N.M. county inks $3.8M deal for body cameras

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office is now close to compliance with a new state law that requires bodycams for LEOs

By Jessica Dyer
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The deal is finally done.

Bernalillo County has signed a service agreement to outfit Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office personnel with body-worn cameras — and, in some cases, vehicle recording systems — though it remains unclear when deputies will start using them in the field.

The county on Wednesday signed the five-year agreement with Georgia-based Utility Associates Inc. It calls for 363 smartphone-based body-worn cameras, enough to cover every certified law enforcement officer in the department, even those who work primarily in administrative services or headquarters. In addition, the department will get rear- and front-facing camera equipment for 148 vehicles.

The department — which has faced criticism for not adopting body-worn cameras earlier — is now close to compliance with a new state law that requires them for law enforcement officers who have routine contact with the public.

"This is a historic step for Bernalillo County, and the protection of our deputies and the citizens of the county," County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said in a statement Wednesday.

A BCSO spokeswoman said the cameras are expected to arrive Dec. 7, but there is no established date for in-the-field implementation. The department needs training on the new equipment and still must hire four new tech services employees to handle what spokeswoman Jayme Fuller called the "back-end" functions, such as evidence storage and answering public records requests for footage.

"We certainly wouldn't be able to make the program work before the four positions are in place," she said.

The $3.8 million deal comes after weeks of negotiations among county administrators, the Sheriff's Office and the camera company.

An initial proposal presented to county leadership in October included 380 body-worn camera setups and 444 vehicle systems. It would have cost $6.1 million. BCSO officials contended it was important to outfit every sworn officer in the department, including those in administration. But Morgas Baca said the county did not have that much money and suggested an initial order with enough gear to cover deputies who work in the field.

BCSO says it has 203 people assigned to field services but a total of 345 positions for sworn officers.

Fuller said the scaled-back deal limited vehicle units but provided enough body-worn cameras for all sworn personnel. The new state law does not require cameras inside law enforcement vehicles, but BCSO will prioritize giving the ones it gets under this deal to those who work in the field, Fuller said.

The new agreement with Utility Associates also includes 24/7 tech support and a $200 allowance for every body-worn camera for special uniforms meant to hold the devices.

The county will cover the smartphone SIM cards in a separate contract, which will cost about $450,000 over the five years, Deputy County Manager Lisa Sedillo-White said.

NEXT: How to buy body-worn cameras (eBook)

(c)2020 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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