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New Mexico mandates police body cameras in wake of protests

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives an update on the COVID-19 outbreak in the state Capitol in April.
(Eddie Moore / Pool Photo)

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 Democratic-led legislature had approved the policing reforms during a four-day special session in June that also focused on closing a state budget deficit.

Lujan Grisham first called for mandatory police body cameras amid demonstrations set off by George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody.

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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 a charge of involuntary manslaughter against one officer.

Police agencies that flout the new body-camera requirement can be 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, which oversees the state’s most populous county, encompassing Albuquerque.

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The newly signed bill also includes sanctions for police convicted of 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.


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