Thursday, December 16, 2004

City: Former APD Officer Stole $700 From Man He Arrested

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

A former Albuquerque police officer stole $700 from a man he arrested for drunken driving, according to an investigation conducted by the city's Independent Review Office.
The officer, who has not been named, initially agreed to cooperate with the office's investigation. But on the day he was to take a polygraph, the officer resigned.
"It is my finding that this officer stole the money, then lied about it in a statement," Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland told the Police Oversight Commission last week.
The commission voted unanimously Dec. 9 to uphold Rowland's findings and sustain the complaint filed against the former officer.
But APD Chief Gilbert Gallegos disagrees, saying there wasn't enough evidence to say the former officer was guilty.
APD Deputy Chief Paul Chavez could not be reached for comment on the case.
The allegation stems from a Feb. 28 traffic stop, according to the investigation. During the stop, the officer took $700 from the driver's pocket and threw it in his squad car, the investigation found.
"There was another officer present, and that officer did see some money," Rowland said.
The former officer arrested the man and took him to the now-closed Prisoner Transfer Station— a building Downtown where police took offenders to be processed before taking them to the Metropolitan Detention Center on the West Side.
When he was released from the West Side jail, the man refused to sign a property list because it did not contain his $700, the investigation shows.
The man filed a complaint with the POC in April, and investigators found he had cashed a check on the day he was arrested for about $3,000.
He spent money on attorney's fees, a paint job for his car and liquor at an Albuquerque bar, the investigation shows. The leftover $700 was money he owed his mother.
The man passed a polygraph test that asked whether he had money on him when he was stopped, the investigation shows.
In an interview, the officer denied stealing any money and agreed to take a polygraph. Shortly after the interview— sometime in May— the officer resigned.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

APD Racial Profiling Allegations Continue

aturday, December 11, 2004

APD Racial Profiling Allegations Continue

By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
The Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission says accusations of racial profiling have not ceased.
The commission voted unanimously Thursday to direct the city's Independent Review Office to send a letter to APD Chief Gilbert Gallegos, asking him to look closely at whether biased-based policing is practiced by the department.
According to APD's procedures, officers are not to target individuals based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or economic status.
"If APD does not practice it, we need to find a way for them to not be accused of it so often," said the Rev. J. L'Keith Jones, a commission member. "Their standard needs to be upheld, and the mayor's task force needs to be upheld."
Mayor Martin Chávez created the 18-member task force in March to determine whether biased-based policing occurs within the city.
The commission has dealt with numerous instances of alleged profiling, most recently on Thursday, when it considered a complaint filed on behalf of Essa Dalloul.
In May, Albuquerque police detained Dalloul, then 20, for more than two hours at Coronado Center after mall security guards saw two Middle Eastern men praying outside. However, Dalloul was not one of the men praying, according to an Independent Review Office investigation.
The officers didn't arrest Dalloul, but when they checked his identification against a national database, a notice appeared to contact the FBI, the investigation shows.
Officers also detained several "Arab" people inside the mall who said they knew Dalloul and asked them for ID, the investigation states.
Initially, Gallegos told the officers not to talk about the reasons they called the FBI, and he also refused to be interviewed by the Independent Review Office. Gallegos and the officers later cooperated.
Gallegos and Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland determined there was not enough evidence to say the officers used racial profiling, so they did not sustain the complaint. Dalloul could not be reached for comment.
"I agree that racial profiling takes place, but, in this case, it sounds like the officers got it straightened out after they discovered they had the wrong guy," said Commissioner Michael Cook, who along with five other commissioners upheld Rowland's decision.
And though Jones also agreed to not sustain the complaint, he issued a stern warning: "We need to address this, and the chief needs to address this, or as long as our military is in Iraq, we're going to have a steady stream of cases coming before us with members of the Arab community."

