Police Complaints

City Employees Prevent Citizens from Communicating with the POC

At last month’s meeting of the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission, one of the commissioners complained when we made an announcement during public comments. All the commissioners (except one) were quite surprised when we told them that their colleague Linda Martinez is also active in the Fraternal Order of Police. Commissioner Shine asked why we didn’t tell them about it sooner instead of announcing unexpectedly it during public comments.

It sounds like a great idea. If we could have told them sooner, it might have enabled them to address the problem at that meeting, instead of postponing it to the next one. Certainly we’d have been happy to get the information to them sooner. But exactly how were we supposed to do that?

Several activists report that emails sent to individual commissioners are seldom if ever returned. Some suspect that the commissioners delete them unread. There actually may be good reason for that. Laws concerning public records and public meetings mean they have to carefully avoid conducting business in a closed forum like a personal email account.

The POC chairperson recently instructed us that the proper way for citizens to communicate with the Police Oversight Commission is to direct their correspondence through the Independent Review Officer, Robin Hammer. Supposedly the IRO will pass on communications to all the commissioners.

But that doesn’t seem to work either.

Police Complaints Investigator Charles Arasim recently sent an email to the IRO to ask about the status of some recent complaints, which had apparently been misplaced or mishandled by the IRO office, causing considerable delay and inconvenience to Mr Arasim. He asked that his concerns be relayed to the Police Oversight Commission.

But the Independent Review Officer and the Commission’s legal counsel have both refused to relay messages from citizens to the commission. IRO Hammer wrote back, saying:

I can not forward this email to Commissioner Siegel or your November 11, 2012 email addressed to Commissioner Shine, as doing so would constitute ex parte communication between you and the Commission on pending matters.

This is needless obstructionism and a most peculiar interpretation of the term ex parte. Hammer’s refusal to forward the message also flies in the face of the POC’s own rules and regulations, which state:

The POC acts like the supervisor over the IRO…. The Police Oversight Commission reviews all complaints against the IRO and may take some actions or may recommend to the Mayor that certain supervisory actions be taken.

The chairperson of the Police Oversight Commission tells us that communications must be sent through the IRO. But when the IRO receives complaints about clerical problems in her office, she refuses to pass them on to the commission. How is the commission supposed to supervise the IRO when the IRO is running interference against concerned citizens?

Commissioners, you resent surprises at meetings, you don’t let people talk more than two minutes, you ignore our emails, and your IRO won’t let you hear from us.

Just how are we supposed to communicate with you?

  • I was hoping to speak to these issues at the LTPC meeting today during their agenda item "The role of the LTPC" discussion, but unlike the POC that allowed public comment during parts of their last discussions, the LTPC would not allow it. They seemed to be at a loss for words and twice I offed to give them a laundry list of issues that the LTPC could work on. In the end they really didn't speak about anything and adjourned their meeting. It was truly sad to see an opportunity to start positive change at the POC to be thrown away like an old sock.