This story first appeared in the Santa Fe Reporter, a partner of New Mexico In DepthThe Santa Fe Police Department generally prefers to make its own law enforcement decisions. On paper, that means leaving federal immigration authorities in the dark on cases involving people who may be in the country illegally, even as President Donald Trump threatens cities’ funding if they don’t cooperate in fulfilling his campaign promise to cleanse the nation of “criminal illegal aliens.”
But during the past two-plus years, SFPD has tipped off Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at least three times about suspected undocumented immigrants. Details about the cases highlight difficulties in balancing public safety against remaining true to “sanctuary” policies that, in Santa Fe, were born of cooperation and core values but are now bound to experience some turbulence. For Ronald Ayala-Santos, according to police, a heads-up for the feds took some doing on his part. Since mid-2015, the 20-year-old has admitted to making a false report about “heavily armed men” swarming a Santa Fe neighborhood and phoning in bogus bomb threats that led to the chaotic clearing of the Violet Crown Cinema and the Plaza, police say.
Republicans and Democrats will debate what criminal justice reform means during the 60-day legislative session. But a much more serious problem needs their attention, New Mexico Chief Justice Charles Daniels told the Legislature on Thursday.
“I wish I could tell you that New Mexico is providing the functioning justice system promised in the constitution that created the ground rules of our government, but I can’t,” Daniels said.
A justice system requires enough money to make it function.
Federal officials on Thursday said they are conducting a criminal investigation of allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees altered and deleted body camera video.
The Department of Justice has received “several requests” seeking a criminal probe, Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, said in an emailed response to questions from New Mexico In Depth.
Mayor Richard Berry’s administration says it will bring in an independent investigator to review allegations that city police employees tampered with videos from police shooting cases. The announcement Tuesday afternoon comes less than 24 hours after City Attorney Jessica Hernandez told city councilors that her staff and APD already were investigating the claims and that an outside review would not be necessary. Councilor Pat Davis said at Monday night’s Council meeting — and again in a letter to Hernandez sent Tuesday morning — that he wanted the probe handed off to someone outside city government. Davis wrote that “establishing public trust in the outcome of this investigation is critical” especially given the serious implications of the cases. “And that must be accomplished without delay,” according to the letter.
Kari Brandenburg, the outgoing Bernalillo County district attorney, said Monday a federal “criminal investigation is absolutely warranted” into allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees have tampered with videos that show police shootings. Brandenburg said Monday in a telephone interview she is sending documentation detailing the allegations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office would not say Monday whether the agency planned to open an inquiry based on the district attorney’s referral. But spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez wrote in an email “the Justice Department takes seriously all referrals from state and local prosecutorial authorities.”
Reynaldo Chavez, the police department’s former records supervisor, swore out an affidavit as part of an ongoing civil right rights lawsuit against APD in which he alleged that department employees had altered or deleted videos showing the events surrounding two controversial shootings by officers in 2014. According to Chavez’s affidavit, which he swore under penalty of perjury, APD employees used Evidence.com, a cloud-based storage system, to alter the videos.
Albuquerque Police Department officials have altered and, in some cases, deleted videos that showed several controversial incidents, including at least two police shootings, the department’s former records supervisor has alleged in a sworn affidavit.
New Mexicans on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to limit the role of money in judges’ decisions about which defendants stay locked up and which go free before trial. According to unofficial election results from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website, roughly 87 percent, or 610,000 of 699,000 New Mexicans supported a change to the state constitution aimed at reforming the use of commercial bail.
A public opinion poll shows 78 percent of likely New Mexico voters favor changing the state constitution to limit the use of commercial bail in deciding which defendants stay in jail before trial and which go free. A constitutional amendment on the ballot for next week’s election would allow judges to deny bail to people who are proven dangerous at a hearing. It also would forbid judges from holding non-dangerous defendants in jail pretrial solely because they cannot raise bail money. Early voting began Oct. 11.
Videos captured on Albuquerque police detectives’ body cameras during a June 28 police action in which they arrested two people at a legal, state-operated syringe exchange show the stark realities of how city officers enforce drug laws.
“I’m going to invoke my Fifth Amendment right.” Former Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear uttered that phrase — and others very much like it — more than 130 times on Tuesday as he was being deposed by an attorney for the family of a 19-year-old young woman Dear fatally shot in April 2014.