For the past month, the KUNM news department has been attempting to investigate and report on citizen allegations against an Albuquerque police officer. Sources say this officer has been the subject of 32 complaints from citizens he’s encountered on the job. A number of these complaints involve allegations of verbal and physical abuse, including sexual abuse.
KUNM twice went through the process of filing Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) to gain access to the APD files on this officer. IPRA is the New Mexico “sunshine” law that allows both reporters and ordinary citizens to request records from state or local agencies.
The APD responded to KUNM’s first IPRA request by transmitting to the station via an email attachment over thirty blank and nearly blank pages. The non-blank pages contained no more than the officer’s last name or in some cases, just the officer’s initials. None of the pages contained references to any of the complaints or in fact any words or identifiers of any substance. Nor was the material accompanied by an explanation for the blank and redacted pages. Attempts to speak with APD officials about the attachment were met with silence and unreturned phone calls.
KUNM then filed a second IPRA request for the same material, this time including possible case numbers provided by a third party. The APD responded to this second request with the exact same blank and redacted material, though this time they did invite our reporter to come down to the City Clerk’s office to view the material and pay $42.50 if he wanted to take the pages with him (IPRA allows agencies to charge requesting parties up to one dollar a page for photo-copied material).
KUNM News has filed a complaint about these responses to the Attorney General’s office requesting that they enforce the IPRA law in this case. KUNM is also looking into other legal action.