A member of Albuquerque’s official police watchdog group is questioning the tactics and results of the recent “Metro Surge Operation,” in which 50 New Mexico State Police officers flooded the city ostensibly to help fight violent crime. “This is the perfect atmosphere, the perfect storm for civil rights violations, and it completely undermines the serious energy people have invested in police reform in Albuquerque,” Chelsea Van Deventer of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Board told New Mexico In Depth last week. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Homicides and non-fatal shootings have gone up in Albuquerque in recent months, including the high-profile murder of a University of New Mexico baseball player outside a Nob Hill bar last month. In response, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller, both Democrats, agreed on the “surge,” with Keller’s office saying publicly the operation would focus on “targeting violent crime in Albuquerque.”
The results, according to a KOAT-TV story, have not matched the stated goal.
Body cameras have become standard issue at many law enforcement agencies. But not at the New Mexico State Police Department. That could soon change, though, as lawmakers consider a proposed budget that would include $3.1 million to provide state police with recording devices. The technology is coming, said Capt. Ted Collins. The question is whether the department issues cameras to officers now or later.
Autonomous vehicles are coming. Soon—and New Mexico needs to be ready. That was the message from a recent summit on autonomous, or driverless, vehicles organized by the state Department of Transportation. Local officials, technology experts and even industry representatives all agreed legislators need to understand the technology before changing laws or other policies. Earlier this year, Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, introduced a memorial asking NMDOT to organize the summit and get New Mexico ready for autonomous vehicles.
Black community leaders and citizens want to know who invited out-of-town federal agents and informants into Albuquerque and how the decision was made to focus an undercover sting operation on an impoverished, largely minority section of the city, netting a highly disproportionate number of black defendants. They plan to put those and other questions into a letter to the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We want to know exactly what happened and why,” said Patrick Barrett, a member of the two organizations drafting the letter — the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange, a grassroots organization of black men. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Barrett and others interviewed for this story were reacting to a NMID investigation of the sting published last month.
New Mexico State Police, aiding overwhelmed police forces in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, said in a 2005 memo that police in Baton Rouge were involved in racially-biased policing. Baton Rouge police recently killed Alton Sterling while he was held down by two officers. Video of the shooting, which showed an officer shooting Sterling in the chest, and another shooting in Minnesota prompted protests throughout the country, including Baton Rouge. Eleven police officers were shot, five fatally, after a protest in Dallas by a man who police said criticized Black Lives Matter as well as police. Police in Baton Rouge face increased scrutiny for the handling of the shooting of Sterling and the resulting protests.
The New Mexico State Police has launched an investigation into alleged time sheet fraud at one of the Albuquerque Police Department’s area commands. The State Police confirmed the investigation Thursday to ABQ Free Press, but said it couldn’t comment on the details. Sources told ABQ Free Press that the investigation and possible fraud centers around members of APD’s command structure. “State Police recently received information about alleged fraudulent activity within the department [APD] and the NMSP Investigations Bureau is investigating these allegations,” State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said in an email to the newspaper.
A report from State Auditor Tim Keller released Thursday takes a former Española Public School District principal to task for allegedly misusing more than $12,000 from a candy fundraiser last year. Though the audit doesn’t list the former principal’s name, NM Political Report has learned it’s referring to Norma Lara, who used to head San Juan Elementary. “In addition, the same Principal was found to be pocketing money from game gate fund wherein she was responsible for maintaining certain gate receipts during the games,” the audit reads. “The receipts turned in to the athletic director were found to be off sequence.”
Lara, who is now a first grade teacher at Pablo Roybal Elementary in Pojoaque, did not return a handwritten message sent to her classroom this morning. Specifically, the audit states that it examined records from 10 teachers who participated in the fundraiser, which was meant to raise money for student activity funds, along with Lara’s records.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that surveillance from a helicopter that led to the conviction of a Northern New Mexico man for growing marijuana was illegal under the United States Constitution. The New Mexico Court of Appeals previously ruled in January of 2014 that the aerial search was illegal, but cited the state constitution. Norman Davis was convicted after a joint operation, called Operation Yerba Buena, between the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico National Guard involved flying two Army National Guard OH 58 Jet Ranger helicopters over Taos County to find alleged marijuana growth sites. The journey between that search and this Supreme Court decision was long; the search was conducted back in 2006. The Supreme Court heard the arguments on the case in January of this year.