Police Complaints

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.

http://www.cityethics.org/content/what-makes-conflict-problematic