BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — Officials in a New Mexico town deny wrongdoing in the installation of a hidden surveillance camera in a police office used by a now-former police sergeant who says her expectation of privacy was violated.
An attorney for the former Bernalillo Police Department sergeant, Monica Torres, has formally notified the town that Torres intends to file a lawsuit alleging violation of a New Mexico law requiring consent from at least one person in a recording, KRQE-TV reported.
Video obtained by KRQE showed a town worker installing the video camera in an air conditioning vent under the direction of Police Chief Broderick Sharp and a police lieutenant when Torres was on vacation in November 2020.
“I freaked out,” Torres recalled to KRQE about when an office visitor spotted the camera a week or two later. “I had changed (clothes) numerous times in there,”
KRQE reported that it obtained records of a New Mexico State Police investigation prompted by a complaint by Torres.
Video from the hidden camera showed a male sergeant shutting the door to change clothes inside the office, KRQE reported.
The State Police investigation ended by concluding that no crime had been found. The matter was submitted to the District Attorney’s Office of the 13th Judicial District for review. That office said a special prosecutor would decide whether to file charges.
Bernalillo officials said in a statement that the town “stands by its policies and would like to state that nothing improper was identified on our end.”
Sharp declined to discuss the hidden camera with KRQE because it involved pending litigation, but he told state police agents that the installation of the camera didn’t violate any rules.
“I know for a fact it wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t unethical, it wasn’t immoral, and these guys all have the (town) policy,” Sharp told investigators.
While the office was generally used only by one shift sergeant at a time, Sharp emphasized to state police agents that the office was shared. “It’s not a private office.”
Sharp told agents that he specifically requested placement of a camera with audio in the office because he’d heard there had been problems of theft and fighting in the office.
Torres was fired by Bernalillo after the camera incident over allegedly failing to search a suspect and mischarging the suspect. She denies the allegations and is now a Torrance County deputy.