Police Complaints: Pc News

City withholding locations of surveillance cameras

The Albuquerque Police are bragging about a new tool that lets them spy on law-abiding citizens through a city-wide network of more than 100 video cameras. But they refuse to tell us where all these cameras are located.

From the Albuquerque Journal story by Jeff Proctor, APD video crime center debuts:

For nearly two years, the Albuquerque Police Department has quietly been at work on a controversial law enforcement strategy in which live camera feeds are piped from more than 100 cameras around the city into a video command center at police headquarters to provide officers in the field with real-time information…. Each of the cameras, which have been in place to aid city traffic engineers for years, records on a 24-hour loop.

APD’s shiny new panopticon incorporates facial recognition software and real-time integration with numerous public and private databases. Concerns for privacy and civil rights are obvious to everyone except, of course, the police.

But there’s one kind of privacy, the police are always willing to protect: their own. We’ve been trying to learn the locations of all the spy cameras that the police can tap into, but so far, they’ve refused to disclose this information in full.

We submitted the following request for this data more than four months ago:

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Police Complaints Sues City for Withholding Public Records

Police Complaints has filed a civil complaint against the City of Albuquerque for illegally suppressing information about police misconduct.

We reported last month how the city has begun censoring citizen complaints against police officers. Citizen police complaints are public records in New Mexico and the public has the right to inspect them. The city continues to provide the records on request, but removes virtually all the specific information. The nearly blank pages are completely useless to anyone investigating police misconduct.

Now Police Complaints brought suit against the city to force them to provide proper records. From the KOAT News story by Anna Velasquez, City faces suit over document redacting:

The city is the subject of a lawsuit that claims officials are withholding information the public has the right to see.

Online watchdog group Policecomplaints.info, which investigates law enforcement departments and officers across the country, said that despite repeated complaints, the city continues to improperly withhold public information.

Anna Martinez has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the watchdog group.

“Everything is redacted other than the officer’s name, and it’s not even a full name there that you can see,” she said, looking at one of the documents in question. “There is no other information within this citizen’s complaint.”

New Cover-Up: Albuquerque Police Illegally Suppressing Public Complaints

Complaints against police officers are public records in New Mexico. At PoliceComplaints.info, we have published hundreds of pages of citizen police complaints. We have never had any difficulty obtaining these public records.

Until now.

The Albuquerque Police Department is the records custodian of citizen police complaints. They recently instituted a new policy of censoring these public records. They still send them out on demand, but not before redacting them, blocking out virtually all the relevant information. This new APD policy makes a complete mockery of the citizens’ right to inspect records and hold police officers accountable for misconduct.

Last year, Police Complaints requested and received citizen complaints against APD officer Steve Hindi, one of Albuquerque’s most complained-about cops. And last month, a journalist from KUNM radio requested the same documents.

The sample documents below illustrate APD’s new public records policy.

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New IPRA Compliance guide from the Attorney General

The New Mexico Attorney General has updated their IPRA compliance guide. This document contains the full text of New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) along with a commentary from the Attorney General about how the law is to be applied and enforced. It’s an invaluable resource for journalists and investigators who need to obtain public records.

The updated document includes new information about recent rulings, including last May’s determination that police disciplinary matters are public record.

Does the Police Union contract really require hiding info from the POC?

Investigators reporting to the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission deliver only summaries of their investigations and commissioners have recently complained about these inadequate summaries. The reports also omit the names of police officers accused of misconduct, as well as any information about the discipline meted out to officers who violated the APD Standard Operating Procedures.

Even though names and discipline are public records, the City claims that their contract with the police union requires them to withhold this information from the Commission.

Are they right?

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ABQ Transit Standard Operating Procedures Posted

We’ve posted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Albuquerque Transit Security Guards. Read them now in our “Tools” section.

The Albuquerque Transit Department manages the city’s busses and bus stations. They employ a staff of security guards. These guards are dressed like cops and carry weapons, but they are not police officers. This does not stop them from using force, often illegally, to arrest people. We have obtained their SOPs and are pursuing action against guards with a history of illegal use of force.

When we originally requested this document, security supervisor John Baker (he calls himself “Lieutenant”) refused to release it to us. Of course, we forced him to let us scan the document by means of a simple IPRA demand. Now anyone can read this public record at Police Complaints.

We're penetrating the Bureaucracy!

Every government agency in New Mexico has a specially appointed records custodian who is responsible for responding to records demands from the public. The Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requires that they respond to all lawful demands.

Unfortunately, just about every records custodian we’ve dealt with so far acts less like a public servant and more like the officious and squeaky Mr Huph from The Incredibles. They hate it when informed citizens make lawful demands that generate work for them. You can practically hear them scream, “They’re penetrating the bureaucracy!”

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Bad laws in other states shield cops from public scrutiny

We are very lucky to have a law in New Mexico—the Inspection of Public Records Act— that promotes government transparency and accountability. Citizens in Idaho and Colorado have fewer rights in that regard.

Idaho makes it illegal to release to the public any information about “grievances, correspondence and performance evaluations” relating to any government employee.

Colorado makes it illegal to post a photograph of a cop, judge or prosecutor on Web site, if such would pose “an imminent and serious threat” to the cop’s safety.

A California law allows cops to demand that a Web site “not disclose his or her home address or telephone number” and provides penalties for Web sites that ignore those demands. While we are doubtful of this law’s constitutionality, we at Police Complaints, as a matter of policy, do not publish any cop’s home address or telephone number. We don’t believe there’s usually any legitimate public need for that information.

But we do publish photos of cops and complaints and grievances that have been filed against them. We believe all citizens have an absolute right to this information and we believe police officers should not object to anyone publishing this information.

Suing the government for access to info, pro se

From the Columbia Journalism Review article My Lawyer, Myself: Suing the government for access to info, pro se, by Erin Siegal

Inside well-funded newsrooms, investigative reporters can usually turn to company lawyers for help with stalled public records requests. But independent freelancers don’t have that luxury, and many can’t afford to hire legal counsel on their own. So when the time comes to stop asking the government for public records and start demanding them, what can a low-to-no budget freelancer without legal counsel do?