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APD Plays Shell Game with Civilian Oversight Board

APD Plays Shell Game with Civilian Oversight Board

Board Members Say APD Tried to Withhold Information

Joanne Fine thought the answers she got from the Albuquerque Police Department were condescending, even insulting.

Fine, a member of the Civilian Police Oversight Board, and the board’s chairperson, Beth Mohr, were meeting on Nov. 9 in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown Albuquerque to find out why APD had sent the CPOB a redacted version of a report on APD’s progress in reforming itself.

The draft report by the independent monitor in the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice had several paragraphs that were blacked out.

So Fine and Mohr asked APD employee Bill Slauson and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez why APD had censored its report.

“They said it was redacted for things we didn’t need to see,” Fine told ABQ Free Press Weekly.

But Fine and Mohr wanted DOJ officials, who were also in the meeting, to know what APD was up to. So Mohr, using a copy of the unredacted report by James Ginger, the independent monitor, read aloud the things she believed APD had redacted from the draft report.

“The redacted stuff was about us [CPOB and the Civilian Police Oversight Agency], and it directly related to our work,” Fine said. Ginger and DOJ officials seemed surprised to learn what APD had failed to give the CPOB.

After apparently realizing they had been caught, both Hernandez and Slauson said the redactions were a mistake.

“It defies description as to how stupid this is. It’s condescending, insulting, and it is infuriating,” Fine said. “They got caught, they were so sorry. It is galling.”

What APD blacked out of the draft report was Ginger’s review of how the CPOA and the CPOB were performing in relation to the settlement agreement and APD’s reform effort. Both agencies were created by the City Council to investigate and rule on civilian complaints against police officers and to make policy recommendations to the police department. Both agencies are key players in the reform effort.

ABQ Free Press Weekly emailed Hernandez on Nov. 11 to ask why APD had redacted portions of the report it sent to the CPOB. She did not respond.

Fine said APD’s censorship was outrageous because the redacted comments were Ginger’s assessment of the civilian oversight process. Without being able to read Ginger’s comments, the CPOB couldn’t respond to Ginger.

“The only possible motive for this [APD’s censorship] is the feedback loop and the chance to give the monitor feedback,” Fine said. “If we don’t know what things he said about us, we can’t respond to him.”

Fine and Mohr have become increasingly vocal in ripping APD for what they say is its refusal to incorporate any civilian oversight into its reform effort.

Under the city law that created the Civilian Police Oversight Board, APD Chief Gorden Eden has 30 days to respond in writing to the board after it makes disciplinary recommendations for police officers. So far, the board has sent 58 such cases and recommendations to Eden’s office, and he hasn’t responded to a single one, Fine said.

“It’s hard to believe that the behavior we are seeing is that of a police department that wants meaningful civilian input,” Fine said.

Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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