Monday, November 22, 2004

We Got The Camera: CopWatch Starts Patrolling Albuquerque

For Immediate Release:

We Got The Camera: Cop Watch Starts Patrolling Albuquerque
Email: Copwatch505 (at) riseup (dot) net

In response to incidents of police brutality a group of Albuquerque
residents have banded together to change the way police treat people. They
will soon be hitting the streets with bright orange shirts, knowledge of
the law, and video cameras aimed at local police.

Cop Watch seeks to change the ways in which police treat youth of color,
homeless people, and the public generally.

Cop Watch is hosting a training on how and why citizen monitoring of police
behavior is a good idea, how to be safe and effective, and what your legal
rights are when dealing with the police.

Inspired by the community cop watching patrols of the Black Panther Party
and the Brown Berets, the Cop Watch movement has grown in recent years to
include several groups across the country. The goal of CopWatch is to
change the behavior of the police, and in some cities, they have. In
Phoenix, AZ, police are now trained to always behave as if they are always
being filmed and watched by citizens. This was not part of their training
until Phoenix Cop Watch began patrolling.

Houston Cop Watch member Heather Ajani says that Cop Watch has changed
police behavior in cities like Phoenix and Houston. “When they are being
filmed, police are more polite and respectful of people they are
detaining, questioning, or apprehending.”

The impetus to start civilian patrols of the police in Albuquerque came
from a series of meetings that Vecinos United and other community based
organizations were having with victims of police brutality. Vecinos United
organizer Andres Valdez was part of the campaign which pushed the city to
create a Police Oversight Commission four years ago.

Now he says that the POC, lacking independence and authority has proved to
be “pretty much a rubber stamp for the police and they regard it as a
joke.” Valdez says that Cop Watch will be good because “Now we have to do
as much as we can for and by ourselves.”

Many victims of police brutality fear lodging formal complaints with the
city and say that police have engaged in intimidation to silence them.
Cop Watch hopes to change this by educating people about their legal rights
and working with community organizations to bring about justice.

The day long training session will be on December 4th at 929.5 4th St SW,
starting at 9:30 am. The training is free to the general public, but no
public or private law enforcement officers are allowed to attend. Coffee
and meals will provided. Those who need childcare should notify the
organizers. Those who wish to attend should RSVP by email or phone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Weak Link in Police Oversight

Letters to The Editor, Albuquerque Journal

HAVE YOU EVER wondered why police get abusive and unprofessional and why they mistreat those that they are paid to serve and protect? From my experience, it appears that the police chief encourages them by supporting them and defending them, no matter how wrong they are.
Two officers came on my property looking for someone else and I was kicked in the back. The officers refused to identify themselves, so we took their picture in order to document their identity. We requested a supervisor and the sergeant that came out did not even want to interview us. She only wanted to speak to the officers. ...
I filed a citizen's complaint and Internal Affairs (APD) tried to investigate. When I found out that their decision would be final, without my having a right to appeal, I demanded that the independent review officer handle the investigation.
Jay Rowland's office conducted a cursory investigation and found in favor of the police. Out of a total of 13 witnesses, plus an additional three police officers, Rowland's office interviewed only two of the officers and only three witnesses in order to reach a conclusion.
I appealed this decision to the Police Oversight Commission (POC), which, at Rowland's recommendation, voted not to hear my appeal. I appealed this decision to the chief administrative officer for the city and he decided that my appeal should be heard.
I presented my case and the POC found in my favor and overturned Rowland's findings. They found that the officers used excessive force, acted in an unprofessional manner and violated standard operating procedure by refusing to provide me with their names and badge numbers. I felt vindicated.
Now, I've found out that the police chief will not accept the POC's decision and instead continues to back his police officers. ... It's quite evident the chief does not respect the POC and will back his officers, even if their actions are wrong.
The City Council has made changes to the POC ordinance to strengthen it. May I suggest one more change, the police chief!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Ex-City Cop Won't Be Retried on Sex Charge

