Santa Fe Police Officer Landislas Szabo brought his own digital camera to work and snapped at least 189 photographs of protesters, journalists and bystanders on the Plaza during a protest against the Fiestas Entrada pageant two weeks ago.
Police spokesperson Greg Gurule says Szabo took the photos "without prompting from the department."
"The photos were on the card in his camera and never turned in to our evidence room," Gurule tells SFR by email. But in a second email, Gurule says Szabo provided access to the images after SFR filed a public records request seeking them.
Gurule also says the photos are not currently in the SFPD's possession and remain on Szabo's personal memory card because they are not part of an investigation.
The SFPD standard operating procedure "encourages the use of digital and audio recorders" for its officers, including as an aid in criminal prosecutions. It says officers may utilize recording devices to document officer contact with the public and to assist in the conviction of a suspect, among other purposes.
But the use of a personal camera by officers is discouraged, according to Gurule. The standard operating procedure says the department is not responsible for the maintenance of personal cameras.
If "the personal item, the camera in this case, is used during the performance of the officer's regular duties the material becomes [property] of the police department," Gurule writes. "In this case there was no evidentiary value to the material."
Some of the photographs may have evidentiary value for people facing charges after being arrested at the event, however, since they provide an overhead view of events before and after they were handcuffed. That means the photos could become part of discovery process wherein defendants are provided with evidence prosecutors plan to use in their criminal trials.
Attorney Dan Cron, who is coordinating a defense team for eight people arrested at the Entrada protests, calls it a "deficiency" that Santa Fe police don't have a clear policy about officers' personal camera use on duty.
"If you're on duty, and you're taking photographs, they're evidence, and they need to get tagged into the evidence room," Cron says.
In addition to demonstrators, Szabo also took photographs of several individuals, including journalists, who were holding cameras and appeared to be documenting the event or otherwise not taking an active part in the demonstration.
Gurule denies that Szabo targeted specific individuals for photographing.
The photographs also confirm that officers on the roofs were armed with high-powered rifles. Gurule says SWAT personnel stationed atop the building at 53 Old Santa Fe Trail and the Palace of the Governors possessed standard issue Glock 35s and AR-15s, plus Remington 700 rifles.
After reviewing photographs obtained by SFR, Kevin Jarnagin, an in-house gun expert and content manager at Gun Talk Media, says the rifles police had with them were bolt-action sniper rifles.
"These are very standard setups," Jarnagin says. "Most urban SWAT teams will have one of these. The length of the barrels indicate they likely would be used to shoot a short distance."
More photographs can be viewed at the SFR Facebook page.
Matt Grubs contributed reporting.
Story has been updated with comment from attorney Dan Cron.