Will increased lapel camera usage help officers or distract them from performing their duties?
Newly Added Standard Operating Procedure Begins Trial Period
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The Albuquerque Police Department has a new lapel camera policy that requires all uniformed department personnel to wear body cameras and to record certain types of contacts with citizens.
The policy, known as Standard Operating Procedure 1-39, calls for the mandatory recording of eight types of incidents, including all use-of-force encounters, traffic stops, arrests, search warrants of buildings, vehicle searches and contacts with people known to have a mental illness.
The SOP became effective March 31, and expires on September 27, when it will be reviewed.
The policy seeks to gain public trust that incidents will be recorded, and allay the fears of police officers that everything they say and do while on duty will be recorded. For instance, non-recordable instances include “personal activities or private conversations of department personnel that do not involve calls for service or contact with individuals,” conversations between officers about case strategy or tacticsm and places where officers would expect privacy like locker rooms, restrooms and hospitals.
Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby said that, while the new policy is a good start, cops need more discretion, not less, as when to turn on their cameras.
“I think it’s better than the policy we’re coming from, but officers need to have more discretion than the policy allows,” Willoughby said. “When things happen in police work, they happen fast. I don’t want officers worrying about their cameras when they should be dealing with a threat.
“There are far more questions with regard to the legalities of citizens’ rights than there are answers, and those will have to be addressed by the [U.S.] Supreme Court.”
The new policy says that officers “shall not stop recording in response to an individual’s request if the recording is required by this policy.” It also says that cops are responsible for ensuring that their cameras are working properly before beginning their shifts.
Dennis Domrzalski is news editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo credit: krqe.com)
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