Journal Staff Report

Bernalillo County prosecutors say they will not seek a retrial for a former Albuquerque police sergeant charged in 2001 with molesting a child.
Mike Garcia, 47, was tried last month, but the jury deadlocked on the most serious charge of criminal sexual contact with a minor. Jurors voted 11-1 in favor of acquittal.
Jurors acquitted Garcia on a lesser charge of tampering with evidence.
Deputy District Attorney Lisa Trabaudo this week filed papers to drop the sexual contact charge against Garcia, saying the victim in the case did not want a retrial.
Mary Han, Garcia's attorney, applauded Trabaudo's decision Thursday.
"I know the district attorney is not going to regret doing this," Han said. "I'm grateful that Lisa Trabaudo made the right decision."
Garcia, an 18-year veteran of the force, had been a supervisor of APD's school resource officer program.
He was fired in October 2001 shortly after he was indicted by a Bernalillo grand jury for inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl who was staying at his family's Albuquerque home. He was fired less than two years before retirement.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Complaints Against APD Are On Rise

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

Citizen complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department are on the rise, according to a report compiled by the city's Independent Review Office.
The report also concludes that APD and the district attorney's office need to deal more swiftly with cases that involve police shootings and possible criminal wrongdoing by officers.
A record 25 citizen complaints were made to the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission in June, bringing the yearly total to 136, according to the quarterly report.
The 220 complaints filed last year were the most in the commission's five-year history, and Rowland is convinced that record will be broken this year.
However, the rising volume of complaints doesn't reflect negatively on APD, said Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland.
"It means citizens have more faith in the system and they're more willing to come forward for resolutions," he said. "These complaints have (been) shown to benefit the department. This is what oversight is all about."
For example, the POC for months was inundated with complaints about inadequate staffing, medical care and other shortcomings at a prisoner transfer station, Rowland said.
The station was closed March 10 after an inspection by Rowland and an APD Internal Affairs commander.
Though the citizen complaint portion of the oversight process has improved each year, cases involving police shootings and officer wrongdoing are taking far too long to be resolved, the report shows.
Those cases begin with an APD criminal investigation, then go to the DA and Internal Affairs before Rowland reviews them.
Rowland said he knows of at least eight cases that are backlogged at APD and the DA's office, some of which have been pending longer than 18 months.
Several months ago, the POC sent letters to Mayor Martin Chávez and the DA's office requesting police shooting cases be dealt with faster, Rowland said.
Since then, the DA's office has completed five cases and sent them to the POC, he said.
Commissioners and police recently began researching ways to speed up cases involving criminal wrongdoing by officers, he said.
"We're starting to gather information about which cases are pending (with APD) so we can keep the system moving," Rowland said.
The POC has resolved 99 of this year's citizen complaints; 37 are pending, according to Rowland's report. In 17 cases, the oversight commission has sustained the complaint.
APD has disciplined 94 percent of the officers in sustained cases, the report shows.
Last year, officers were disciplined in 87 percent of sustained cases, as compared with 58 percent in 2002 and 60 percent in 2001, according to the report.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Muslim Mallgoers Detained by Police

By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Journal Staff Writer

Members of Albuquerque's Islamic community said police practiced racial profiling on Sunday by detaining eight people for up to two hours at Coronado Center.
Essa Dalloul, 20, said an Albuquerque police officer stopped him about 6 p.m. in the mall concourse, placed him in handcuffs and made him sit on the floor for nearly two hours before releasing him.
"I felt kind of embarrassed and humiliated," Dalloul said Friday at a news conference at the Islamic Center of New Mexico. "I just went shopping, and I find myself on the floor in handcuffs."
Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gil Gallegos said officers were summoned by mall security after two Middle Eastern men were seen praying outside the mall. Dalloul, who was not one of the men praying, was cuffed and detained for about 45 minutes, he said.
"He was not arrested and he was not mistreated," Gallegos said of Dalloul. "There was no racial profiling."
Police have remained on heightened alert since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said.
"We responded to (mall) security's call," he said. "Doing anything less would be a disservice because of security concerns since 9/11."
Ahmad Assed, Dalloul's attorney, said the report of Islamic men praying near the mall did not justify police detaining and cuffing Dalloul, an Albuquerque resident and U.S. citizen.
Muslims pray five times a day and the two men had found a grassy place near the mall to pray, Assed said. Police brought the two men into the mall but did not cuff them, he said.
Five of Dalloul's friends and relatives asked police why they were holding Dalloul, Assed said. Police responded by seizing their identification cards until about 8 p.m., he said.
"We strongly recommend that (Albuquerque police) make an effort to educate its personnel on Islamic practices and that it make an effort to reach out to our Islamic community," board members of the Islamic Center said in a written statement.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

