Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Wednesday that her office never signed off on, or consulted with the Albuquerque Police Department on a court-approved affidavit that gives APD permission to sell heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arrest them on drug charges. An APD detective apparently presented the affidavit to a state District Court judge on Feb. 23. The affidavit said it was being presented in conjunction with the DA’s Office. “Comes now the State of New Mexico, through its Assistant District Attorney and Affiant Detective Marc Clingenpeel,” the affidavit said.
The Albuquerque Police Department is in the midst of a 10-month reverse drug sting operation where cops will be selling heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arresting them on drug charges. The department is engaged in a “Reversal Operation” whereby narcotics officers will be taking up to two pounds of drugs out of APD’s evidence room and selling it to people on the streets. In addition, APD has asked for, and received, permission from a judge to actually manufacture crack cocaine for the operation. This piece originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website. In so-called “normal” sting operations, police attempt to buy drugs from drug dealers.
The Albuquerque City Council is scheduled to vote in May on whether to hold the Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff financially accountable if the department fails to make progress in meeting the goals of its settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Council’s Finance & Government Operations Committee voted 5-0 Monday to approve a resolution by Councilor Diane Gibson to withhold retention bonuses and pay raises from the command staff if APD fails to make progress in meeting the goals of the settlement agreement. The resolution also requires the department to name one person to spearhead the compliance effort and report on the progress every two weeks to councilors. Gibson recently has blasted APD, saying its leaders haven’t appeared interested in meeting the requirements of the settlement agreement, which says the department has to be in “substantial compliance” with 270 reform measures by November. “The intent [of the legislation] is to incentivize everybody on the command staff to do whatever it takes to achieve the work that has to be done to get into compliance,” Gibson told ABQ Free Press.
The City of Albuquerque agreed Wednesday to pay $6.5 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by APD Det. Jacob Grant, who was shot eight times by his own lieutenant during an undercover drug bust in January 2015. This story originally ran at ABQ Free Press. In addition to the money, “the City will cover Jacob’s medial expenses for his lifetime as he continues his recovery,” City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Although not a specific term of the settlement, Jacob will also receive a medical retirement through PERA [Public Employees Retirement Association].
Not only is it incredibly difficult to fire someone from the City of Albuquerque, but the failure to do so in at least one case cost taxpayers big time. That’s the news from our friends at the ABQ Free Press which outlined the story of Mark A. Shepherd and how much the city settled because of his egregious behavior to at least one female city employee. “Shepherd frequently and repeatedly made hand gestures mimicking masturbation while talking on the phone,” according to the lawsuit. “These gestures were directed at the attention of Parada.”
“In 2014,” the lawsuit continued, “Parada was filing something away in a filing cabinet. While her back was turned, Shepherd sneaked up behind her.
A former Albuquerque Police Department employee filed suit earlier this week claiming the department wrongfully fired him in retaliation for raising concerns that the department broke state law. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed by former records custodian Reynaldo Chavez, alleges APD fired Chavez after he alerted his superiors to violations of New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The suit names APD, the City of Albuquerque and a number of top officials as defendants. According to suit, while Chavez fielded records requests for APD, he was instructed to delay the return of certain records and was later fired when he objected. The suit also alleges that APD instructed Chavez “to overproduce materials to requesters,” requiring them “to spend time consuming hours sifting through boxes of irrelevant materials when no such responsive records were produced.”
The lawsuit describes a timeline that goes back six years and includes a number of high profile cases involving APD, local news media and members of the public.
The City of Albuquerque is facing another open records lawsuit over lapel-cam footage of a January police shooting. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) announced the lawsuit on behalf of BurqueMedia.com, a website with an often adversarial relationship with the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department. The shooting took place on January 14 and left John O’Keefe dead. The department released lapel cam footage from one officer shortly after the shooting. Andrew Christopherson of BurqueMedia.com then told them he was seeking all the lapel camera footage, not just the footage from one officer. The city, according to the lawsuit, denied the open records request based on the law enforcement exception.
Two New Mexico Senators, with the help from a national public interest law firm, announced a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque Wednesday over the city seizing property. The suit asks the Second Judicial District Court to order the city to stop its current practice of taking ownership of property, including those accused but not convicted, of driving while intoxicated. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque said even though Albuquerque is a home-rule city, they cannot go against state laws. He pointed out the recent law passed says there is “only” criminal forfeiture in New Mexico, making it unlawful to take property before a criminal conviction. “Last time I checked Albuquerque is geographically in the state of New Mexico,” Ivey Soto said.
In his annual State of the City Address Mayor Richard Berry said Albuquerque is showing signs of improvement economically and praised that the city came together to support the city’s police officers in recent weeks. Berry devoted a significant portion of the address to issues regarding criminal justice and what he will be advocating for during this year’s legislative session, such as a constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail for some arrested for crimes and an expansion of the state’s “three strikes” law. He also acknowledged the recent bad press the city has received in recent weeks after a four-year old was killed in a road rage accident and a day later an Albuquerque Police Department officer was killed while on duty. Berry also called for the state Legislature to add police officers to the list of protected classes in state hate crime legislation and to pass legislation that would allow cities to institute curfew laws for juveniles. For Albuquerque residents, Berry called on them to reach out to officers and let them know they are supported by the public.
The city made “double payments” to an Albuquerque Police Department contractor who wore too many hats, according to an internal report released last week. Dr. Troy Rodgers’ “multiple conflicting roles” as both a contractor and city official led to “an overall breakdown in administrative oversight and controls,” the report from Albuquerque’s Office of Internal Audit reads. On top of contracting with the city, the psychologist served as acting director of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Behavioral Science Division. Altogether, the city contracted $500,000 with Rodgers and two companies he’s affiliated with— Public Safety Psychology Group and Forensic Behavioral Health Associates—since 2014. Three of those contracts totaling more than $215,000 are still in place.