Saturday, March 26, 2005

Feds Holding Off on APD Probe

By T.J. Wilham, Journal Staff Writer

The U.S. Attorney's Office is not going to join the list of agencies investigating the Albuquerque Police Department's evidence room— at least for now.
On Friday, U.S. Attorney officials said that, despite Mayor Martin Chávez's request last week to start an inquiry, they are going to wait for the results of state Attorney General Patricia Madrid's investigation before a decision is made on whether to start a probe of their own.
"It would be premature to launch a federal investigation, especially given the fact the AG is already conducting a criminal investigation," said Norm Cairns, an assistant U.S. attorney. "If (Madrid) requested assistance, we would assist. Absent such a request, our office is going to wait and see how the state investigation turns out."
Chávez initiated talks with the U.S. Attorneys Office in Albuquerque after Sgt. Cynthia Orr told the Journal last week that Chief Gilbert Gallegos has lied and attempted to cover up problems at the evidence unit. Gallegos has denied the allegation.
Chávez said he understands the decision.
"I respect the decision, but this really tightens the need to get the AG investigation complete," Chávez said. "There are certain things as mayor I can not get done until (Madrid) gets her investigation complete.
"I have to make sure of the factual predicate before I do things that could devastate careers."
The mayor has said changes will be made in APD because of the ongoing evidence room issues. He would not comment one way or the other if Gallegos will lose his job.
Last year, the AG's Office started to investigate APD's evidence room after an anonymous memo was sent to law enforcement officials claiming cash, drugs and jewelry were missing from the unit. The memo also questioned APD's own investigation into the matter.
AG officials have acknowledged their investigation is complete, but they are reviewing it before they issue a report.
Chávez said he does not know when the AG's Office will issue a report.
But, "from my conversations with (Madrid), it is not on the immediate horizon," he said. "She is restricted on what she can tell me."
Chávez said part of the delay is that Madrid is in Spain visiting her son and is not expected to be back for at least another week. He said Madrid does not want anything issued until she has a chance to read it.
According to APD memos obtained by the Journal this week, the AG's office is investigating the loss of more than $75,000 in property. Four police employees— including two officers— have been implicated in the thefts.
The officers are cooperating with authorities, and it is likely they will not be charged with a crime, the memos show. The memos say the employees were able to take property out of the evidence room while it was going to auction.
So far, the city's internal auditor, APD detectives, a private security company, the city' Independent Review Office and a private consulting company have conducted or are conducting reviews, audits or investigations into the evidence room.
Chávez said he has also asked the IRO to investigate the timeliness of APD's internal investigation and allegations Gallegos allowed two employees accused of wrongdoing to work in the evidence room for six months, thus allowing them the opportunity to destroy evidence that would have proven their guilt.

No comments: