The acting U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque will hear out local black leaders and their concerns over a massive, 2016 undercover sting operation that “sent shockwaves” through the city’s black community. Acting U.S. Attorney James Tierney agreed to meet in a July 11 letter to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the grassroots Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange. The groups’ leadership contacted Tierney after a series of stories by New Mexico In Depth that examined the operation conducted by the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. The operation scooped up 28 African Americans — out of 103 arrested — or 27 percent, an “alarming” statistic, Dr. Harold Bailey noted in the NAACP’s letter.
A public records request seeking information about the potential use of surveillance technology spurred a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department last week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed the suit against APD in Albuquerque’s district court after the department refused to release policy information about the department’s possible use of devices capable of tracking and extracting data from cellphones.In May the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU filed a records request, asking for the department’s policies and procedures on the use of cell site simulator tracking devices. In response, APD said there were no records pertaining to how many cell site simulators often called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers or Stingrays, the department owned or used. But, APD officials also said any policies and procedures on collecting and storing data from personal cellphones is confidential and cannot be publicly released, and cited an Inspection of Public Records Request exemption. The exemption, the ACLU of New Mexico argued, narrowly exempts information about confidential sources and evidence, not general policies or guidelines.
A unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court opinion this week will allow family members of a man killed by Albuquerque police to seek damages in district court. But, the decision also set a statewide precedent that would allow families to sue for damages even after the time limit for a wrongful death claim expires. All five justices agreed in an opinion filed Monday that the children of Mickey Owings can move forward with a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department for loss of consortium damages, or damages from losing a spouse or parent. Owings was killed by an officer who was part of the now-disbanded Repeat Offender Project unit of APD in 2010. The city’s legal department issued a statement NM Political Report, similar to one issued to the Albuquerque Journal for a story earlier this week, noting that the Owings case will be heard in a lower court.
One week after a Nob Hill nightclub was subjected to homophobic attacks, a group of supporters rallied Sunday morning to support Albuquerque Social Club. Anthony Montaño, who manages the LGBTQ-friendly club, told NM Political Report the harassment began Saturday, April 1, when the club received four threatening phone calls. The next day, Montaño said the harassment continued and the club’s door staffer “felt threatened enough to call the police.”
That evening, two club staffers saw two cars pull up into the parking lot as they were leaving from work. Each car brandished guns, Montaño said, and fired a total of three shots into the air. The staffers ran inside and called the police.
Graffiti of a slur against the LGBT community on a private gay-friendly club in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill prompted police response and outrage from advocates. The graffiti, which said “F— You Fa–,” was scrawled on the walls of the Albuquerque Social Club Monday. Police were called to look into the incident. Albuquerque Police Department officer Fred Duran told NM Political Report the incident sparked additional officer patrols in the area Monday night. He added that police have not found the culprit who wrote the graffiti, which has since been washed off.
A Georgia-based police body camera manufacturer is alleging Albuquerque officials used an “inappropriate and illegal” process to reach a tentative agreement with Taser International Inc. for cameras and online video storage at the state’s largest law enforcement agency. Ted Davis, president and CEO of Utility Associates, Inc., filed a formal protest this week saying Taser’s initial bid of $4.7 million should have been disqualified last year because it did not meet the city’s requirements spelled out in a request for proposals. Chief among Davis’ allegations is that Taser low-balled its initial bid by not including specific prices for cameras and other required equipment — a claim reviewed by a New Mexico In Depth using public records related to the RFP. “That should’ve been it,” Davis said in a telephone interview with NMID from his office in Decatur, Ga. “It should’ve been over at that point.”
Utility Associates would have won the contract because it scored second highest behind Taser among the city’s seven-member selection committee.
Comments from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week that he intends to “pull back on” federal oversight of police departments drew mixed reactions from officers and civil rights advocates in Albuquerque, where a police reform agreement between the city and the Justice Department is nearing the midway point of its third year. Reform proponents told New Mexico In Depth they were troubled by Sessions’ remarks, and they are ready to step in to ensure that APD adheres to constitutional policing if the federal government steps away. The president of the Albuquerque police union, meanwhile, said officers were pleased with the tone of support from the attorney general. The rank and file hope his comments could signal a softening of what they see as the agreement’s more onerous requirements. So far, though, the agreement and its effect on APD personnel have continued unabated since Donald Trump took office on Jan.
After a year of “stonewalling” by federal law enforcement officials, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling for congressional hearings to get to the bottom of why a man who allegedly shot an Albuquerque police officer to death in 2015 was still on the streets at the time. The fourth-year congresswoman, an Albuquerque-based Democrat who is running for governor of New Mexico, also vowed to sponsor a bill that would require the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and other agencies to make regular reports to Congress on their policies for undercover operations and those operations’ outcomes once they’re closed. This piece originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and appears on NM Political Report with permission. Lujan Grisham laid out her plans in an interview with New Mexico In Depth after a town hall meeting in Albuquerque on Feb. 25.
For the second time in two months, Albuquerque’s Jewish Community Center was targeted with a bomb threat today. It was one of at least 10 bomb threats to different JCCs across the country. Fred Duran, a spokesman with the Albuquerque Police Department, said the bomb threat to the Albuquerque location “came through the phone.” JCC staff evacuated the building after the threat came, and APD officers found no bomb inside, according to Duran. Everything at the JCC is currently operating “back to normal,” Duran added. Similar bomb threats were directed against JCCs today in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, New York and Alabama, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Albuquerque’s Jewish Community Center is functioning back to normal Tuesday afternoon after a scare from a phoned bomb threat. The threat came in a phone call to the JCC earlier in the day, according to Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Simon Drobik. The JCC responded by quickly evacuating staff. “We then sent over the bomb squad and deemed the area safe,” Drobik said. The bomb scare came on the same day threats were made against at least 17 other JCCs in five other states, according to a report in Jewish Telegraphic Agency.