Police Complaints

Police Oversight Commissioner also active in pro-cop advocacy group

The Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission (POC) is supposed to be an independent board of volunteer citizens impanelled to investigate citizen allegations of police misconduct. Although commissioners are supposed to be impartial, nearly every meeting opens with comments from citizens accusing them of pro-cop bias. At Police Complaints, we’ve uncovered strong evidence of just such a bias.

Linda Martinez was appointed to the POC in 2007 and is the current chairperson. She leads the POC meetings, serving essentially as the public face of the Commission. Not so widely or publicly known is her other affiliation as national trustee of the well-known pro-cop advocacy group, the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary. Martinez served as recently as early 2012 as president of the local lodge, a position now held by her husband Bob.

The Fraternal Order of Police lobbies politically with what they describe in this Model Candidate Questionnaire as a “pro-law enforcement agenda.” Part of their agenda concerns police misconduct, with a strong and nearly exclusive focus on the “due process rights” of police officers accused of misconduct. From the same document:

The FOP strongly supports a “bill of rights” for law enforcement officers who are, in a number of jurisdictions, denied their due process rights by police administrators and management in non-criminal proceedings. There is a need for a minimum level of procedural protections for law enforcement officers accused of administrative wrongdoing because of the gravity of potential harm to officers created by this lack of uniform safeguards.

The clearest demonstration of the conflict between the mission of the Police Oversight Commission and the FOP’s “pro-law enforcement agenda” is found on an FOP Web page titled Legislation We Oppose. According to this page, the Fraternal Order of Police opposes:

Legislation which would create or fund “civilian review boards” of law enforcement at any level of government.

The Police Oversight Commission is itself just such a “civilian1 review board” that the FOP fights against. Linda Martinez is a national trustee and past-president for an organization that directly opposes her work as chair of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission.

The local FOP lodge of which Martinez was recently president serves the same “pro-law enforcement agenda” that the national group serves. According to their Web site:

The F.O.P. has always been and remains today, actively involved in protecting the interests and welfare of law enforcement officers and their families…. [T]he F.O.P. is recognized as the VOICE of law enforcement in New Mexico, remaining a leader in protecting the rights of officers at the legislative level in Santa Fe.

Martinez did disclose her FOP membership in a resumé included in the letter sent by the Mayor to the City Council reappointing her to the POC in early 2012. However, her affiliation was not mentioned in the brief biographical blurb written by the mayor’s office, which was likely the only portion of the letter that anyone on the Council actually read.

How can Linda Martinez claim to be an impartial investigator of citizen allegations of police misconduct when she also serves with a group dedicated to “protecting the interests and welfare of law enforcement officers”? How can she impartially hear cases on a local citizen review board while simultaneously volunteering for a national organization that specifically opposes boards just like the POC? And most importantly, how can Albuquerque citizens place any confidence in the deliberations of a board that is chaired by someone who admits to serving a “pro-law enforcement agenda”?

Certainly, police officers and their families need and deserve a group like the Fraternal Order of Police to promote their interests. Linda Martinez has a long and, we expect, commendable history of public service to that organization. But her dedication to that pro-cop advocacy group creates at least an appearance of bias that should disqualify her from serving on the Police Oversight Commission. Her position as commissioner and as chairperson can only undermine public trust in that board’s ability to judge cases impartially. We call on City Councilor Don Harris (), whose district Martinez represents, to recuse Martinez and nominate to the Police Oversight Commission a person of unquestionable impartiality.

1 A more proper term, of course, would be “citizen review board.” Police officers in the United States are not soldiers and are not supposed to be soldiers. The police themselves are “civilians” as much as the citizens who have hired them.