Alibi V.29 No.28 • July 9-15, 2020 

Council/Commission Watch

County Camera & Catch Up

Wide open spaces, body cameras and mental health accolades were on the docket

Big brother watches ...themselves?
Big brother watches ...themselves?
/ CC AS 2.0

Bernalillo County Commission set aside $1 million bucks plus for proposed sheriff department body cameras at their June 30th meeting. The million was matched by another $500,000 a year in recurring funding to upgrade equipment and store the camera footage. The money will be ready to go when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signs into law the statewide body cam legislation passed a couple of weeks ago by the State Legislature.

State lawmakers passed the bill, and it now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting her signature. The bill makes it mandatory for all New Mexico law enforcement officers to not only wear cameras but activate them when responding to calls. Departments will have 90 days after it is signed to comply and implement policies for the camera’s usage. The statewide bill also requires the revocation of certification of any officer convicted of unlawful use of force.

Sheriff Manny Gonzales has been outspoken about his resistance to county deputies using cameras. He has also said he would rather use the money to hire more deputies. A department study done last year by an outside group showed that there were actually enough deputies to cover the county’s call load. The department is authorized to have 314 sworn deputies and 201 full/part-time non-sworn employees. At the time of the study, there was only one sworn position open. The department has an annual budget of $52 million in general fund dollars.

According to the county’s fiscal impact statement, each camera costs about $795, with an annual cost of $4,920 for storage. Currently, deputies wear belt audio recorders. Sheriff Gonzales has said there is no proof that body-worn cameras work to protect the public any better than no cameras. To which a representative from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said that if the cameras are not going to do anything, and the Sheriff has nothing to hide, then he and his deputies should wear the body cams. County Commissioner Steven Quezada said he has listened to both sides, and it is in the interest of transparency, protecting the rights of citizens and even possibly saving the careers of the deputies. Mic drop.

Go Out Into Open Space

The County Commissioner proclaimed July as Open Space Month to encourage citizens to check out, with masks and social distancing, the many open space areas in and around the Bernalillo County/Albuquerque metro area. The proclamation says that getting outside in open space is vitally important to the citizens of Bernalillo County and establishes a quality of life, health and contributes to the economic and overall well-being of the community. Bernalillo County lists 17 open space properties with over 1,240 acres. Albuquerque boasts another dozen or so open space properties as well. Check out the counties list here bernco.gov/community-services/properties-overview-.aspx and the Burque list here cabq.gov/parksandrecreation/open-space/lands.

Behavioral Health Accolades

The folks who work in the Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Department were awarded with some awesome national accolades for initiating and implementing programs for those struggling with addiction, mental and behavioral health issues. Five programs department programs were honored:

•The Supportive Aftercare Program that collaborates with the other county departments in the heart of the International District to show area residents how to access community resources and use them as part of their overall well being while living in a sober community.

•The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program where law enforcement officers can use their common sense discretionary authority to divert individuals suspected of low level, non-violent crime that was driven by an unmet behavioral health need into community-based health services instead of arrest, jail and prosecution.

•The Narcan/Naloxone Harm Reduction Program that expands the outreach efforts to curb the opioid overdose deaths by education and widespread distribution of the life-saving overdose drug Naloxone or Narcan. Pick up some from your local pharmacist; it is easy to use, you can get it for almost free, and you may be able to save someone from an overdose from any type of opioid use.

•The Needle Mapping Program that uses data from where loose needles are being found and reported to be see where street usage is happening and respond to that area.

•The Youth Transitional Living Services Program, which ensures that transition-age young citizens who have a behavioral health condition or substance abuse diagnosis are not lost in the system and stay engaged in community and housing services as they move into adulthood. This is a critical period of time for at-risk youth who often fall through the cracks.

The honors were given by the National Association of Counties and recognize the hard work of those who put their words and hands into action by helping these vulnerable neighbors. The Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Initiative was launched in 2014 along with a one-eighth of one person tax that county voters approved to put on themselves to fund programs and initiatives to address helping our citizens. For more information or to get involved check out: bernco.gov/Department-Behavioral-Health-Services/about-the-initiative.aspx.

The Bernalillo County Commission will not meet during July. They will be back, unless a special meeting has to be called, at 5 p.m. August 11th.

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com.