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.