APD Oversight Bill Passes

By Lloyd Jojola, Journal Staff Writer

A bill aimed at beefing up Albuquerque police oversight has been approved by the City Council.
"There were a lot of issues about the (Police Oversight Commission) and the (Independent Review Officer) not having enough teeth," said City Councilor Brad Winter, who sponsored the amendment of the city's police oversight ordinance. "What these amendments did is give the POC some teeth."
The oversight commission and independent review office were formed under a bill passed in 1998 to enhance civilian oversight of the city's police department. Winter said the oversight commission and the police chief agree on citizen complaint and police excessive force cases the vast majority of the time. How the disagreements are dealt with raised issues.
The nine-member council unanimously passed the bill Monday. It will be forwarded to Mayor Martin Chávez.
The Police Oversight Commission will increase in size from seven to nine members, or one from each council district, under the measure. Training requirements are also added for commissioners.
Some of the changes are more significant than others, said Jay A. Rowland, the city's independent review officer.
"Our big, significant one is the POC is now going to make all the findings, not me," Rowland said. "This gives them the opportunity to really get their fingers in it if they want to. Before, they really didn't have that choice. But I felt it was more important to transfer whatever authority I had to them so that they are the guys that have to make the decisions."
In addition, the POC findings will go into the officer's record even if they disagree with the chief, he said. The POC, chief or officer also can appeal to the city's chief administrative officer if there is a disagreement on findings.
Rowland said the measure also clarifies the police chief cannot change findings.
A system will be put in place "where if anybody feels it's appropriate to change findings that there is now a standard for review and a procedure that it's got to go back to the POC and the POC decides," Rowland said.
While the bill was tweaked somewhat after representatives of the POC, IRO, the police department, police union and the administration met, people seemed satisfied with it.
"What I'm happy about is we met with all the players ... and we worked things out," said POC Chairman Joe T. Gutierrez. "We gave in a little and they gave in a little, and I feel very comfortable with the outcome."
Said Winter, "I really think that this is democracy at work, and this is a great bill. And, you know, maybe down the road in a couple of years we might try to make it a little stronger."

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Changes May Be in Store for Rules on Police Oversight

By Lloyd Jojola, Journal Staff Report

Changes could be in store for the ordinance that governs police oversight.
"We needed more teeth," Police Oversight Commission Chairman Joe T. Gutierrez said. "Not only to oversee but to make sure that the process works."
The City Council is scheduled at its 5 p.m. Monday meeting to consider the bill to amend the existing ordinance.
The bill, as it was initially proposed, has forced discussion between the police department, officers union, the oversight commission and the independent review officer. Those groups have suggested additional changes.
The oversight commission and the independent review office were created under a bill passed in 1998 to enhance civilian oversight of the city police department.
"It is absolutely critical for these amendments to pass to give the POC the authority that goes along with the responsibility that the city has placed on them," said Jay Rowland, the city's independent review officer.
According to a council analysis, one change would clarify that, when the review officer and chief of police agree on findings, the findings would be considered final. In addition, the findings could not be changed without first notifying the POC, review officer and individuals involved in the complaint.
The change addresses a situation that arose when Police Chief Gil Gallegos changed some findings that were previously decided on by the review officer and POC, the analysis states.
"Without making this change, findings can be changed for any reason by the chief and are never really 'final,' '' the analysis reads.
Gallegos said there have only been two instances in which that has occurred, "and they were not citizen complaints, they were internal complaints."
Gutierrez said the biggest issue of contention seems to be an amendment that would require findings of the review officer to be placed in the police officer's record.
Another amendment deals with disagreements between the oversight commission and chief, Rowland said.
"The POC wanted an ability to resolve that by taking it to the (city's chief administrative officer)," Rowland said.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Misconduct Allegations Try APD

