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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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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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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CPOA to Investigate Driving Complaints

On February 10, 2013, a police van driven by Sgt. Adam Casaus crashed into Ashley Browder and her younger sister, Lindsay Browder, at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle ranch NW. Twenty-one year-old Ashley was killed and her sister was injured.  The police vehicle was driving at a high speed.

A few weeks ago the City announced the settlement of the case brought by the Browder family, with the family receiving an $8.5 million settlement in the case.

As part of the settlement the City agreed to provide additional driver training and will work toward implementing other safety provisions and City police cars will bear bumper stickers asking people to report careless or dangerous drivers to 311 .

Ed Harness, Director of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Agency and Board. stated that the Oversight Board would be getting even more complaints,due to implementation of the plan, to direct all complaints about vehicle accidents to the Oversight Agency.

That, according to an obviously unhappy Harness, would “inundate” the Agency with vehicle accident complaints.

The Police Oversight Board members — whose work was intended to be an integral part of the police reform effort in Albuquerque — should not be surprised by the Chief’s new plan to keep them busy overseeing APD’s motor vehicle accidents and the drivers who caused them.

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Personnel Board Delays Dear Response

The City of Albuquerque’s Personnel Board decides appeals by City employees of the disciplinary actions taken against them and is supposed to provide advice to City officials on personnel and disciplinary matters.

But the Personnel Board over the past twenty years or so has struggled to keep up its membership and now says it lacks the members needed to clarify its ruling in one of the City’s most controversial cases:  the disciplinary action against Officer Jeremy Dear over two years after Dear shot and killed 19-year old Mary Hawkes.

Without referring to the killing of Hawkes, City officials charged Dear with violating its policy regarding recording of citizen-contacts and critical incidents, claiming Dear was guilty of insubordination because he repeatedly failed to record despite having been ordered to comply with the City’s body-cam recording policies.  Finding little evidence of the purported “order,” the City Personnel Board decided to return Dear to work after he served a suspension, a ruling that the City appealed to the State District Court.

The district court judge hearing the appeal, Clay Campbell, remanded the case to the Personnel Board asking for an explanation of the Board’s ruling. The Personnel Board – lacking the former-Chairman who had written the decision – decided at its January 11, 2017, monthly meeting to ask for additional time to respond to the judge.

Personnel Board members had voted 3-2 to reinstate Dear. City officials claimed that Dear refused an order to always record his encounters on the job, and he was charged with insubordination. Mary Hawkes was not discussed by the Personnel Board, but the City’s Civilian Police Oversight Board, after first announcing that they would be going ahead with a hearing on the shooting of Hawkes by Dear then announced at the January meeting that it was stalled and would not be hearing the Dear shooting case immediately.

At its February 8, 2017 meeting the City Personnel Board again discussed its inability to act on the Court’s remand and again discussed needing more time to respond.

After failing twice to address the remand and after going still another month without a Chairperson whose vote is generally decisive, the City Personnel Board announced the cancellation of its March 8, 2017, meeting.

 

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