October 28, 2016

Letter alleges APD stonewalling oversight board

Jordan Meeter

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Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Board has told the office of the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico that the Albuquerque Police Department has stonewalled the agency “at every turn” in its attempt to help reform the troubled department.

In a letter to Elizabeth Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Beth Mohr, chair of the oversight agency, laid out scathing criticisms of APD Chief Gorden Eden. She wrote that APD’s actions “directly thwart” efforts at civilian oversight and use-of-force reform.

The the civilian board’s efforts have become a “waste of time” because of APD’s refusal to cooperate as required by city ordinance and the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit over APD’s unconstitutional use of force, she wrote. ABQ Free Press Weekly contacted an APD spokesperson seeking comment and did not immediately hear back.

In her letter, Mohr lays out four main areas of unresponsiveness by APD.

In a section entitled, “The Chief has failed to respond to the POB regarding findings and disciplinary recommendation,” Mohr wrote:

“The City Ordinance which created the POB mandates that the Chief respond to the POB in writing any time he fails to concur with our findings and/or disciplinary recommendation. As of this date, I am unaware that the Chief has ever responded to the POB regarding any of our findings or disciplinary recommendations. This was reported in the popular press and the Chief has failed to comply with the Ordinance.”

Mohr continued that Eden’s pattern of resisting and ignoring the POB has has led to no consequences for Eden or anyone else in the command structure at APD. Most of the people in charge of APD now were in place during the years in which the department was found by the U.S. Department of Justice to have engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force.

In a section entitled “The APD provided the [the POB’s investigatory arm] only a redacted version of the Monitor’s report,” Mohr alleges that APD is “attempting to interfere with the [board’s] ability to meet our own requirements” under the DOJ settlement. An independent monitor, James Ginger, was appointed by a federal judge to oversee reform at APD. The monitor issues periodic reports on APD’s progress or lack thereof. His reports have been highly critical of APD as well.

The POB was created as part of the DOJ settlement agreement. The only possible reason for redaction of portions of the DOJ monitor’s report “would be to interfere” with the board’s work, she wrote. Mohr also alleges that APD “counts it in their best interest to hide material matters in the report from us.”

In a section entitled “The APD is withholding data from the [board and its investigatory agency] which is necessary for us to perform our policy recommendation functions,” Mohr wrote that APD has denied the board’s request for information involving officer-involved crashes and drug testing of police officers in crashes.

“These continued failures on APD’s part to provide data as requested have, as of this moment, resulted in no consequences which would dissuade this continued behavior,” she wrote.

In a section entitled, “APD continues to exclude, ignore and directly thwart the POB’s attempt to contribute to APD policy,” Mohr wrote that APD has refused or obstructed the board’s attempt to contribute to APD policy-making. She alleged that APD’s failure to cooperate and help set a policy has contributed to the board’s failed attempt to “look into thousands of unprocessed rape kits.”

She alleges that Eden is in violation of the DOJ settlement agreement, yet suffers no consequences for his refusal to allow board involvement in policy-making.

“It appears that APD’s goal is to frustrate civilian oversight and input at every turn,” she wrote.