By Chris Vogel, Journal Staff Writer

It's been a rough 10 months for the Albuquerque Police Department.

As Gilbert Gallegos enters his third year as police chief, the department faces allegations of corruption, officer misconduct and use of excessive force.

There are also union problems, staffing shortages and criticism from the city's independent review officer, who investigates citizen complaints.

But Mayor Martin Chávez said the jobs of Gallegos and Nick Bakas, chief public safety officer, are safe.

Chávez, in a recent interview, saluted APD for lowering the city's crime rate.
He said the department is on track.
"That doesn't mean (Gallegos and Bakas) have not been taken out to the woodshed a couple times; they have ... " he said. But, he added, "overall, the police department is doing very well."
Among APD's problems:

A high-ranking officer was disciplined for giving the mayor's wife a break on a parking ticket.

An officer was indicted last summer after he was accused of detaining people for no reason at traffic stops, and another resigned after he was accused of forcing a woman he had stopped to expose herself.

After a surprise inspection, the department's jail transfer station was shut down this month because of possible mistreatment of prisoners.

And potentially the most damaging: allegations that civilian employees stole thousands of dollars in money and property from APD's evidence unit, and that top officials covered it up.
Jay Rowland, the city's Independent Review Officer, has at times clashed with Gallegos over complaints of officer misconduct.
"The department clearly has some problems and needs civilian oversight," Rowland said recently.
Gallegos and Bakas acknowledge that APD has its troubles.
"I know we have a lot of issues we're addressing right now, but we have a good department," Gallegos said in an interview earlier this month. "It's a very professional department."
Said Bakas, "When we talk about corruption, I remember the days when officers were accused of murder and burglary— that in my mind is corruption. I've seen corruption, I know corruption, and we are not where we were many years ago. In perspective, we're doing very well."

