State chips away at assault kit backlog, but challenges remain

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday morning that the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) processed 1,388 sexual assault evidence kits from local agencies over the past three years. That’s roughly a quarter of the total backlog, but thousands of untested kits remain, mostly in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. For victims, there’s an even longer road ahead, with investigations and prosecutions still to come. Now DPS is offering to help reduce the 3,138 backlog for both Bernalillo county and Albuquerque Police Department (APD). In 2016, then-State Auditor Tim Keller found New Mexico had the highest backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits per capita in the nation, with kits sitting in storage units or freezers untested for decades.

Mayoral candidate calls claims his law firm represents former APD chief ‘propaganda’

An Albuquerque mayoral candidate attempted to distance himself from a former Albuquerque police chief accused of improper and possibly illegal actions involving  a city contract. Last week a Twitter user said former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colόn was “So far the best candidate,” but went on to ask “However is it true your firm represents [former Albuquerque Police Chief] Ray Schultz?”

Colόn, who is an attorney, responded on Twitter Monday afternoon, saying “My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda.”

My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda. DOJ compliance will be priority for our new chief of police in the Colón Administration.

ABQ city councilor wants congressional investigation into ATF sting

An Albuquerque city councilor is calling for a congressional investigation of a massive, undercover federal sting operation that targeted a poor, largely minority section of his district last year in an attempt to blunt the city’s gun and drug crime. Pat Davis, a Democrat who represents the International District and is running for Congress himself, filed a resolution on Friday that, if passed by the Albuquerque City Council, would ask  New Mexico’s congressional delegation to push for hearings on the sting operation. The four-month sting was undertaken by the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In addition, the resolution asks the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the 103 people arrested in the sting, to apprise city officials of the details of the operation. The resolution, which will be formally introduced at a Sept.

ABQ Jewish Community Center one of over a dozen targeted with bomb threat

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.

Proposed return-to-work bill increases threats to community safety 

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.

ABQ police watchdog: Feds investigating more than just video tampering claims

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.

Affidavit: ABQ police have illegally deleted, altered videos of shootings

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.

Police arrest three for violence at Trump protest

Since announcing reward money for information last week, tips led police to arrest three people in connection with last week’s protests after the Donald Trump rally. They include two adults and one minor, two of whom have been charged with felonies and one charged with misdemeanors. One outstanding warrant remains for a unnamed 17-year-old who police say was filmed running on top of and damaging two state police cars. “We want to make sure that people in the city of Albuquerque feel free to come voice their opinions,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said in a Thursday morning press conference. The city is now offering more than $20,000 for information that lead to arrests, Berry said.

Court date set for public records suit over Los Altos shooting

A public records lawsuit filed by the mother of a slain Albuquerque teen will head to trial later this month. Albuquerque city attorneys were a no-show today for a court meeting to determine the scheduling of a trial relating a March 22 shooting that left 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis dead. Munah Green, Lewis’s mother, is suing the city for allegedly withholding public records related to the shooting. Albuquerque District Judge Victor Lopez scheduled a hearing for the lawsuit on Nov. 20 at 10:30 am.

City to pay Boyd family $5 million

The city of Albuquerque is in for a hefty bill to pay for the wrongful death of a homeless man police killed in 2014. Last Friday, attorneys for the family of James Boyd announced that the city agreed to a settlement payment of $5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. In March 2014, police surrounded and shot Boyd, an unarmed homeless man who had been camping illegally in the Sandia foothills. A video of the shooting went viral, leading to several protests in Albuquerque and plenty of national media coverage. Still, Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden’s initially responded that the shooting was justified.