On Friday, Oct. 14, the Sheriff's Advisory and Review Board (SOARB) for Bernalillo County Sherrif's Department heard public comments on BCSO's involvement in the REELZ TV show "On Patrol: Live." They also asked for comment on "irregular" decals that were found on a BCSO recruitment vehicle. It remains unclear as to how the SOARB and BCSO will use the public's input.
For six hours each week, three hours Friday and three hours Saturday, camera crews film police officers' daily duties as a part of "On Patrol: Live." BCSO is one of 10 police departments participating in the nationally televised show.
During the board's first in-person meeting, members voted to deviate from the agenda and allowed public comment to proceed first.
Among the first to comment was Josephine Medina. Medina was involved in a car accident that BCSO and an "On Patrol: Live" camera crew responded. Medina claimed that she was ignored by deputies and threatened with arrest after a car accident.
Luis Ramirez, Medina's boyfriend, was called by Medina while he performed live music at a restaurant. Ramirez also described what happened at the scene during public comment.
"The was too busy talking to the camera crew producing the show. I had to ask him to go and talk to my girlfriend. When I asked him what the filming was for, he failed to provide a clear answer," Ramirez said. Ramirez also said that he was filmed despite requests to not be by the camera crew. His interaction with the sheriff's department was aired on television.
"We are going to look into that call, and I'm sure they already have, that's out of my purview, but to see what transpired because we do have all of that footage," BCSO Public Information Manager Jayme Fuller said about the incident involving Medina and Ramirez.
"We do have a way that people can hopefully get in touch with us. They can call us, they direct any sort of concerns or information on our social media accounts, we do have a formal complaint link on our website where people can file a formal complaint with hope that it'll be escalated to make a change," Fuller said.
Fuller went on to explain that the department does not want people to feel as if deputies are distracted by the cameras but, if it is an issue, Fuller said that it would be addressed.
At the meeting, others also complained about using BCSO's social media to promote the show and how it depicts the community. A speaker said they felt that it takes away from important public safety updates.
Others were not pleased with the fee that Half Moon Productions LLC, the show's producer, is supposed to pay the county--$1,000 a week--for the use of BCSO's Insignia. According to Fuller, the department and the production company do have a contract, but the county has yet to receive any money from them.
According to the board, the response to BCSO's involvement in the show is a "mixed bag." Some of the online comments that the board received advocated for the show's production, a sentiment reiterated by BCSO.
It's not rare to find Twitter users showing support for "On Patrol: Live" on BCSO's posts promoting the show.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the entire team in action. Keep your cool and be Safe!" One Twitter user wrote in response to a BCSO Tweet that promoted the show.
The second item for public input was the decals on a BCSO recruitment vehicle. The conversation mostly surrounded a Spartan helmet with a Zia symbol and a thin blue line going through it. A tweet by Lucas Herndon, Progress Now New Mexico Environment and Policy Director, was a catalyst that brought the issue to the board.
"Things like the Spartan helmet are extremely recognizable as symbols utilized by far-right, white supremacist and white nationalist groups," Herndon said.
BCSO has said that the images on the recruitment vehicle are class emblems that cadets vote on before graduation. "Our deputies go out every day and they face some unknown circumstances that are sometimes violent and very stressful and we need to have a mindset of survival, not just a mental but a physical mindset of survival. So that's why we end up getting that warrior mentality," a representative for BCSO said.
"Those Viking helmets, I know they meant to suggest strength, and warrior and so forth. But those are Nazi symbols. You may not know this, but this is the hard part about using symbols: they have meanings independent of your meaning," said board member Dr. Dianne Layden, Ph.D. in American Studies, to BCSO representatives at the meeting.
BCSO said that they were not attempting to attract white supremacists or far-right individuals with the decals, but wanted to showcase comradery between cadets.
The use of this imagery is not exclusive to BCSO or New Mexico. A graduating class of Santa Fe's Police Department used a Punisher logo, a Marvel antihero who has become popular with far-right groups, as their class emblem. And a Milwaukee County jail banned officers from wearing anything with Spartan helmets or Punisher imagery due to their far-right associations.
The board did not make any formal recommendations to BCSO after hearing public comments on both issues. What is done with the input "remains to be seen," said the board's chair Tommy Jewell. Jewell explained that the incidents might show up on their annual report.
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