Police Complaints

Report from the Police Oversight Commission's Long-Term Planning Committee

By Charles Arasim, Police Oversight Activist

Having had some experience with the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission I have kept an eye on ongoing events.

During the last few meetings of the POC I have heard the commissioners refer to another board called the LTPC (Long Term Planning Commission). Being that there is no listing of the LTPC on the City of Albuquerque’s website I called the City’s 311 information number only to discover that they had no information on this group. Not letting that be a roadblock, I then made a direct call to the POC office and discovered that the LTPC is a subgroup of three of the POC commissioners (Ms. Valerie St. John, Mr. Richard Sobien, and Ms. Bambi Folk) and that they meet on the last Thursday of each month. It appears that the main purpose of the LTPC meetings is for an open (to the public) discussion between the commissioners and the staff of the POC where they discuss practices and polices.

I attended the September 27, 2012 LTPC meeting to hopefully bring attention to what I have observed as drawbacks to the practices and policies of the POC. To my delight recently seated POC commissioner, Richard Shine, was also present in the audience.

Not surprisingly, as these meetings are only publicly published at City Hall three days prior, I was the only member of the public in attendance. It appears that this is quite common as I was virtually ignored until such time the meeting started and the “public comment” section was quickly glossed over. I was given no choice but to forcibly interject myself into the meeting, sign in, and then I was allowed two minutes to speak. Commissioner Shine, from the audience, made a verbal request to make sure my name was on the record

Being that I had a laundry list of suggestions, I thought I should start with what I thought would bear the greatest fruit.

Number one on my agenda was the posting of the Standard Operating Procedures, General Orders, Special Orders, and any other pertinent information concerning the policies and practices of the Albuquerque Police Department on the City’s website. I asked the simple question; how is it possible for the public to know when a police officer violates the rules if the rules are secret? To my astonishment, none of the commissioners, the POC attorney, the two IRO’s (Independent Review Officers) present, the APD IA liaison, or the POC secretary knew that this information was lacking from their own office’s webpage. (The only place this information is currently published is right here on Police Complaints) I was assured that this matter would be rectified as soon as possible. After the meeting was over, commissioner St John even made the effort to find me out in the parking lot to thank me for bringing this “lack of transparency” to her attention. She explained that she has only been on the commission for four months.

The second item on my agenda was the timing of “sustained” findings coming from the POC. I went on to explain that in a complaint that I had filled, that was eventually sustained by the POC, the IRO knew or should have known from the moment I placed my complaint on his desk that the officer in question had violated a department SOP. I further explained that had I had that information in a timely fashion it would have not only helped me in my ongoing court case (that I won anyway), but it would have also allowed me to file a complaint with the APD IA office within their sixty day cut off policy concerning the criminal actions I was subjected to by this officer. Again to my astonishment, none of the officials present, except for possibly APD IA liaison Lt. Miller had a clue as to what I was talking about. Commissioner Sobien went as far as to ask me, “do you think that would have helped you in your case?” And to top it off, commissioner Folk asked me what I meant by a “sustained” POC complaint. Commissioner Folk is the vice-chair of the POC.

There was no other discussion of this situation during the meeting.

There was however a discussion between the POC attorney and me later on in the meeting concerning the POC’s lack of power to bring criminal complaints against an officer. I had to explain to the attorney that even though the commission could not bring a formal criminal complaint there was nothing stopping them from bringing a recommendation of such to the APD IA.

As other items came up for discussion, the topic of POC community outreach came around. Apparently outreach is a requirement of the city ordinance that created the POC. Once again I interjected myself into the conversation and suggested that they start with better public exposure of the meeting we were having right then. I explained to them how this commission is virtually invisible not only to the public, but also the city’s 311 information hotline people and that there is zero information on their own office webpage. I told them that the lack of transparency concerning this commission is so bad that this very meeting wasn’t even posted, as other meetings were, on the door of the very building we were in. I believe it was around this same time that again, from the audience, commissioner Shine spoke up to the fact that this meeting wasn’t being properly recorded. He pointed out that recording equipment was available and he didn’t see any reason why it wasn’t be utilized. He suggested that all future LTPC meetings be recorded mechanically and not by the shorthand of the POC secretary.

Another subject that was discussed was the sharing of information between the APD IA division and the POC IRO office. POC attorney, Ms. Duhigg, started to explain that there may be “privacy issues” with the sharing of information and issues with violations of privacy clauses in the police officer union contract. Commissioner Shine and newly appointed IRO, Robin Hammer, had many issues with Ms. Duhigg’s interpretation of the laws and I was able to add that Ms. Duhigg should educate herself on a recent ruling, that flies in the face of her arguments, by the state AG’s office on the subject of what constituted “private” information.

  • A follow up was sent via email to newly appointed IRO Robin Hammer (rhammer@cabq.gov) containing information on the recent ruling by the NMAG concerning an inspection of public records complaint (http://abq.policecomplaints.info/media/pdfs/nmago_determination_police_discipline.pdf) with my request the Ms. Hammer send the information on to Ms. Duhigg. I have received email replies from both ladies thanking me for the information. Ms. Duhigg can be reached at: Doris Duhigg Assistant City Attorney PO Box 2248 Room 4015 Albuquerque, NM 87103 (505) 768-4696 dduhigg@cabq.gov