CPOB Candidate Forum?

Police Oversight Board sets Mayoral Candidate Forum; City Council Says No Way

ABQ Free Press (Aug. 3, 2017):’

Police Oversight Board To Hold Mayoral Candidate Forum

Each candidate will have five minutes to express their views on the subjects. Then, POB board members will have a chance to spend five minutes questioning each candidate.

. . .

POB Chair Joanne Fine set up the forum and has invited all the candidates.

It is a public meeting and open to everyone who wants to attend and hear the candidates’ views. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers in Downtown Albuquerque.

NOT SO FAST, CPOB

(Aug. 7)  Last week Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Board announced it would be holding a Mayoral Candidate Forum where candidates for the City’s highest office would each get five minutes to talk about police reform and civilian police oversight.

But at Monday’s City Council meeting, just three days before the planned forum City Councillors were unanimous in denouncing the idea, calling it “ridiculous” and “insane.”

Some Councillors pointed to the “independent” and “non-political” nature of the CPOB, while others felt it would be inappropriate to hold the political forum in the City Council chambers, which is where the Police Oversight Board meets every month.

 

City Councillors expressed their outrage over plans by the Civilian Police Oversight Board to hold a Mayor’s Candidate Forum on Thursday evening at the Board’s monthly meeting.  Councillor Gibson was especially incensed.

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Doc. 290: Report and Action Plan

Doc. 290:  City’s “Action Plan”

Faced with serious issues of non-compliance when the Fifth Monitor’s Report was presented in June, Judge Brack ordered the City to develop an “Action Plan” to address some of the concerns of the non-party “stakeholders.” 

Development of the Report and Action Plan has taken most of two months. The Judge clarified, then extended the deadline for the Report, which as it turned out is more a set of disconnected issues and problems with a narrative about responsive projects and efforts either planned, completed or underway.

The City’s Police Oversight Board, the Mental Health Advisory Committee, class counsel, and APD Forward reviewed a draft of the City’s report early in June, and presented their concerns. The Community Policing Councils, considered an important aspect of community involvement, do not appear to have participated.  

The City’s lawyers and the DOJ joined in a motion asking the Judge to clarify whether or not he intended the “stakeholders,” those not parties to the lawsuit, but interested in it, to comment on the City’s proposed “action plan.” The answer was “yes.”

After receiving what presumably was a lengthy listing of issues and concerns the City’s lawyers asked for an additional two weeks to complete the action plan. That document was filed earlier this week. Doc. 290.  At the CPOB’s monthly meeting Joanne Fine questioned whether the City would incorporate any of the Board member’s proposals into the plan. 

Docket No. DateDescription
2826/2/17Joint Motion to Clarify
2836/5/17Order Clarifying
2876/30/17City Motion for Extension
2907/18/17City’s Action Plan

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The CPOB and the Union Contract

At the July meeting of the Civilian Police Oversight Board the Board members asked to be included in the negotiations with APD for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. City Legal had reportedly asked for input from the Oversight Board members as to issues that should be negotiated with the Union. 

APOA-Contract-Settlement-2016

The 2016 Contract / Settlement Agreement netted the APOA $8.1 Million in payments but was not negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement,  Police Union issues and pay continue to be at issue in the DOJ’s pattern-or-practice litigation brought against APD and the City.

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New CPOB Member: Dr. Bill Kass

Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Board has two new members:  Bill Kass and Valerie St. John.  Dr. Kass is a retired Sandia Labs employee with a PhD in Chemistry. His wife is retired State district judge Anne Kass. They have been concerned and critical of many aspects of the police reform effort in Albuquerque. Bill Kass appears to have a strong sense of the the need for civilian control of police policy, as he addresses the CPOB under “public comments” in June, 2016, a little over a year ago.

Valerie St. John is a self-employed private investigator.  The two new Board members were apparently selected by City Council staff from a list of volunteers for the CPOB positions.

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CPOB Meeting: July 13, 2017

The Agenda for the monthly meeting of the CPOB includes discussion of the Police Union Contract and an update on motor vehicle accident data. An Officer-Involved-Shooting is on the Agenda, the shooting of John Edward O’Keefe by APD Officers Matt Fisher and Michael Oates. 

Agenda item 13 is “Meeting with Counsel re: Pending Litigation or Personnel Issues.” While the CPOB continues to violate the N.M. Open Meetings Act by failing to state “with specificity” the reason(s) for going into closed sessions, the Board is being accused by its former Director of improperly closing meetings to discuss matters that must be addressed in public and that will be the likely subject of any secret Board meeting on Thursday.

O.I.S. – John Edward O’Keefe (1/13/2015)

A hair salon owner spotted two men “acting suspicious” behind his shop, saw what he described as a pile of electronic equipment on the ground in back of his shop, and called 911. Minutes later officers were seen chasing a man running away from them, numerous shots were fired, and 34-year-old John Edward O’Keefe was dead in an alley behind a hedge off Constitution near San Mateo. According to Police reports, a gun and body armor stolen the day before from a Sheriff’s deputy were found at the scene.

KOAT News presented a comprehensive report, left.

The camera footage from Officer Fisher’s lapel camera is on the right. 

