In the wake of the Ferguson controversy and other protests over officer-involved shootings in recently, more and more police departments are outfitting officers with body cameras. President Barack Obama even proposed spending around $75 million to help departments buy cameras. But, what happens if the officers don't turn the cameras on? One policeman in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was fired after he failed to record a shooting in which a 19-year-old woman died.
Officer Jeremy Dear shot and killed the woman during an altercation in April. He was wearing a body cam but did not have it turned on, which the Albuquerque Police Department claimed was against direct orders. The department is already under a microscope after the Department of Justice found it "had used a pattern of excessive force."
The issue was highlighted in today's Wall Street Journal, which features a story about a New Mexico police officer who "was fired for allegedly not following an order to record and upload all contacts with citizens," according to the Albuquerque Police Department and the officer's lawyer.
Should Dear have been fired? The situation isn't cut and dry. The officer and police department are giving conflicting accounts of the situation.
Officer Dear is claiming that he didn't turn on his camera because he couldn't. He also says there was never an order given to officers to record all interactions with citizens. But, the APD is saying the opposite. The department is saying that he left the camera off on purpose.
The department says Dear's action was deliberate. “Insubordination tears at the fabric of public safety, especially when the officer makes a choice not to follow a lawful order," said the city's police chief in a statement.
This situation highlights what is likely to be an ongoing problem for departments as they try to increase the use of body cameras. The federal government might help pay for the gadgets, but there are still plenty of questions to answer about how to use the cameras, store the footage and protect the privacy of citizens, businesses and the officers themselves.