Body camera videos that captured police involved shootings were altered or deleted by Albuquerque Police Department officials, according to court documents filed late last month by the department’s former records supervisor.
Reynaldo Chavez’s nine page affidavit alleges that video recorded during the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes in April 2014 was tampered with by department personnel.
Chavez says that department officials talked about how easy it was to “make this disappear” when talking about police video. He also says officers were instructed to write reports only after videos had been reviewed, so that they could write the report around what was documented.
“If the videos contained images that were ‘problematic’ for the Department, the officer was instructed not to mention that there was a recording in the report and/or state that the recording equipment had malfunctioned or that the officer had failed to engage the recorder,” Chavez says.
In another police involved shooting captured on video, Chavez says that it had “the 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.” Albuquerque police shot Robertson, a police informant, in June 2014.
Chavez says that city attorneys told him to “deny, withhold, obstruct, conceal, or even destroy records … telling me that records would not be released without any explanation other than ‘this won’t be released’ or words to that effect.”
When he told a supervisor that altering video evidence was unlawful, he says then-deputy city attorney Kathy Levy told him she was “handling the situation.”
Levy told New Mexico In Depth on Friday that wasn’t true. “We never had any such conversation,” Levy said.
Chavez’s attorney said Chavez stands by the affidavit. Chavez, who was fired his position in April 2015, claims he was fired after raising concerns about department orders that forced him to deny public records requests in high profile cases.