The Albuquerque, NM Police Department came under fire back in April of this year when a Department of Justice investigation concluded that its officers had been engaging in a pattern of excessive force. As Reason notes, the 500,000 person city has suffered 41 officer-involved shootings, 27 of which were fatal, over the past four years alone, including a highly-publicized caught-on-video incident in which officers fatally shot homeless camper James Boyd, who appeared to pose no threat to police at the time.
In February of this year, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry appointed Gorden Eden, who promised to clean up the department in advance of the DOJ’s investigation, to the position of police chief. Now, Reuters is reporting that Chief Eden has fired Albuquerque Police Officer Jeremy Dear for four incidents in which he allegedly either refused to turn on or disabled his body camera. As the above-embedded video by KOAT-7 notes, Dear is the third officer to be fired by Chief Eden since he took over as head of the Albuquerque Police Department.
In one of the incidents, which, according to Annabelle Bamforth at BenSwann.com, led to the investigation into his use of body cameras and took place on April 21, Officer Dear’s camera had been disabled before he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was allegedly attempting to flee police on foot. Officer Dear claimed that Mary Hawkes pointed a gun at him prior to the fatal shooting. In another incident, Dear’s camera was reportedly disabled when he was involved in a brawl with a suspect in January of 2013. A citizen also accused Dear of kicking him in the groin during a February 2013 traffic stop. Once again, the officer’s camera was disabled.
Albuquerque police officers are required to wear body cameras, but, according to Albuquerque Journal, the DOJ investigation concluded that police were violating the policy without facing consequences. Chief Eden’s firing of Officer Dear appears to be an attempt to give teeth to the department’s policy requiring body cameras during all interactions with citizens.
Officer Dear claims that his body camera malfunctioned during the aforementioned incidents. His lawyer Thomas Grover calls Dear’s firing unfair and says that Chief Eden is just trying to use his dismissal as a way to get officers to follow the body camera policy. “If they fire every officer who doesn’t turn on his uniform camera, they won’t have anyone left on the department,” said Grover, describing an environment of rampant insubordination. Grover worries that officers will now be fired when their body cameras malfunction and is appealing Dear’s dismissal.
Chief Eden issued a statement on the incident, which said, “Insubordination tears at the fabric of public safety especially when the officer makes a choice not to follow a lawful order… In imposing the discipline of termination, I considered the seriousness of the acts and omissions, aggravating circumstances and Officer Dear’s disciplinary record.”