Saturday, March 19, 2005

Independent APD Review Called For

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

The Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission wants all allegations and complaints against senior APD officials— including the evidence room scandal— to be investigated by the city's top police watchdog.
"We believe we are the appropriate agency to investigate any complaints against captains and above," Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland said.
The seven-member citizen commission on Friday sent a letter to APD Chief Gilbert Gallegos, recommending he change the department's standard operating procedures to expand the Independent Review Office's purview.
As it is, the IRO investigates only citizen complaints against officers and police shooting cases, then reports to the commission.
Gallegos said Friday the commission doesn't need to get involved in the matter because the state Attorney General's Office is already investigating the evidence room, and the department is planning to hire an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation.
Last year, an anonymous memo surfaced, alleging that guns, drugs, cash and other evidence had been stolen from the evidence room. Last month, cleanup of a chemical leak in the room caused the destruction of numerous pieces of evidence in more than 200 drug cases.
And APD's own investigation into the evidence room has been criticized from within the department.
"The citizens of Albuquerque need these allegations and any other allegations against the chief or his senior staff to be investigated by an independent investigator that is outside APD and reviewed by the citizen oversight system," the letter to Gallegos states. "This system is designed to be outside the reach of politics and has been."
Gallegos said Rowland and the POC stepping in would undermine the work of the state AG's Office, which was has been investigating the evidence room for a year.
"We have a professional that is going to be doing the internal investigation, and the AG is doing the criminal investigation," Gallegos said. "They are perfectly capable of doing a professional investigation, and for us to think that they are not capable of that is very shortsighted."
Rowland said he doesn't expect Gallegos to heed the letter's recommendation. But he said he plans to look at the AG's and the internal investigators' findings.
Rowland said he will discuss those findings with Gallegos and report to the commission whether he thinks the investigations were fair and impartial.
Michael Cook, newly elected commission chairman, said the decision to enter the fray comes now because "this is the first time it's really come before us."
Cook said the Independent Review Office could investigate the evidence room, but he would also support another entity doing so as long as it's independent from APD.

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