Something’s very wrong with Albuquerque-area law enforcement. The Albuquerque Police Department has been described as a “criminal enterprise.” These words didn’t come from an activist group or an enraged op-ed in the local paper, but rather from a departing District Attorney in a letter to the DOJ.The DOJ is at least partially aware of the Albuquerque PD’s criminal activities. Its 2014 investigation concluded APD officers routinely engaged in indiscriminate force deployment. Worse, those above the officers did almost nothing to curb misconduct and brutality. Beyond shooting citizens at an alarming rate, APD officers were found to be tampering with camera footage — an accusation brought by a private employee of the department in an affidavit presented to a judge.
Jury to be asked to consider self-defense in secretly recorded shooting.
on Wednesdsay, it was announced that a settlement has been reached in which law enforcement officers will receive more training. While the official details of the settlement were “confidential,” the Huffington Post got a copy of the settlement using a FOIA request and found some interesting details, including an agreement that none of the four journalists in question will “publicize” the agreement in any way
Ten years ago today, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, police gunned down two black families on Danziger Bridge. A new book by Ronnie Greene tells their story.
Section 38.15 of the Texas Penal Code makes it an offense to interrupt, disrupt, impede, or otherwise interfere with “public duties,” including those being exercised by a police officer. That’s the law pretty much everywhere, of course, but the question that has arisen in recent years is whether you are “interfering” (etc.) with a police officer just because you are recording what he or she is doing.
Actually, that’s not a serious question, it’s just something bad cops say because they don’t want to be recorded. The argument boils down to, “I had to stop what I was doing and come over and kick your ass because you were recording me, and you therefore interrupted my exercise of a public duty.” It’s a hilariously bad argument that way too many officers have gotten away with.
The Texas statute doesn’t say anything specific about recording, although it does say a person can’t be prosecuted if the interfering acts “consisted of speech only.” That would probably also cover “expressive conduct” (i.e., the middle finger) which also counts as speech under the First Amendment, but what about recording? Yes, say courts who don’t hate freedom, that’s protected too because it is “fundamental and virtually self-evident” that the reason for the recording is so you have proof when you tell somebody what happened. It is therefore unconstitutional to punish someone for doing that, whether via criminal prosecution or the more expedited procedure of just shooting them.
Okay, now along comes Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) with H.B. 2918. This bill would amend section 38.15 to expressly include within the definition of “interference” the conduct of “filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 25 feet of the officer,” or doing so “within 100 feet of the officer” if you are also carrying a concealed handgun.
Of course, the officer is always going to be “within 25 feet of the officer,” but let’s assume he meant to say that the person doing the filming must stay more than 25 feet away. (The 100-foot distinction makes no sense to me either, but let’s set that aside.) Villalba says the provision is only meant to provide a buffer zone—or as he insists on putting it, a “halo”—around police officers so they can do their jobs without interference. But the law already precludes actualinterference, so this provision adds nothing in that sense. And by legally defining any recording within 25 feet as “interference,” it plainly authorizes police to arrest anyone who’s doing that, whether they are actuallyinterfering or not.
“At the time officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground. Furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” the affidavit said.
If there’s one thing the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) does well — or at least, frequently –it’s shoot and kill Albuquerque residents. Its officers’ obvious preference for excessive and/or deadly force attracted the notice of the DOJ, which issued a (mostly) scathing review that was tempered somewhat by the DOJ’s appreciation of the inherent risks of the job, as well as all the hard work the city’s officers do when not shooting Albuquerque residents.
On May 3rd of last year, Gail Martin called the APD to help her when her husband, Armand Martin, threatened her and her two children with a gun. This turned into a lengthy standoff which finally ended when APD officers shot Martin as he ran from the house. According to the police, Martin was holding two guns at the time.
The APD released a number of records, including footage captured before and after the shooting, but nothing containing the shooting itself. Local law firm Kennedy Kennedy & Ives, representing Gail Martin for a possible civil rights lawsuit, requested a copy of police recordings containing the actual shooting under New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
Over a month later, the APD responded. Sort of.
The Kennedy Kennedy & Ives Law Practice in the lawsuit said the department in mid-August released six CDs containing records on the May 3 shooting death of Armand Martin, a 50-year-old Air Force veteran, in response to the firm’s records request. But three of the CDs were password protected.
Now, this could have been a simple oversight, but if so, the problem would be solved already. Instead, it looks as though the APD is looking to keep the law firm from viewing the videos it requested.
The firm has tried to get the password from APD records, evidence and violent crimes personnel to no avail, according to the complaint…
Now the APD’s being sued. The firm is seeking not only access to the password-protected videos, but also damages and legal fees. According to the firm, access to these videos is crucial to determining whether or not Gail Martin has a legitimate civil rights case. Without them, the firm is no better positioned to make this call than the general public, which has only seen the lead-in and aftermath of the shooting.
This isn’t the APD’s only legal battle related to its IPRA non-compliance. Late last year, KRQE of Albuquerque sued it for “serial violations” of the law. That’s in addition to the one it filed over a 2012 incident, in which the PD stalled on its response to a journalist’s public records request before releasing the requested footage at a press conference, basically stripping the reporter of her potential “scoop.”
It’s common knowledge that law enforcement agencies are less than helpful when it comes to releasing documentation of alleged wrongdoing. It’s the one part they can’t completely seal off when circling the wagons. This leads to weeks, months… even years of obfuscation. And this often leads to lawsuits, paid for by the same public it doesn’t want to hold it accountable.