The Albuquerque City Council on Monday evening voted to extend for another year a joint task force that allows city police officers to investigate crimes with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
A resolution to accept $50,000 in federal money and match it with $5,725 in city funds that pays overtime for APD officers to wok overtime on the task force passed quietly and without discussion as past of the council’s consent agenda during its regular meeting.
The joint task force, according to a memo from Mayor Richard Berry’s administration reauthorizing it, investigates “carjackings, commercial robberies, shootings, narcotics trafficking and previously convicted felons in possession of firearms.”
There are a number of questions — and some controversy — surrounding the relationship between APD and the ATF. They arose after 35-year-old Davon Lymon allegedly shot city police officer Daniel Webster to death during a traffic stop in October.
Months after the shooting, Lymon’s defense attorneys revealed in a court motion that undercover ATF agents allegedly purchased thousands of dollars worth of heroin and a handgun from Lymon in the weeks before the Webster shooting.
The agents did not arrest Lymon, despite his long criminal history that included a 10-year prison term for killing the grandson of Blake’s Lotaburger founder Blake Chanslor.
APD has acknowledged knowing about the undercover operation that targeted Lymon before Webster’s death. But top city police brass have repeatedly refused to say whether APD had any role in the operation — through the joint task force or otherwise.
While there were no questions about the operations of the task force, Councilors Pat Davis, Trudy Jones and Diane Gibson questioned Police Chief Gorden Eden about several other APD-related matters — including recent seven-figure payouts to settle lawsuits in police shooting cases and increases in the amount of time it takes officers to get to calls for service from the public.
Councilor Brad Winter sponsored the resolution to fund the task force. It passed the council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee on March 13.
The ATF has been tight-lipped about the alleged undercover purchases from Lymon. The bureau has ignored requests for information from New Mexico In Depth, and the ATF’s deputy director has not responded to an inquiry from U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-Albuquerque.