Top brass under fire
The leadership of Gallegos and Bakas was questioned when the allegations of evidence theft surfaced.
In early March, an anonymous memo alleged that the two men at one point turned a blind eye to the accusations. They deny they delayed investigating the evidence unit and said the department should be recognized for locating, then investigating possible internal crime.
Evidence-handling problems are not new for APD. A 1999 city audit found improper storage of money, lax security, problems with evidence and inventory procedures and discrepancies between accounts.
As a result, cash is now kept in a vault behind a locked gate, according to a followup 2003 audit.
"Apparently, we had some ongoing problems with the evidence room," Gallegos said. "Why wasn't something done in 1999? It was me who initiated the (recent) internal investigation to find out what in the hell is going on, and some people seem to forget that.
"To let the unit go to what it was in 1999 and earlier would be irresponsible, but to do the things this department did was the common sense and professional thing to do, and I'd do it all over again."
He said the internal investigation was launched when a routine inspection in August uncovered possible misconduct by unit employees. Along with the internal probe, APD asked the Attorney General's Office to conduct an inquiry.
"I've heard all the rumors, and all I can say is that I hope the department acted as quickly as possible," said Jeff Remington, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association.
Chávez said he was pleased that the AG's Office was brought in. Its findings will determine whether Gallegos and Bakas acted quickly enough, he said.
The parking ticket break for first lady Margaret Aragón de Chávez resulted in disciplinary action for APD Capt. Conrad Candelaria.
An internal investigation determined that Candelaria broke department procedures when he used his discretion to reduce the ticket to a warning. Candelaria has said that neither the mayor nor his wife had contacted APD.
Last summer, officers Christopher Chase and Duane Currell were indicted for allegedly abusing people during traffic stops.
Chase was fired for detaining people for no apparent reason, according to an indictment. In all, the indictment alleges that 11 people were victims of numerous crimes, including sexual assault.
In an unrelated incident, Currell resigned after he was accused of coercing a woman into exposing herself, then grabbing her during a traffic stop, according to an APD investigation.
Last fall, the department's emergency line came under scrutiny when residents failed to reach an operator after dialing 911. APD hired more operators after an internal review and a visit by Chávez to the dispatch room.
The prisoner transfer station near the Big I was closed after a surprise inspection by Rowland and internal affairs officers uncovered understaffing and possible mistreatment of prisoners. That means arresting officers must drive prisoners more than 20 miles to the new West Side jail.
Rowland reported a lack of medical care, an erratic toilet and a prisoner handcuffed outside the station without shoes and pants.
The fate of the station highlights what has been a thorny relationship between Gallegos and Rowland.
Rowland independently investigates citizen complaints and forwards his findings to the Police Oversight Commission, which makes a ruling. But it is up to Gallegos to decide if an officer is disciplined.
Rowland said Gallegos agrees with him on about 97 percent of his findings. But their most common disagreements are over cases involving excessive force.
In the past 18 months, Rowland said he has determined that officers used excessive force in 10 complaints, only one of which Gallegos sustained.
"Our non-concurrence rate is low, but it concerns me that it's in the use of excessive force (cases)," Rowland said.
One case in which he found excessive force was during an anti-war protest near the University of New Mexico in March 2003. Gallegos didn't agree, and the officer was not disciplined.
Earlier this month, the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming excessive force and free speech violations.
Despite APD's problems, Gallegos said his cops are taking care of the most important one— crime.
He pointed to national FBI crime figures, saying they show that crime dropped 10 percent in 2002 and 6 percent in 2003.

Goals for APD
Gallegos has a number of goals for APD, including installing a computer system that would allow officers to write reports online in their cars.
He has also started to replace the department's fleet of vehicles every five years as opposed to every eight years.
Remington said items like new cars help keep officers productive, but the greatest strain on morale is the lack of a contract. He said officers have not been given a raise or their promised pay step increases in more than two years.
In late February, Remington and other officers camped outside Civic Plaza for several nights to protest pay and what they say is a lack of leadership.
"In the past, APD was a very prestigious law enforcement agency, and hits like the evidence unit and not getting the (pay) steps damage morale," he said. "It hits the perception that we're working at a quality agency."
Gallegos said he was "very supportive regarding pay raises. I think our officers deserve them, and I am confident they will get something new in their paychecks in the next few months."
Chávez set a goal of staffing 1,000 officers by 2005, and the department failed to reach its intermediary goal of 955 in February. APD says it has 937 officers, while the union contends that the number is lower.
Bakas and Gallegos agree with the union that APD does not have enough officers.
"Yes, we are short," Gallegos said. "We know that, and that's why we're trying to beef up the force size."
Bakas acknowledges that a retiree who had a criminal record was hired and another was fired after failing a drug test, which was taken after the officer was assigned to full-time duty.
Regarding questions about his leadership, Gallegos mused during a recent interview about how public perceptions can change.
Thirty years ago, he was known as an Albuquerque police union advocate and became a national union leader as president of the national Fraternal Order of Police. He is still a board member.
"In 1975, I was mentioned in an Albuquerque Journal editorial as one of seven city heroes and leaders," he said. "Several years later, I'm a bum."
But Gallegos said he doesn't believe that about himself, and neither do Bakas and Chávez.
"I advise the chief on our preference on situations, but all the directors are expected to run their departments and the chief is doing a very good job," Bakas said.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Suit Against City, Officer Dismissed

