Federal officials on Thursday said they are conducting a criminal investigation of allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees altered and deleted body camera video. The Department of Justice has received “several requests” seeking a criminal probe, Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, said in an emailed response to questions from New Mexico In Depth. “The Justice Department will decline to comment further due to its ongoing investigation into this matter,” Martinez wrote in a rare public confirmation of a federal criminal investigation. APD referred a reporter to Mayor Richard Berry’s spokeswoman for comment. She did not immediately respond.
The Legislature plans to revisit the issue of allowing the rehiring of law enforcement retirees. This development could potentially agitate the current tension existing statewide between the community and law enforcement. In the reintroduction of this bill, the New Mexico public is being betrayed and threatened by the potential reinforcement of these agencies’ perpetuation of a “culture of war”—specifically an “Us vs. Them” (law enforcement vs. community) mentality.
The scope of an ongoing federal criminal investigation into events surrounding the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old woman by an Albuquerque police officer in 2014 stretches beyond what has been previously reported. That’s according to the lead investigator for the city’s independent police watchdog group. Department of Justice officials took the rare step last month of confirming an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower that APD employees tampered with video from officers’ body cameras and other sources, including video from the early morning hours of April 21, 2014, when then-APD officer Jeremy Dear shot Mary Hawkes. But Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA), said in an interview that federal authorities are “looking into the entire case,” including whether the shooting itself was unlawful. In a series of presentations to Justice Department officials in early November, Harness and one of his investigators turned over information they had gathered during an administrative review of the shooting.
New Mexico’s courts face a funding crisis that threatens to undermine the judiciary’s ability to protect our rights by delivering timely justice. We must act now to prevent further damage. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels recently told a legislative committee, “We are now basically on life support through the end of this fiscal year.”
Pete Campos is a Democratic state senator who represents the Las Vegas area. In courthouses across the state, New Mexicans can see the corrosive effects of budget cuts and underfunding of the judiciary. Most magistrate courts are closed to the public for at least half a day each week because the courts are unable to fill vacant staff positions.
Albuquerque Police Department officials have altered and, in some cases, deleted videos that showed several controversial incidents, including at least two police shootings, the department’s former records supervisor has alleged in a sworn affidavit. Three officers’ body camera videos that captured events surrounding the fatal shooting of 19-year-old suspected car thief Mary Hawkes in April 2014 were either altered or partially deleted, according to former APD employee Reynaldo Chavez’s nine-page affidavit. Also alleged is that surveillance camera video from a salon showing APD officers shooting Jeremy Robertson, a law enforcement informant and suspected probation violator, in June 2014 bore “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.”
This piece originally appeared at NM In Depth and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. Chavez also said that ‘SD cards’ from cameras were easy to make disappear, and that he witnessed Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman say ‘we can make this disappear’ when discussing a particular police camera with an SD card in it, according the affidavit.
Protesters, disappointed with a mistrial in the case of two Albuquerque police officers, blocked traffic, chanted and had a few tense moments with police Wednesday night in downtown Albuquerque. The protesters, under 100 at the peak and almost a quarter that by the end of the protest hours later, began at the 2nd Judicial District courthouse, before marching to the police station. After returning to the courthouse, protesters briefly clashed with police wearing tactical gear. Reporters saw pushing and shoving between the two groups. Police eventually got protesters to retreat to the sidewalk next to the courthouse without any arrests.
Earlier, we let you know what happened over the first weekend of the special session. The last 24 hours of this year’s special session were crammed with action as the House sought to finish their work before the Senate was forced to come back Thursday shortly before noon. NM Political Report was there from the beginning of the the special session last Friday, through the 21-hour House marathon that spanned from Wednesday morning to early Thursday morning and when the Senate adjourned sine die for the second time—this time putting an end to the chaotic special session. Here are the stories from NM Political Report on from Wednesday and Thursday at the special session. Senate accepts House budget changes, ends special session
House passes ‘sweeps’ bill to address budget deficit
House sends death penalty reinstatement to the Senate
House debates on whether to debate death penalty in the early, early morning
Bill to slash budget passes House
Critics use same arguments against corporate tax cuts, film incentives
After a marathon all-nighter in the House that mostly involved debate to reinstate the death penalty, the state Senate moved briskly Thursday morning to adopt the House changes to budget fixes and adjourn. The move brought an end to a chaotic special legislative session, which began last Friday. Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, lamented that the Senate did not hear crime bills passed by the House. Yet he spoke highly of the House’s budget compromise with the Senate, which scaled back proposed higher education cuts that singled out the University of New Mexico. “There seemed to be a little bit of overemphasis on popping UNM a little too hard,” Ingle told reporters after the session.
After a three hour debate before the sun rose on Thursday morning, the House voted to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico on a narrow vote. The 36-30 party-line vote came after emotional testimony and debate, largely from Democrats. The proposal now heads to the Senate, though it appears very unlikely that the chamber will take up the effort before the end of the special session. Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, introduced her bill by listing the five police officers who were killed while on duty in the last 18 months, then listing some of the children who were murdered in recent months. Her proposal would only apply, Youngblood said, “When a child is murdered, when a law enforcement officer is murdered or a corrections officer is murdered.”
The debate came after two hours of debate on an appeal by Democrats that the public was not given enough time ahead of time to be told the House would consider the bill.
The Albuquerque Journal continues to releases pieces of its recent poll of likely New Mexico voters. The poll was conducted by Albuquerque-based Research and Polling, Inc.
In one question, the Journal showed about two-thirds of New Mexicans want to bring back the death penalty for those “convicted of killing children police officers or correctional officers.” That is the proposal that’s currently in front of the Legislature during the special session, and which the House will hear later this week. That showed 65 percent supported the death penalty in those situations, while 28 percent opposed. This comes even as a Pew Research Center poll found the support for the death penalty nationwide is the lowest in decades. That question, however, did not delve into the specific crimes, only asking about murder in general.
A bill aimed at bringing back the death penalty in New Mexico passed the House Appropriations and Finance committee along party lines after five hours of scrutiny from skeptical Democratic lawmakers. Missing on Monday evening, when compared to a previous committee hearing on the subject,was the emotional and tearful testimony from families of victims of criminals. The House Appropriations and Committee’s contentious tone started from the very beginning when Chairman Larry Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, encouraged panel members to only speak about the fiscal aspects of the bill. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, called the request “inappropriate.”
“I’m going to call this for what it is,” Steinborn said. “A farce.”
The committee amended the bill to change controversial language, including removing the word “retarded” from the bill.