The shooting of John Edward O’Keefe as he was running away from police officers who were apparently unaware of the reasons they were chasing him presents the Civilian Police Oversight Board with one of its first opportunities to explore and explain to the public how a 911 call about people “acting suspicious” could turn into an officer-involved-fatality. Many officers were at the scene of the shooting and the investigation should have been lengthy and complex. 

Albuquerque’s Burque Media attempted to get copies of video footage but was refused. The American Civil Liberties Union supported a lawsuit under the State’s Inspection of Public Records Act to secure the video of this shooting. 

APD officers shot and killed O’Keefe just four days after Lt. Greg Brachle shot and nearly killed Detective Jacob Grant.

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Former Director Sues “Dishonest” Board

Robin Hammer, the former Independent Review Officer (IRO) of the City’s Police Oversight Commission and, for a short time between 2014 and 2015, the Executive Director of the current Civilian Police Oversight Agency and Board, has filed a lawsuit against the City and the Board members. 

In her 92-page Complaint Hammer alleges that the City’s lawyers and officials and the Oversight Agency and Board members “have violated the public trust” by engaging in “intentional, numerous, unrelenting, and flagrant violations of law.” According to Hammer, Oversight Board members are “aware of the requirements of the Open Meetings Act but chose to flagrantly and continuously violate its mandates.” She provides numerous examples.

Hammer is a career prosecutor who has worked as trial counsel for the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission. Her allegations of frequent, dishonest and deliberate violations of the State and City’s good government laws are combined with claims that the Defendants engaged in “a spectacularly dishonest and despicable campaign to hurt and damage” her.

There is no doubt that Hammer found herself in a difficult position, attacked from all sides of the controversial issues and investigations she was trying to administer. And many of the accountability and transparency issues are part of the complicated relationships among citizens, police, the police union, and the law.

But the most disturbing aspect of the violations is the fact that so many government officials and lawyers are involved, yet nothing is done to stop the offensive conduct. And most demoralizing, even under the purported scrutiny of the Department of Justice, a Compliance Monitor, and the federal court, the current Police Oversight Board members seem to be violating the same open government laws over and over, continuing to engage in serious violations of the laws that properly require them to be open and honest and to represent and inform the people, not just themselves.

On Thursday, July 13, CPOB members again have a closed “Executive Session” on the Agenda to allow them to again secretly discuss “threatened or pending litigation” with their attorney, Mark Baker. Unfortunately, Baker, City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, and others charged with the duty to object to violations of the people’s rights, are active participants and in some cases beneficiaries of the Civilian Oversight Board’s closed meetings and IPRA violations.

Here Hammer conducts one of the last meetings of the severely depleted Police Oversight Commission on July 10, 2014, just three years ago. Note the City attorney seated between two of the remaining Commissioners. The newly organized Civilian Police Oversight Board, with Robin Hammer as its Director, held its first meeting in March, 2015.

Open Meeting Act violations have plagued Albuquerque’s police oversight agencies, starting around 1999 when the POC began with an extended dispute over the openness of hiring an IRO.  Hammer’s Complaint against the CPOB observes that despite the widespread and blatant violations of law, no one reported the lawbreakers.

The Agency and the Board are tasked with enforcing the law concerning Albuquerque’s Police Department. Yet the Board failed to police and prevent its own massive violations of law, instead covered them up, and then retaliated against Plaintiff Hammer for calling attention to and trying to correct their illegal activity. In this regard, the Board was an ongoing, lawless enterprise, ironically tasked with overseeing the law involving others, while blatantly ignoring the law as it applies to them.

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CPC Meeting 6-12-2017

At the quarterly Community Policing Councils’ “summit” Civilian Police Oversight Agency Director Ed Harness repeatedly criticized APD’s “Command Staff” as being obstructive and non-responsive. According to Harness, it is those high-ranking APD officials who are responsible for the lack of morale among APD officers. 

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Doc. 284: Minutes of June 8, 2017, Status Conference

Document 284 is minutes of the most recent Status Conference, held in the Federal District Court in Las Cruces on June 8, 2017.

Dr. Ginger and his Monitor Team will be in Albuquerque the week of June 12. The July Status Conference will be held by Magistrate Judge Vidmar.

Judge Brack is requiring the City to submit a Report and Action Plan setting out its prospective plans and proposals. First, however, he is requiring City lawyers to share their plans with others.

The City’s “Report and Action Plan” are due to be filed with the Court no later than July 3, 2017.

Minutes of the Status Conference held last week in Las Cruces suggest some of the issues challenging Albuquerque’s police reformers. 

  1.  The Settlement Agreement requires the Monitor to conduct “Outcome Assessments” charting the progress of the City in complying with the Agreement. The minutes refer to a “number of miscommunications leading to delays.” Dr. Ginger says he is getting only inaccurate and unreliable data, but the City disagrees and cites its new “Data Warehouse” which Dr. Ginger has been able to use since the end of March, 2017. The parties will meet with Dr. Ginger this week and Judge Brack expects an outcome assessment or a report by Dr. Ginger will be given to the Court by August 1.

