Who watches the watchmen? The Fraternal Order of Police!

An exclusive exposé by Police Complaints of Albuquerque

The woman who runs Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Commission is also active in the Fraternal Order of Police, a group that opposes citizen review of police misconduct. We reported it here first. Our story has since gotten national attention.

Our full coverage appears below. Summary of the story so far:

  • Police Complaints first broke the exclusive, original story on October 18, 2012
  • Concerned citizens sent complaints to city councilors and mayor’s staff. No response ever received.
  • Representatives from Police Complaints announced the news at the last POC meeting —and were rebuked by commissioners for springing unwelcome news on them without advance warning.
  • Martinez confirmed by a unanimous vote of confidence at December 2012 meeting. Martinez disallows public comment and threatens protesters with forcible removal by the police.

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.

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Open Letter to Councilor Harris about bias on the Police Oversight Commission

Councilor Harris,

I demand that you ask for the immediate resignation of your appointee, Ms. Linda Martinez, from her position on the Police Oversight Commission

Ms. Martinez’s long standing and high level of involvement with the Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes any legislation that would create or fund “civilian review boards” of law enforcement at any level of government, is a direct assault to the existence of the POC.

There is no question that Ms. Martinez service on the POC clouds its validity with an appearance of bias and will require her to excuse herself from any and all cases that may come before her. If she does not excuse herself, this glaring conflict of interest and lack of impartiality will surely land the POC and the city into litigation.

Ms. Martinez’s commission on the POC simply isn’t worth the legal liability to the city and the damage being done to the POC’s mission “to promote a spirit of accountability and communication between the citizens and the Albuquerque Police Department while improving community relations and enhancing public confidence”

Respectfully Submitted,

Charles R. Arasim

Official complaint about Linda Martinez and POC bias

From: Mike Moya
Date: Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 4:29 PM
Subject: Complaint about POC Commissioner
To: “Doug Lutz, Constituent Services” < dlutz@cabq.gov >
Cc: Councilor Don Harris < dharris@cabq.gov >

Mr Lutz,

I am writing with a complaint about an appearance of bias on the
Police Oversight Commission. According to POC Rules and Regulations:

7-A. The Police Oversight Commission will not address complaints
against another commissioner. All Complaints of this nature will be
forwarded to the Mayor’s liaison to the POC.

Since you represent the mayor’s office at POC meetings, I am directing
this complaint to your attention.

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News about Fraternal Order of Police shocks Police Oversight Commissioners

Police Complaints dropped a bombshell on the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission this week: Linda Martinez, chairperson of the Commission, is also a member, national trustee, and past-president of the pro-cop advocacy group, the Fraternal Order of Police—a group that opposes citizen oversight of police misconduct issues.

Our exposé was reported today on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal and has been picked up by national news services. Martinez told the Journal she didn’t know that the organization she’s served for eight years opposes citizen review boards like the Police Oversight Commission.

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National Ethics Group Calls for Linda Martinez to Resign from the POC

Last month, Police Complaints uncovered and reported on a possible appearance of bias on Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Commission. We revealed that the chair of the POC, Linda Martinez, is also active in the Fraternal Order of Police, a group that opposes citizen review of police misconduct. Our exposé was reported by a local paper and made national news.

Now a national policy group has weighed in on the issue. City Ethics is a national non-profit that offers resources for local government ethics programs. And they say we uncovered a big problem on the Police Oversight Commission.

From the article, What makes a conflict problematic, by Robert Wechsler, Director of Research for City Ethics:

[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.

Emphasis added. Read the entire article for more details.

The Commissioners have promised they will be discussing this matter at their December 13 meeting. But there is simply nothing to discuss. There is no debating whether Martinez can be objective or whether she is biased. As we said in our official complaint to the Mayor’s office:

Allowing a past president, member, and national trustee of the Fraternal Order of Police to serve on the Police Oversight Commission, a “civilian review board” specifically opposed by the FOP, obviously creates at least an appearance of pro-police bias. Martinez’ position as commissioner and especially as chairperson vitiates the impartial character of the Police Oversight Commission and can only damage public confidence in the quasi-judicial determinations issued by the POC.

We renew our call to Linda Martinez to resign from the Police Oversight Commission. The commissioners have enough work as it is investigating citizen complaints. They don’t have time to waste debating whether the Fraternal Order of Police is an appropriate partner in Albuquerque’s police oversight process.

Journal Editorial: FOP on Police Oversight Panel is a "Disservice"

From an editorial in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal, You’re Either All-In On Police Oversight, or Not:

While Linda Martinez says she believes in police oversight, the public and police officers should be asking who, exactly, do her actions serve when she also is an official of an organization that opposes a civilian role. Her dual role is a disservice to both organizations.

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.

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Journal Story: Oversight Panel Backs Chair

From the story by Patrick Lohmann of the Journal, Oversight Panel Backs Chair

The Police Oversight Commission voted unanimously Thursday to support its chairwoman, who has been criticized in recent weeks for being a member of a police organization that opposes civilian review of law enforcement.

The commission’s decision did not sit well with some members of the audience, particularly after commissioners tried to limit public discussion on the topic. Commissioners said after their vote that discussion about a conflict of interest for POC chair Linda Martinez was, at that point, irrelevant.

Journal photo by Patrick Lohmann: Officers escort Andres Valdez, executive director of Vecinos United, from the Police Oversight Commission meeting Thursday.

Critics of Police Oversight Commission silenced

KRQE did a great story last night about the Police Oversight Commission. How can the commissioners hope to build public trust in the police oversight process when they behave like this? They have betrayed the public trust and gained nothing. They certainly haven’t stopped the people from talking about the obvious pro-cop bias at the POC.

From the KRQE News story by Alex Tomlin:

Albuquerque police have come under a lot of scrutiny lately, so you could see why there’d be some upset people when it surfaced that a group charged with policing the police is headed by a woman who is quite friendly with APD.

On Thursday critics took their complaints to the POC but Police Oversight Commission Chair Linda Martinez had one of those critics kicked out of the meeting.

Moments earlier commissioners, who are named by the City Council and the Mayor, decided to allow Martinez to stay on the board even though it was revealed last month that she is also part of the Fraternal Order of Police—a group that opposes the Police Oversight Commission.

See all our coverage of the Fraternal Order of Police conflict.

Journal editorial: Police Oversight Commission loses all credibility

From the editorial in today’s Albuquerque Journal:

[Police Oversight C]ommissioners failed on all counts regarding a clear-cut complaint against themselves. If Martinez truly “believe(d) in police oversight,” she would have resigned from one position or the other. If her eight fellow board members did, they would have counseled her to step down from the city panel.

With comments like this, how can it not be obvious that Linda Martinez has a public appearance of bias that lessens public trust in the work of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission ?

Read the complete editorial, Police Oversight Commission loses all credibility