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New Mexico mandates body cameras in wake of protests

The reforms apply to local and state law enforcement officers with the exception of tribal governments


New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives an update on the COVID-19 outbreak in the state Capitol during a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M. on April 15, 2020.

Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool,File

Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico will require that all state and local police officers wear body cameras in response to concern about excessive use of force by law enforcement, under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The reforms apply to local and state law enforcement officers with the exception of tribal governments. Law enforcement agencies must archive body camera footage for at least 120 days.

The state’s Democrat-led legislature approved the policing reforms during a four-day special session in June that also focused on closing a state government budget deficit.

Lujan Grisham first called for mandatory police body cameras amid demonstrations set off by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces has invoked the death of Antonio Valenzuela at the hands of Las Cruces police officers in a video-recorded encounter in February that has led to charge of involuntary manslaughter against one officer.

Police agencies that flout the new body-camera requirement can sued for withholding evidence.

Until now, at least a half-dozen sheriff’s departments in New Mexico have gone without body cameras — including the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department that oversees the state’s most populous county encompassing Albuquerque.

The newly signed bill also includes sanctions for police convicted for unlawful use of force or failure to stop excessive force by colleagues — permanently revoking police certification unless the conviction is pardoned by the governor.

New Mexico is in the process of creating a civil rights commission to consider changes to qualified immunity provisions that protect police officers from lawsuits alleging misconduct.