  2.  The new APD promotional policy is being resolved by Dr. Ginger but Ms. Martinez and Assistant City Attorney Samantha Hults note that the “policy will need to go through public review” and asks the Court to look at the new policy “before public process.”

  3.  Assistant City Attorney Jennica Jacobi gave an update on the Policy Review Process and Dr. Ginger commented that the “new process will work much better.”

  4.  City Attorney Jessica Hernandez stated that the City is in a “difficult position” with respect to IPRA requests for CASA related communications and asks for guidance by the Court. Mr. Killebrew suggests a Rule 26(c) protective order and Dr. Ginger stated that he has “not come across this issue before in other cases.” Mr. D’Amato stated on behalf of the APOA that he would “join in motion” and Judge Brack said he would “consider the motion.”  
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Doc. 283: Schedule for City’s Report and Action Plan

On Friday, June 2, 2017, the DOJ and City filed a Joint Motion to Clarify Court’s Directive. They were asking the Judge to advise them whether to distribute copies of the City’s draft Report and Action Plan concerning community and public involvement to the amici and “stakeholders” and whether to allow comments before filing it with the Court. Judge Brack’s new Order, Doc. 283, sets a schedule that requires distribution of the draft report by June 12 and “any input in writing to the City no later than June 27, 2017.” 

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Doc. 282: Joint Motion to Clarify

Should Police Oversight Groups See Draft Reports?

An unusual motion filed last Friday in the DOJ’s Section 14141 police reform lawsuit seeks clarification of a Judge’s “Directive Regarding City of Albuquerque’s Report and Action Plan.” 

The “Joint Motion” by the City and Department of Justice asks Judge Brack to decide whether the City’s civilian oversight agencies get to see and comment on the City’s latest plans before they are approved by the parties and Monitor and filed with the Court.

D-282-Joint-Motion-Clarification

The Motion was filed with the approval of the Settlement Agreement’s compliance monitor, Dr. Ginger. The APOA ostensibly takes no position on the issues..

Negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque more than three years ago resulted in a overseen by a compliance monitor and federal district judge.

The agreement included a substantial measure of community and citizen involvement, including the continuation of a police oversight agency, the CPOA, and a newly organized 9-member Civilian Police Oversight Board to investigate and report on policy and practice compliance. The agreement and City Ordinances also added a Mental Health Response Advisory Committee and 7 area Citizen Police Councils.   The Oversight Board members have persistently complained about being shut out of meaningful reform of policies or practices by the City and its lawyers.

The joint motion filed by the DOJ and City’s lawyers on Friday, June 2, asks for “an order clarifying the Court’s directive that the City file a ‘report and action plan’ addressing certain matters raised during the May 10, 2017, hearing.”

The parties are essentially asking Judge Brack whether he intended to include the Civilian Police Oversight Board, the Mental Health Advisory Board, and the Community Policing Councils in the mandatory but up to now closed-to-the-public discussions (or “review process”) among the parties – the APD, the Police Union, and the DOJ – and Monitor. 

The May 10, 2017, presentation of the Monitor’s 5th Report included criticism by some of the community advocacy groups and the Police Oversight Board that they were being ignored and bypassed. Judge Brack ordered the City to file a “written report and action plan” within 30 days about how it would be addressing the lack of citizen and community involvement and participation that has marred the reform process up to now.

That Report would have been due to be filed on June 9. But after hearing the oversite boards’ concerns and at the request of the DOJ, Judge Brack told the City to provide a draft report and action plan “to the Parties within 30 days and file its final report and action plan at 45 days, or June 24, 2017.”

Despite the apparent intention of the Court to include and involve the public and its representatives, Judge Brack said nothing either way about providing the draft report to the oversight, mental health, or community policing boards and members, or about allowing them an opportunity to comment and suggest changes.

The motion concludes by asking:

whether the City should provide its draft report and action plan to the Amici and CASA Stakeholders when it provides the draft to the Parties on or before June 9, 2017, and consider their input in finalizing the report and action plan that it files with the Court on or before June 24, 2017.

Dr. Ginger’s Draft Reports

Similar questions arose a few weeks ago  when the Police Oversight Board members were allowed to see, but not comment on, draft copies of the Monitor’s Fifth Compliance Report. Although the preliminary report was distributed to various groups and individuals including the APOA, neither the draft report or the comments on that report have been disclosed to the public.

At that time the CPOA’s Executive Director and Dr. Ginger both cited a paragraph in the Settlement Agreement, paragraph 315, purporting to exclude Monitor Reports and communications among the parties from the definition of “public records:”

315. The Monitor is not a state or local agency or an agent thereof, and accordingly, the records maintained by the Monitor or communications between the Monitor and the Parties shall not be deemed public records subject to public inspection.

While the issue is still apparently not being discussed publicly, pending IPRA requests currently challenge the contention that proposals, comments, and communications among the parties are secret and not public records subject to inspection under the State law.

Allowing the oversight boards and CPCs to participate in the previously closed “review and report” process now would surely open that process to the public and the press, and whether the “parties” and Court can allow that to happen may be the real question the DOJ and City’s Joint Motion for Clarification is asking the Judge to answer.

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