Police Complaints

Police use force to suppress comment at Police Oversight Commission

The Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission voted unanimously last night in support of chairperson Linda Martinez. But first, they re-arranged the agenda to prevent the public from speaking about Martinez’ involvement with the Fraternal Order of Police. When citizens protested, armed police officers were called and one man was ejected from the meeting.

Linda Martinez has sat on the Police Oversight Commission since 2008. She is also a national trustee and past president for the Fraternal Order of Police, a pro-cop advocacy group that specifically opposes citizen oversight of the police. This appearance of a conflict of interest was first reported by Police Complaints in October.

Allegation of conflict dismissed without discussion, debate, or public comment

Commissioner Bambi Folk began by proposing an amendment to the agenda. Meetings usually open with public comment, but commissioners voted to post-pone the public comment time.

Martinez then read a prepared statement claiming to be unbiased. She also asserted a First Amendment right of free association to justify her membership in both the POC and the FOP.

Commissioner Richard Shine then moved the adoption of an exceedingly wordy resolution, which he read aloud at great length, essentially stating that the commissioners do not see any conflict in allowing an active member of the Fraternal Order of Police to lead the city’s independent police oversight process.

There was no debate, discussion or public comment. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Police threaten citizens, eject speaker from the meeting

Next on the amended agenda was a lengthy presentation from District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. Watch for our story on that presentation, coming soon.

Comments from the public were then permitted, ninety minutes after the meeting began. But Martinez announced she would not accept comments about any matter already resolved by the commission.

So when Andres Valdez of Vecinos United tried to speak about the Fraternal Order of Police conflict, commissioners pounced.

As soon as Valdes began touching on the appearance of conflict created by Martinez’ FOP affiliation, Commissioner Richard Shine interrupted him forcefully. Martinez threatened to have the police remove Valdez by force if he did not shut up immediately. Valdez read his comments peacefully while the commissioners continued to shout at him.

Police finally did remove Valdez from the room. Protesters in the audience called out in anger and were also threatened. Order was eventually restored, and no one was ever permitted to discuss the Fraternal Order of Police.

At the last meeting of the POC, commissioners refused to allow any discussion of the possible conflict. They tabled discussion to the December meeting, ostensibly to address the matter after appropriate public notice. Now it’s obvious that the commissioners’ purpose was not to provide public notice and solicit public comment but only to buy time to arrange in secret a quick resolution to dismiss the matter forever.

With parliamentary sleight-of-hand, backed up by armed police force, commissioners silenced all public comment about a topic they didn’t want discussed.

What an “appearance of conflict” means

The commissioners failed utterly last night in their stated mission of promoting public confidence in the police oversight process. Using armed police officers to eject citizens who object to being shut out of the process is just one dramatic demonstration of their disregard for the citizens they claim to represent. The resolution dismissing any concern of an appearance of conflict is more subtle, but equally destructive of the aims of this commission.

In the case of an appearance of conflict, it is futile to debate whether the apparent conflict is real or not. The appearance alone is enough to lessen public trust. A national think-tank, City Ethics, has weighed in on the controversy in an opinion piece titled What makes a conflict problematic:

[Linda Martinez’s] bias or her ability to do her job objectively are not facts that anyone can establish. They are simply speculations. Even the chair does not know how much she may be affected by her involvement with the FOP auxiliary or her husband’s involvement with the state FOP.

It is not bias or ability to do one’s job objectively that make a conflict of interest problematic. It is the appearance of bias and the appearance that one is conflicted that make it problematic.

The chair needs to recognize that this is not a personal issue involving her integrity, her ability to act objectively, or her opinion on citizen oversight. It is a public issue alone, and it involves how her situation appears to the public. She needs to recognize that she has a public problem regarding the strong appearance of impropriety that arises from her conflict situation. The appearance is so strong that she has no choice other than to resign from her membership of the oversight commission. It is too late for her and her husband to resign from their FOP positions.

Commissioner Cameron stated his philosophical reasons for supporting the resolution. Bias, he said, is part of the human condition. It is the duty of a public official to overcome those biases and act objectively. His words are true, so far as they go.

But the point raised by Martinez’ involvement with the Fraternal Order of Police is not some metaphysical theory about human nature. It is something quite different from the personal biases we all struggle with or against. It is a public appearance of conflict affecting an official public body charged with an extremely serious public trust.

That is why the commissioners’ vote of confidence is completely irrelevant. Their personal opinions about the Fraternal Order of Police doesn’t matter. Their personal trust in Linda Martinez isn’t at issue. What’s at issue is public trust in the Police Oversight Commission.

Which is now approaching an all-time low.

  • joseph Dion Torres who was told by the commission and by commissioner siegal that noone should talk to or tant the tow truck driver in anyway before he was in front of the board ,,,,,in the poc meeting on dec 13 2012 ,,,,was not only tanted by two city employees self admitted on live t.v. and a fictitious story that didnt even match the two officers statements and mr.Torres was derailed by not even telling mr.Torres untill he was suprised on international t.v. ,,,that there was never a supeena issued , that a man was interviewed on a telephone call on live television without mr. torres even being able to identify him,,,and not once did anyone mention a supeena for custodial of records on who officer lorenzo appodacas prior call wall was......the is city corruption at its worst ! well every member of the poc commission ,the APD and lorenzo appodaca,officer c,,,,and the chief of police will all have personal lawsuits filled against them for not only deprovatoin of character but list of other things...they can all refer to"the fragile egg shell rule" in the word of law.......good luck APD see you at the city counsel meeting,,,dec 17 2012

  • Thank you for your consideration of the mention of Vecinos United however some of the contact info. is incorrect. The correct phone number is (505)712-5837, E-mail is vecinosunited@gmail.com the fax no. is (505)883-8213