By Scott Sandlin, Journal Staff Writer

The city of Albuquerque and a city police officer are the winners in an excessive force lawsuit brought by the father of a girl shot with a Taser gun in 2000.
After two days of jury trial this week in federal court in Roswell, Judge Bobby Baldock granted a judgment Thursday in favor of the city before the defense presented its case.
The lawsuit was filed in 2002 by Andrew Aragon on behalf of his daughter, Christina Aragon, a high school student who was planning to attend a party at a vacant house. APD Officer Jeff Ferner shot the student as she attempted to flee from the home.
Baldock, a senior judge on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, takes some New Mexico federal district court cases.
Baldock dismissed the lawsuit after ruling there was "no legally sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff."
According to the lawsuit, Christina Aragon was with friends who "believed they were supposed (to) open the house for a band to set up their equipment."
The Oct. 21, 2000, party at a home in the 900 block of Solano NE had been advertised through a flier circulated at Sandia High School. A copy of the flier was faxed to the Albuquerque Police Department because of satanic references, said Luis Robles, who represented Ferner at trial.
The students did not have permission to be in the vacant house, and APD officers waited at the home to see if anyone would illegally enter, the defense said.
Officers saw several individuals in Hidden Park, which is behind the home, jump the fence and attempt to enter the home.
After Aragon was shot, she underwent emergency surgery to remove metal barbs shot by the Taser, the complaint states. The barbs are connected to a handheld unit by thin wires that pulse electrical current into the target.
"His intention was to hit her in the back (only with the Taser charge), but because she was running down steps one of the barbs hit her in the back," Robles said.
In dismissing the case, Baldock also ruled the city can recover its costs from the plaintiff.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Suits Say Ex-APD Officer A Rapist

By Scott Sandlin, Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque police officer Christopher Chase was fired in 2003 after allegations of rapes and beatings while on duty led to his indictment on criminal charges.
As of this week, three civil lawsuits also have been filed against Chase or the Albuquerque Police Department. One lawsuit claims APD hired Chase even though he failed a psychological exam.
Mitsey Ramone, who accused Chase of sexually assaulting her, contends in a lawsuit that APD was negligent in hiring and keeping Chase, who "appears to be a serial rapist." The suit compares Chase to "an unchained vicious animal" who preyed upon women.
In answers filed by the contract attorney defending two of the civil cases, Chase and APD deny the claims.
A state District Court grand jury indicted Chase, 29, in June on 32 counts of criminal sexual penetration, battery and tampering with evidence. The criminal case involves allegations by 11 individuals of both sexes, some claiming they were beat up and others that they were sexually assaulted between September 2001 and January 2003.
The criminal case against Chase is awaiting trial in state District Court, where it is assigned to Judge Denise Barela Shepherd.
Ramone's civil lawsuit was filed in September by the Blake Law Firm and attorney Raul Lopez. It claims Chase failed a psychological test administered in conjunction with the APD selection process.
Ramone's claims stem from the Sept. 9, 2001, stop of a car in which she was the passenger. She says she was forced to perform sexual acts on Chase, after which he told Ramone to use sanitizing hand wash he had in his police unit.
The latest civil lawsuit was filed this week in U.S. District Court by Mary Han and Paul Kennedy on behalf of Cynthia Seeley, who also claims she was sexually assaulted by Chase.
Seeley and another woman were in a fight at an apartment in February 2002 when one of the women called police and Chase and other officers responded, the suit says.
Chase told them one needed to leave and "cool off," and Seeley did, the suit says. It says he then detoured Seeley into the back seat of his patrol car, drove down a deserted alley after midnight near the Marriott on Louisiana and took off his equipment belt, forced her to bend over the back seat and raped her.
Chase allegedly then drove away leaving her "alone and crying in the dark, deserted alley."
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for excessive force and violations of Seeley's rights to due process and against unreasonable search and seizure.
In a lawsuit filed in state court by attorney Brad Hall, La Cueva High School student Matthew M. Bauer, 17, alleges that he was "inexplicably detained ... searched (and) terrorized" by Chase, who Bauer also says threatened to kill him.
Hall takes aim in the suit at Mayor Martin Chávez's policy of refusing to settle any lawsuits against police in the allegations.
"APD agency investigative machinery eventually identified defendant and relieved (him) from duty," the suit says. "Although plaintiff would rather settle this case, and although this case is one that could and should settle, the city currently maintains an official policy of bringing all police cases to trial. Hence this lawsuit and the need for the taxpayers to pay private attorney's fees to litigate a case normally handled by professional risk managers."
Because Bauer is related to a high-ranking APD official— he's the nephew of Public Safety Director Nick Bakas— he didn't run away when a police officer approached him and other teens near the Sportsplex in September 2002, according to the suit.
Bauer was standing by his car with about 10 La Cueva High School students who were talking and listening to music at about 10 p.m. when the police car approached on a dirt trail with its spotlight on and emergency lights flashing, Bauer's suit says.
"All other teens scattered on foot or in their cars," the suit says. "(Bauer's) passenger, the son of a city councilor, ran into an open field and hid."
Bauer responded to an order to get on his knees with his hands on his head and answered questions, then watched Chase search his wallet and car without a warrant and tell him to "get the (expletive) home," the suit says.
Bauer's friend, Brock Winter, called Bauer on his cell phone to pick him up and Chase was doing so, still in the Sportsplex area, when Chase again stopped him, shone a flashlight in his face and, when Bauer attempted to explain he was getting his friend, struck him in the center of his forehead with the flashlight, according to the suit.
After talking with his mother and uncle, Bauer was seen by a paramedic, reported the incident to police and gave a statement to Internal Affairs in an effort to identify the officer, the suit says.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Police Panel Rules in Protest Conduct

