Wed, 12 Aug 2020

Besieged New Mexico Sheriff Eyes Smartphones as Body Cams

Voice of America
16 Jul 2020, 22:35 GMT+10

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A much-criticized New Mexico sheriff who has led an office facing racial profiling lawsuits and has refused to force deputies to wear body cameras says his office will instead use smartphones.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales told reporters Wednesday he is looking to partner with a company so deputies can put smartphones in their vests and record video.

Last week, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill requiring all law enforcement to wear body cameras. But Gonzales calls the current technology archaic and says it's too costly.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, burst out laughing when told by an Albuquerque Journal reporter of the sheriff's plan.

"So I'm pleased to see the sheriff is finally willing to adopt one of the tools of modern law enforcement," Cervantes told the newspaper. "We passed a law that requires body-worn cameras, so if he wants to do it by duct-taping iPhones on his officers' chests, that's his prerogative, although I think it creates the possibility of becoming a laughingstock."

Gonzales has faced criticism before for refusing to force deputies to wear body cams amid a string of deputy shootings.

Two Black women from Wisconsin are suing Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and two deputies, alleging racial and religious profiling stemming from a traffic stop in July 2017, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The lawsuit comes about five months after Bernalillo County reached a $100,000 settlement with another Black woman who filed a lawsuit against BCSO after she was pulled over three times in 28 days by deputies Patrick Rael and Leonard Armijo, the same deputies named in the new lawsuit, in spring 2017.

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