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.

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