By DAVID CORREIA
Local news outlets reported this week that the Albuquerque Police Department recently spent $68,000 on the purchase of a portable surveillance trailer.
The solar-powered trailer is equipped with a 30-foot extendable boom with four cameras that can sustain
audio and video feeds for up to 30 days.
APD Chief Ray Schultz, under recent fire for heading a department that has killed 17 people since 2010, said at a news conference on Monday that the mobile boom was necessary after a series of malfunctions with officer lapel cameras at the SWAT standoff on June 20 that resulted in the death of Santiago Chavez. As we previously reported, APD claims the twenty-year-old Chavez put a gun to his head after a lengthy shoot-out with police.
Two years ago the department spent $83,000 for 650 lapel cameras. Schultz claimed that the decision to purchase the boom was because the lapel cameras malfunctioned during the Chavez standoff.
Schultz’s claim that he’s only recently been made aware of limitations in the lapel camera program are contradicted by recent reports that reveal Schultz dragged his feet releasing the lapel cameras.
In the first year after purchasing the cameras, Schultz issued only 50 of the 650 lapel cameras. While all of the lapel cameras are now in service, recent requests by citizens for access to lapel camera recordings of fatal police shootings reveal that APD officers either rarely turn the cameras on or, perhaps more likely, are being buried by APD officials.
More than a dozen APD officers responded to a June 10, 2010 call, for example, that resulted in the officer shooting death of Chris Hinz. Despite the fact that every responder had lapel cameras, only one audio recording exists of the shooting.
Recent requests for lapel camera recordings of fatal APD shootings have so far been met with a blue wall of silence.
La Jicarita is still waiting to hear back from the City of Albuquerque after we made an official request for information on March 28 of this year on all APD video and audio recordings taken immediately preceding, during and immediately after the killings of Daniel Tillison of March 19, 2012 and Gary Atencio on March 21, 2012. The request included any and all recordings made with the responding officers’ lapel recorders, belt recorders, vehicle dash camera recorders and all recordings made of the officers’ tactical radio transmissions on each APD area command frequency used. APD officers, according to standard operating procedures, are required to make these recordings.
On the same days as our request, City Clerk Amy Bailey promised a response within 15 days.
On April 11, 2012 APD records custodian Reynaldo L. Chavez promised that he was working with the City Clerk to finalize our request. “We will be advising you who to contact at evidence and set up a time that is convenient for you as well as their staff.”
This is the last La Jicarita has heard from APD.
Meanwhile, APD Chief Schultz hopes to buy his way out of hot water through increased citizen surveillance to go along with increased police violence.