By Lloyd Jojola, Journal Staff Report

Unreasonable force was used by a police officer during an anti-war demonstration last year, the Police Oversight Commission has said.
Thursday's decision supports the opinion of Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland but conflicts with Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gil Gallegos' findings.
Gallegos reviewed the complaint filed by Lane Leckman and does not believe the force used was excessive. Leckman, a physician, appealed the chief's findings to the commission.
The commission also ruled the officer failed to identify himself, an alleged standard procedure violation that Rowland and Gallegos said wasn't proven.
As a result of its action, the commission will write a letter to Gallegos asking him to reconsider his findings, Rowland said.
Police spokesman Jeff Arbogast said Friday the department had not seen the commission's written decision and could not immediately comment on the commission's action.
The incident occurred during a March 20 anti-war demonstration at Central near the University of New Mexico campus.
The crowd, marching west on Central, swelled into the hundreds and were met by police dressed in gas masks and helmets. Police arrested 17 people and cleared the street with tear gas.
Leckman said he was by the bookstore, standing on the sidewalk away from the street, when an officer ordered him to move.
" 'I'm standing on the sidewalk, what is the problem?' '' he said he told the officer, recounting the incident to the commission.
"The next thing I knew, without another word, without any explanation, his baton in both hands, he hit me full force on the chest, knocked me into my fiancee ... knocking her over and bruising her hip. I turned around to pick her up. Turned around and asked him what his name was. He looked at me and did not answer."
Police accounts differ, according to a synopsis of an investigation conducted by Independent Review Office staff. One officer interviewed said, "He did see a man and woman trip over some bicycles in a bike rack and fell. He denied that he or any other officer pushed these people."
A sergeant interviewed said he also saw a man and woman fall over a bike rack. "He didn't see anyone hit them just before they fell," the synopsis states.
Leckman also claims a 911 operator hung up on him when he called police. According to the investigation synopsis, 911 tapes were reviewed and it was discovered that one operator hung up on three callers from the protest.
"The operator did not ask if the callers were injured," the review states. "This operator also called her daughter and played the tape of a male caller choking and gasping. She then laughed about the man's condition."
The 911 operator was found to be in violation of two standard operating procedures, including one that pertains to the use of telephone etiquette.
Arbogast said the operator was disciplined.