Thursday, April 28, 2005

APD Handling Citizen Complaints During Evidence Probe

By T.J. Wilham and Megan Feldman, Journal Staff Writers

Because his office is busy looking into the Albuquerque Police Department's evidence room, the city's independent review officer is sending all citizen police complaints to APD's internal affairs investigators.
Before IRO Jay Rowland started his investigation into the evidence room at the end of March, about 60 percent of citizen complaints were investigated by his office. The remaining went to APD.
Which cases Rowland investigated depended on his office's caseload and whether the accusations involved a lieutenant or above.
"I'm still going to review every case to make sure the investigation is thoroughly and impartially done," Rowland said of the complaints reviewed by the APD unit. "If they miss something, I'll return it for further investigation. All of our resources are going to get that thing (evidence report) out as fast as we can."
So far this year, Rowland's office has received 109 complaints. How many of those complaints have been forwarded to the APD unit is not known.
Because APD investigators will be conducting the investigations, it will take longer than before for a citizen complaint to be completed.
Rowland has two investigators who work under him. APD has about six internal affairs investigators, who investigate complaints against officers by citizens and other officers.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said he is in the process of adding temporary investigators to the unit.
"We have handled this amount of cases before and we are going to do it again," he said. "We are going to do our best to complete fair and impartial investigations on all of these cases. That is what (internal affairs) is all about."
On March 23, Mayor Martin Chávez announced Rowland would investigate APD's evidence room. The city has already approved $25,000 for four "all-star" attorneys Rowland has brought on board. Money could increase as the investigation moves forward.
The investigation by Rowland's office is looking into how the department handled allegations that employees were stealing from the evidence room. Although many audits and investigations have been conducted, no probe has looked into APD's handling of its own criminal allegations.
Chief Gilbert Gallegos stepped down last month in the wake of allegations by former and current officers that he moved too slowly in addressing problems at the department's evidence room. The critics complained that he had allowed employees suspected of stealing from the evidence room to continue to work in the unit.
Earlier this week, the Attorney General's Office issued a report that at least $58,000 was stolen from the evidence room but that criminal prosecution was not possible because critical records were missing or had been altered.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Another APD Evidence Room Inquiry Launched

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez on Saturday announced yet another investigation into the city police department's evidence room.
At a news conference to announce the hiring of new Chief of Police Ray Schultz, Chávez also charged a blue-ribbon commission with "making our evidence room the very best in the country."
Former Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos stepped down Wednesday amid allegations he allowed theft and mismanagement to fester in the evidence unit for more than a year.
Among the allegations have been that cash, drugs, jewelry and other evidence went missing from the unit.
The commission will join the state Attorney General's Office, the city's Independent Review Office and APD's internal investigators, who are already looking at the evidence unit.
The AG's investigation is finished, and a final report is expected in the coming months.
Acting APD Chief Joe Bowdich— who will remain in the post until April 18, when Schultz takes over— will serve as chairman of the commission, Chávez said.
The commission "will immediately go into the evidence room and assure the citizens of Albuquerque that things are running as they should," he said. "Then the job will be to roll up their sleeves and reach for that goal of being the best."
Other commission members are: District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, City Council President Brad Winter, City Attorney Bob White and Police Oversight Commission Chairman Michael Cook.
"The problems will get solved, and they are indeed already on their way to getting solved," Bowdich said.

APD evidence room timeline
DECEMBER 2001: Gilbert Gallegos is named chief of police.
JULY 18, 2003: A follow-up to a 2000 internal city audit says APD had fully complied with only five recommendations, and it reiterates the need for an inventory of the evidence room. (Gallegos says this is when he first became aware of the problems.)
AUGUST 2003: Detective Cynthia Orr tells Gallegos she found proof that two employees were stealing from the evidence room and asks the chief to transfer them. Gallegos later told the Journal he did not have enough proof to transfer them but restricted their access in the unit. He also orders an internal criminal investigation.
JANUARY 2004: The two employees suspected of stealing are transferred.
MARCH 2004: An anonymous letter sent to law enforcement officials and the media claims that weapons, drugs, jewelry and cash were stolen from the evidence room and that police officials are covering it up.
MARCH 3, 2004: Gallegos announces he has asked the Attorney General's Office for a criminal investigation. He says a private company, Maximum Security, will do a forensic audit.
APRIL 24, 2004: Capt. Marie Miranda takes over the Metropolitan Forensic Science Center, which houses the evidence room.
AUG. 4, 2004: Miranda, in an e-mail, warns Deputy Chief Ed Sauer of a cover-up and mismanagement.
MARCH 18: After giving a tour of the evidence unit to the Journal, Orr tells the Journal that Gallegos lied and covered up problems.
MARCH 30: Gallegos retires. Former Sheriff Joe Bowdich is named interim chief.
APRIL 2: Ray Schultz, a former APD deputy chief, is named chief.