Over at Cato’s Police Misconduct web site, we have selected the worst case for the month of November: The Albuquerque Police Department, (APD) which is now under investigation, once again, for misconduct.
Here’s the background. A few years ago, after numerous complaints from community leaders, the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation of the APD. In April 2014, the DOJ announced its finding that there was indeed a pattern of excessive force by officers with the APD. Police officials promised to change and improve.
Shortly thereafter, an APD officer shot and killed 19 year old Mary Hawkes. It looks like Hawkes stole a car and the police were trying to catch her. The police said she was a threat and so deadly force was necessary. Hawkes’ family sued the city for excessive force. Prior to trial, lawyers asked to see any police body camera footage from the incident.
Now we come to the latest news reports of APD misconduct. Reynaldo Chavez was an employee of the City of Albuquerque and his job was handling records requests. Chavez says he was aware that the police department had a peculiar policy regarding police body camera footage. When the footage helped the police, it was released to the public. When the footage hurt the police, such as showing excessive force, the footage was altered or destroyed. In other words, the APD had a policy of tampering with evidence, which is a crime.
Chavez reportedly turned over incriminating body camera footage to the lawyers representing the Hawkes family. Chavez then lost his job and he is now fighting to get his job back because he says he was punished for doing what he was legally supposed to do.
The APD has denied any wrongdoing, but the state attorney general has seen enough to launch yet another investigation into APD practices.