Six Major Inconsistencies From Public Information Officers
A complaint has been filed with the City’s Police Oversight Agency against APD’s public information officers Celina Espinoza and Fred Duran for providing false information to the news media and to the public about APD’s contact with 10-year-old Victoria Martens and her family prior to the child’s brutal murder.
(See the May 31, 2017 Albuquerque Journal article “Oversight board investigating complaint against APD; Incorrect info in Martens case at issue.)
Victoria Martens is the 10-year-old child that was drugged, raped, murdered, mutilated, dismembered and burned allegedly by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and his cousin.
The murder is one of the most heinous crimes seen in Albuquerque of an innocent child in some time, and the three defendants are in custody pending a trial on multiple felony charges.
The complaint with the Police Oversight Agency was filed by Jim Larson, a former law enforcement officer with the Dallas Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service, and someone who I know and worked with some years ago and whom I respect.
Five months before the child was killed, the Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) received a complaint that one of the mother’s boyfriends tried to kiss the child which at the very least merited consideration and looking into for possible assault on a child or even child abuse.
CYFD said it did not investigate the allegation because the boyfriend was not a relative and did not live in the child’s home but CYFD reported the complaint to APD and turned it over to APD.
Months before the murder, APD had a referral from the New Mexico Human Services Department alleging that the boyfriend of the mother was trying to kiss the 10-year-old.
When you review the complaint filed by Larson and listen to the audio clips between the Journal reporter and the two APD public information officers, you can glean six major inconsistencies that some people would consider downright lies created out of whole cloth by the two APD public information officers.
(The audio clips are on the Albuquerque Journal website, along with the story.)
FIRST: Public Information Officer Celina Espinoza told the Albuquerque Journal reporter that APD had investigated the CYFD report which was not true and appears to be a total fabrication.
SECOND: Public Information Officer Fred Duran told the Journal reporter that APD detectives interviewed the child and her mother about the CYFD complaint. Specifically, Fred Duran said “Detectives went and talked to the family and that’s where we got the information that the mother had taken care of the situation by telling the boyfriend to leave and not come back.” APD detectives never went to the child’s home, never interviewed the child and never interviewed the mother.
THIRD: When Fred Duran was asked specifically why APD detectives made no police offense report about the investigation and interviews, which is required standard operating procedure policy on investigations, Duran said no report was made because making such a report would violate the child victim’s rights and amount to “police surveillance.” This is absolute nonsense. Interviews of potential victims and witnesses in a case by police is standard operating procedure in any criminal investigation and are not surveillance.
FOURTH: PIO Celina Espinoza contradicted PIO Fred Duran by saying that APD detectives did not follow up on the CYFD complaint because APD policy dictates that APD officers only follow up on criminal allegations and that “a kiss in not a crime.” How would they know if no crime was committed if APD never had contact or interviewed the child or the mother? At the very least an unwanted forced kiss by an adult of a child is an assault or battery.
FIFTH: When the Journal asked about the contradicting information, a conference call was set up with Espinoza, Duran and the Journal reporter. The Journal was told APD detectives did interview the family, the detective dealt with the reported kiss, but that they did not make any reports, and that the names of the detectives could not be released because they work on FBI high profile cases and releasing the detective’s names would jeopardize pending cases. Really? The argument smacks of a cover up in that police offense reports are public record, they contain the names of investigating officers, and the CYFD complaint had nothing to do with any federal charges.
SIXTH: PIO Espinoza says in the conference call “Everybody did everything they were suppose to” even though previously Espinoza had said APD detectives had not followed up on the complaint.
I agree 100 percent with Jim Larson when he says in his complaint, “The public must be able to trust the police department to provide truthful and accurate information regarding actions taken or not taken by officers. … That trust was violated when the department provided false statements to the public regarding the actions or inactions of detectives.”
When you listen to the audio tapes from the APD Public Information Officers, you quickly understand why so many people do not trust APD and why it has serious credibility problems with the community.
My hope is that the oversight board takes the Larson complaint seriously and thoroughly investigates and acts.
Given the serious nature of the allegations that APD failed to provide accurate information, you would think our mayor and our chief of police would hold someone accountable. But that would go against their own standard operating procedure and how they have conducted themselves during their entire tenure in office. They just look the other way and say everything is just fine with APD and that they are complying with the DOJ reforms.
What is tragic is that a child had to suffer and her life was taken in such a brutal manner when she possibly could have been saved had the CYFD and APD been a little more vigilant and dedicated to doing their jobs.