and bust up) a house just to serve a warrant or on an anonymous drug tip.

So…the more things change the more they stay the same?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump's army now

Not only have things gotten worse, but I think the flow of information got better – and that is now under attack because some people want to turn back the clock to when they did not have to worry about being caught doing their little nefarious schemes … and all the while blame you, the little guy for all the bad stuff that happens to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

We need mandatory bodycams

They need to be running every moment that a police officer is on duty — NO exceptions — and the data needs to be encrypted, so that police can’t view it and can’t tamper with it. In Baltimore, police have been caught repeatedly faking evidence discovery because they have the ability to turn the cameras on/off at will…so no more “off” switches for them.

Injecting some reality..... says:

Re: We need mandatory bodycams

While the sentiment is easy to agree to, do you really understand the implications of what you’re saying?

First, let’s address that encryption doesn’t fix the ‘tampering’ issue you’re rightly concerned about. An encrypted file can be changed just like an unencrypted file can. Which leads to the underlying problem you’re ignoring —

Who pays for and owns this infrastructure for always-on?

You’re basically advocating a policing of the police, which fundamentally I’m fine with, but at some point that then becomes a military, because the only way to do that is to do it at the Federal level. It would take Federal money and Federal mandates to pay for the amount of storage, network, and other physical infrastructure components required to accomplish 100% always on and not have it stewarded by the police departments themselves. Now you’ve just added to the corrupt bureaucracy that will change on the whim of whatever dimwit is elected by the sheeples believing billboards and half-time ads from corrupt candidates.

‘Big-brothering’ Big Brother with Big Brother? It doesn’t work. There is no practical or realistic way to interject this sort of universal always on, because just having it on doesn’t matter — you have to review every second of every day to find malfeasance.

Look at the logistics. Let’s assume 1 million sworn officers in the US (rounding up from the stats a quick google action gave me). Each of those officers works an 8 hour, on the street shift per day. That’s 8 million hours of video, since they’re always on. Per day. Let’s assume 720p quality, which for sake of argument we’ll say is 2.5GB per hour to store. That’s roughly 20PB of storage needed PER DAY. Most companies that create lots of electronic data are considered LARGE if they can create 1PB of data a YEAR. Oh, and that doesn’t include the audio components, since I’m sure you’d want to monitor the chit-chat between partners to insure no conspiracies are building, correct?

Then, how do we review 8 million hours of daily video? AI and Machine Learning could help us with that to an extent, but not all of it. Maybe it could get rid of half the video by recognizing it was useless “grabbing a bite to eat” stuff, but what again, about the audio? Perhaps AI and ML could help here, too, but again, not with all of it.

How many people does it take to review all that footage so that we can insure our LEOs aren’t building up to a problem and we can prevent it, since we aren’t only about reactionary proof and evidentiary presentation, are we? We are actually seeking to fix the problems, right? And what about the personal privacy of the officers? You don’t lose your right to privacy entirely because you wear a gun and badge. Who polices the policers not mis-using footage of an officer in the restroom, or talking to their spouse or child on the phone during a down moment in the day? It’s a snow-balling effect created by a breach of responsibility and trust.

The problem with this sort of argument is it, as we so frequently do today, absolves any of us from personal responsibility and accountability and puts it into the ‘hands’ of some technology. Technology is not the answer to anything. It is a tool, nothing more. Put into the hands of someone with nefarious intentions, it is an instrument of evil. Put into the hands of someone with altruistic or intentions to serve, it is a tool of power. Think about a scalpel as an example.

Cameras don’t stop people from being brutish oafs with no sense of service or regard for human life. People who genuinely care enough to change the system and put themselves out there, sacrificing job, reputation, perhaps even their lives are the solution. Mindless ideological following without personal accountability is what leads to these situations, and reversing that is the only way to fix it.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: We need mandatory bodycams

2.5GB/hr for 720P? What rock have you been hiding under the last decade? Compression has that down to 1/10th that for high quality. Second, we don’t need to review EVERY SECOND of video for everybody – you record it all, then go back and review only those that had a complaint registered. Ditto for saving the video… you don’t save it forever, only a month or two. Again, you are only keeping the video in case a complaint arises, or if it’s needed for investigative purposes.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: We may need more than that.

For starters:

~ Multiple cams per officer pointing to the front, back and sides.

~ A third party institution that doesn’t like the police very much, and manages the cam footage for any courts and contestants that might need it.

~ No immunity for any officer who started a duty shift with a malfunctioning cam.

It’s a nice dream.

Anonymous Coward says:

Professional and Constitutional Policing

_In addition to the shootings, a deputy was caught on camera pointing a gun at a motorcyclist. This incident occurred while both the motorcyclist and the deputy were in motion, with the deputy pointing his gun out the passenger-side window. The deputy claimed he was “in fear of an immediate and impending battery.”_

Where in the world have you been deputy Barney Fife?

Does _ Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales_ allow you to carry one bullet like Andy Griffith did in Mayberry?

Personanongrata says:

Professional and Constitutional Policing?

In addition to the shootings, a deputy was caught on camera pointing a gun at a motorcyclist. This incident occurred while both the motorcyclist and the deputy were in motion, with the deputy pointing his gun out the passenger-side window. The deputy claimed he was "in fear of an immediate and impending battery."

Where in the world have you been deputy Barney Fife?

Does Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales allow you to carry one bullet like Andy Griffith did in Mayberry?

Cowboys and adrenaline junkies have no place enforcing the law as they are a danger to themselves and the communities they serve.

Cowboys and adrenaline junkies belong at rodeos and B.A.S.E. jumping exhibitions.

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