Long publicly opposed to body-worn cameras for his deputies, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales this week announced an alternative proposal using smartphones, following a law passed by the special session of the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
At a press conference streamed live on Facebook, Gonzales and others in his department laid out what the sheriff called a parallel proposal, calling the body-camera requirement and unfunded mandate.
Gonzales said the department has already purchased 173 cell phones and said he would be making a proposal to the county manager. “I don’t see us going with this antiquated stuff, body-worn cameras, at all,” he said.
Undersheriff Sid Covington said the department is looking for a sustainable, long term solution that is easy to use, and said the smartphone system is that.
While body cameras can be purchased for about $50, Covington said there are “huge” hidden costs, starting with data storage, and time spent redacting personal information out of video before it is released.
He said for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office that would amount to 49,000 hours annually, and a “hidden cost of $1.4 million.”
He estimated nine additional positions would need to be created.
The department is checking out different apps and has not decided on one yet.
“It takes time,” Gonzales said, adding that the department’s social media took “about four years to be where we’re at now.”
Asked if deputies would be required to wear those smartphones with the camera facing out, Gonzales said, “We don’t have a policy yet.”
Asked if the proposal would result in cost savings, Gonzales said the department won’t know until it makes a selection. “We’re going to do our due diligence and put our best foot forward,” he said.
After the department makes a selection, it must go through a procurement process that takes 90 days, he said.