March 16, 2017 CPOB Meeting

The March meeting of the Civilian Police Oversight Board was a relatively lengthy meeting that included an officer involved wounding case and much discussion about the Board’s considerable dissatisfaction with the Chief’s responses to the Board and the ability of the Board members to affect City policy.

The Board announced that their new data analyst, Dr.  Miriam Verploegh, would be leaving.

As it now does routinely, the Board dismissed several cases by closing them administratively or by signing off on their dismissal without identifying any specific cases by name. The Board also held a closed “Executive Session” without identifying or announcing the reason for its secret meeting, saying only that it was for discussion of personnel or attorney-client privileged matters.

The Policy Review Subcommittee report by Dr. Brown focused on the City’s Office of Policy Analysis and a letter being drafted about the failure of the process to allow input from the members of the Civilian Oversight Board or the public.

Officer-Involved Shooting Case

The CPOB heard and agreed with Director Harness’ recommendation of further inquiry into the “accidental” shooting and wounding of an Albuquerque man. In particular, he suggested that an investigation should be initiated against Sergeant K., who “ordered an out- of-policy search.”

Ramiro Armendariz was shot on December 14, 2014 by APD officer Tamas Nadas, who claimed he was climbing through a window on a burglary investigation in an apartment near Louisiana and Zuni “when he stumbled. He accidentally fired a shot, sending a bullet from a second-floor apartment through to the first floor apartment where Armendariz was grabbing a drink of water,” according to KRQE’s report.

The CPOA and Harness not only found fault with both the conduct of the officer who fired the bullet, but expressed concern over officers’ unwarranted and unconstitutional search of the premises above the shooting victim’s apartment and the investigation that failed to criticize either the shooting or the warrantless entry by police. “The law does not allow the officer to enter that apartment” without a warrant, Harness told Board Chair Joanne Fine, when she questioned his conclusion that the warrantless entry violated the law.

The case was reportedly settled for around $400,000.

Frustration and a Study Session

At last month’s (February 9, 2017) meeting Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Board members expressed their frustration with the limitations imposed by the City and APD officials that some Board members believed has crippled the Police reform effort in Albuquerque.

Civilian Police Oversight Agency Director Ed Harness described efforts to have a voice in the selection of the vendor the City was going to contract with to investigate allegations of tampering with lapel camera videos.  The Board members are anxious to address their concerns to the City Council and see changes made to the City’s police oversight ordinance, but they were advised they should arrange a “study session” with the City Counselors first.

That “study session” was held on Friday, March 10, 2017.

Video Tampering Claimed

The Case Review Committee of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Board usually meets about a week before the Board’s monthly meetings to review cases. The Board had cancelled its December meeting, but held a Special Meeting after the City’s former official records custodian made serious and specific allegations of evidence tampering.

Here Oversight Board members meeting in a subcommittee discuss with Director, Ed Harness, the City Administration’s plan to finance an investigation into well-publicized allegations by former APD Records Custodian Reynaldo Chavez and attorney Tom Grover that lapel camera videos were altered or erased. Media attention focused on the shooting of Mary Hawkes by Officer Jeremy Dear.

Video by Charles Arasim. The Subcommittee met on Monday, in preparation for the Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, January 12 at 5 p.m.

And today the ABQ Free Press reports that City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Dan Lewis has asked the Attorney General to release the investigation reports indicating former Police Chief Ray Schultz’s involvement with Taser and whether it constituted criminal misconduct.

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.