Valencia County Sheriff's Office to use cell phone body cameras

        

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- It is getting down to the wire for law enforcement departments in New Mexico to equip their officers with body cameras.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed that requirement into state law this summer.

The Valencia County Sheriff's Office announced it will be using cell phones as body cameras.

'We combined the cost, the features, the turnaround time to be up and running with a fully functional program,' said Mark Kmatz, Undersheriff for the Valencia County Sheriff's Office. 'All together and that kind of led us to the decision.'

Kmatz said before the governor signed a law requiring body cameras the department, with 50 sworn deputies, did not have them. He said that was mainly due to budget constraints.

But since July, Kmatz getting them has become priority.

'Trying to find that middle ground between dreaming of a Ferrari and settling for a Camero, you know? We had to find something that's going to serve its purpose and still be good enough quality for the deputies,' said Kmatz. 'So we tried a lot of things, and talked to a lot of people.'

He said the Alamogordo Police Department is using the same technology.

Kmatz said each deputy will have a cell phone camera attached to a vest.

The recorded video will automatically be uploaded to the cloud. Cell signal will have little impact. If there's low signal, video will still roll but will be uploaded when its back in range. And the video will start recording automatically in some situation, triggered by high speed, or if a deputy grabs their gun.

'It does have the holster feature, so when you draw your firearm,' said Kmatz. 'But for everything else the button is going to be exposed. It's actually probably a third the length of the cell phone, it's a big button. It's going to be exposed through the side of the pouch and they would push that to activate it.'

Valencia County Commissioners approved around $107,000 for the android cell phones, application and start-up equipment. But there will be a recurring cost of more than $50,000 for the county.

He said policy is already in place to get those cameras up and running within the 90 day requirement.

'We have it in policy but they're human. They're going to have to learn this new tool. They're going to have to develop that proficiency so that they're not missing those activations. That's probably going to be biggest thing. The software, the hardware very easy. Very self-explanatory,' he said.

The department will be adding one new position to process all of the video evidence.