Update to previous story – After numerous requests, the Albuquerque Police Department has provided KUNM News with a portion of the files KUNM has sought for weeks concerning the behavior of an APD officer.
The background to the inquiry is this: According to multiple independent sources, this officer, who we have not yet named, has compiled over thirty complaints from citizens he’s encountered while on duty– by far the most of anyone on the APD force. The complaints range from allegations of rudeness and disrespect to verbal and physical abuse and even one complaint of sexual abuse.
KUNM has sought the files to clarify the nature of these complaints and to see how the complaints were ultimately resolved by the APD. In mid-November, KUNM used the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) process – New Mexico’s so-called governmental “sunshine” law - to file a formal request with the APD for the records. Under IPRA, APD had fifteen days to respond to the request which, at least on paper, the department did. However the files sent consisted of about forty blank pages or pages that contained literally just one or two words. Under IPRA rules, a governmental agency must provide a reason for why they have blacked out (“redacted”) certain sections of requested material or refuse to comply at all. No such explanation accompanied the dozens of blank pages we received - or has ever been communicated to KUNM despite numerous requests.
Our reporter Barron Jones then issued a second IPRA request to the APD which, after another two weeks, resulted in the exact same shipment of blank pages. KUNM then filed a formal complaint with the state Attorney General’s office. We also issued a third IPRA request to APD – in which we mentioned our complaint to the AG’s office.
This week, KUNM received details on ten of the citizen complaints filed against the APD officer. Nine out of the ten complaints involved allegations of rudeness and offensive and unprofessional behavior made by citizens questioned or ticketed by this officer. The other complaint involved a delay in the investigation by this officer of a shooting made by the spouse of the shooting victim.
In all cases, the APD officer was “exonerated” of the charges after an internal police review.
This partial compliance with KUNM’s IPRA request appears to bring up more questions than it answers. Why, for example, were these ten cases released and not the other twenty plus cases? Do the other files contain more explosive charges or charges that resulted in the officer not being “exonerated”? There also remain the larger questions that originally prompted this story: what is it about this officer's on-the-job behavior that has caused so many citizen complaints? Is it appropriate for the APD to continue to employ an officer who has had so many negative encounters with the public?
After reviewing this partial fulfillment of our IPRA request, KUNM has decided to file a fourth request asking that the remainder of the files be released.