With a sometimes-tumultuous working relationship between the retiring Second Judicial District Attorney and the Albuquerque Police Department in recent years, focus will soon turn to how a new DA will work with police.
All three candidates for DA are focused on how to build a relationship with APD, a troubled police department subject to reforms under a Department of Justice consent decree.
Ed Perea, one of the two Democratic candidates seeking the position, is a former APD commanding officer and recently received an endorsement from the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association.
Perea’s campaign is focused on his experience in practicing law and supervising and working with officers. He said a DA must, first and foremost, be able to work with officers to make the community safer.
“We have to remember that law enforcement and the DA’s office, they share the same mission,” Perrea said.
In recent years, current District Attorney Kari Brandenburg investigated two police officers involved in a fatal shooting and was herself the subject of an ultimately-dropped investigation from the department.
Brandenburg has long maintained that while the DA often works with police in prosecutions, her office needs to stay independent from APD.
“It’s not the District Attorney’s job to support the police department,” Brandenburg told NM Political Report.
Republican DA candidate Simon Kubiak is critical of Brandenburg’s time in office and called her lengthy investigations of officer involved shootings “politically motivated.”
“It doesn’t take years to investigate these things,” Kubiak said.
Kubiak reiterated Perea’s thoughts on cooperation with police and said officers are often an integral part of court proceedings.
“You cannot prosecute a crime without a witness,” Kubiak said. “Often a witness will be an investigating officer.”
Perea’s primary opponent Raul Torrez stands on his idea of overhauling the DA’s prosecution process by working with a data-driven model to more efficiently curb repeat offenses. Torrez said it’s “important to establish a good working relationship” with police for his plan to work. “I think that everyone in the law enforcement community are just concerned that the system is not working well,” Torrez said.
Brandenburg said her office has “risen above” previous conflicts with APD while maintaining a certain distance from the department. She adds that she is not “buddy, buddy” with the department.
“It’s always important to have a healthy amount of scepticism when dealing with the police department,” Brandenburg said. “I would say the same thing when dealing with the district attorney’s office.”
Det. Shaun Willoughby, who is president of the Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association, said his group wants a candidate who will get the job done regardless of the relationship with top brass.
“What were looking for is hopefully not so many politics,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby said both the DA and officers are working toward the same goal through but with different means, but that he would like to see “less politics and a little more business.”