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Albuquerque Cops Accused of Deleting and Altering Bodycam Videos

Videos of a least three recent police shootings were allegedly tampered with or erased.

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Albuquerque police deleted and altered body camera videos connected with at least three recent police shootings, a former employee has alleged in a sworn affidavit. Reynaldo Chavez, former records supervisor with the Albuquerque Police Department, alleged that videos recorded from three officers' body cameras during the 2014 shooting of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes were altered or partially deleted. The nine-page affidavit also alleges that surveillance video footage of APD cops shooting law enforcement informant Jeremy Robertson was also altered.

Chavez said that the video of Robertson's shooting, recorded in June 2014, showed “tell-tale signs that it has been altered and images that had been captured are now deleted. One of the deleted images captured the officers shooting Jeremy Robertson.” The supervisor also claims that SD memory cards containing body camera footage were lost, deleted, “bleached,” or altered by police. Chavez also described how police were able to use a website called Evidence.com to “edit lapel camera video in any number of ways,” such as “inserting or blurring images on the videos or by removing images from the video.”

In a third case, where two APD officers are facing murder charges in connection with the shooting of a homeless man, Chavez said that police officials instructed him to “deny, withhold, obstruct, conceal, or even destroy records” relating to the case. Chavez was eventually fired after leading an investigation into unprofessional conduct within the APD's records division. In January, he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, claiming that he was fired after he raised concerns over incidents where his superiors forced him to deny public records requests in high-profile cases.

“These are extremely concerning allegations,” District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said. “This throws everything into question. As prosecutors we have to rely on what we get and the integrity of everyone in the process. These kinds of allegations raise so many questions.” In October of 2014, the Department of Justice reached a court-enforceable settlement with the City of Albuquerque to reform the APD. After a 16 month investigation, the DOJ concluded that a “culture of aggression” within the police force resulted in one of the country's highest rates of police shootings. The DOJ also found that APD “officers have consistently failed to follow the department’s lapel camera policy and have failed to record critical encounters.”