Good police work or racial profiling? ‘Memphis Mob’ and how so many blacks were arrested in ATF sting

 

A debate over how so many black people came to be arrested in a 2016 gun- and drug-sting operation in Albuquerque is playing out in the city’s federal courthouse. Following months of silence from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a narrative is beginning to emerge. It’s a story of good police work. According to this version, a pivotal moment happened a few days after the operation started in April 2016. Albuquerque Police Department detective Vic Hernandez handed ATF Special Agent Russell Johnson two sets of documents.

Biggest industry political givers have clear partisan choices

Attorneys definitely want Michelle Lujan Grisham to be New Mexico’s next governor. They really like Hector Balderas, too. Oil and Gas folks? They prefer Steve Pearce. The two industry groups are the biggest givers to political candidates in this year’s election cycle, accounting for one of every seven dollars given, from statewide offices to county level campaigns, from November 2016 through this week, according to an analysis by NMID.

Emails show prosecutors misled public about plea deal with former Martinez Cabinet secretary

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Boone wanted to reassure his boss. A political blogger was raising questions in early February about why the DA’s office had agreed to plead Ryan Flynn’s aggravated DWI charge, leveled after a May 20, 2017, traffic stop, down to careless driving. Flynn, one of the state’s most influential power brokers, was Gov. Susana Martinez’s former Environment Department secretary, and now heads up the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. In a Feb. 8 email, Boone told Bernalillo County DA Raúl Torrez he believed the case against Flynn could clear an initial legal hurdle.

Biggest donors get around contribution limits

When candidates file their campaign finance reports Monday, there will be all types of ways to analyze the data. One will be to look for the biggest donors. But identifying them can be tricky. Even though New Mexico passed campaign contribution limits in 2009 after several high-profile elected officials went to jail for corruption, people still have the potential to contribute more than the limits by giving through companies they own, or combining with family members to give. This year New Mexico’s campaign contribution limit for statewide office is $5,500 in both the primary and general election cycles.

On MLK and systemic racism 50 years after his assassination

Every April 4, I play U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The song runs through a series of historical figures who paid deep sacrifices, including Jesus, and ends recounting King’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. At the time of his death, King was making common cause with poor black sanitation workers striking for better pay, and was planning a protest march later in the year in Washington, D.C., for his Poor People’s Campaign. As I played “Pride” this week, I wondered what King might make of our country had he lived. Today, according to the Associated Press, rates of incarceration for African Americans across the country are worse than in 1968. Our public schools are experiencing a wave of resegregation.

Patchwork health care for reservation inmates raises concern

At a tribal jail in Washington state, an inmate with a broken leg banged on his cell door, screaming for pain medication, only to be denied. Hundreds of miles away, a diabetic man jailed on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming needed insulin, yet government records say authorities were unable to get any for him. And jail staff at other reservation lockups on several occasions mistakenly gave inmates the wrong medication. These episodes, and dozens of others noted in limited detail in 2016 jail incident reports collected by the federal government, underscore what health professionals and jail administrators describe as a deep-seated problem: Scores of federally funded jails on reservations have no in-house nurses or other medical staff, often leaving corrections officers to scramble in emergencies to determine whether to send an inmate to the hospital, or provide basic care themselves — sometimes with unfortunate consequences. Jail data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs from 2017 was not yet available.

NM assistant secretary for Indian education ousted

The state’s assistant secretary for Native American education is claiming she was unfairly forced out of the New Mexico Public Education Department earlier this month. In a two-page letter sent this week to the state’s tribal elders and obtained by New Mexico In Depth, Latifah Phillips said she “was approached with a termination letter with no explanation or any known documented reasoning, and then presented with the opportunity to resign.” (To read the full text of Phillips’ letter, click here.)

Phillips chose to be fired. She described her decision as “a small act of protest to the unfairness of this action.”

A spokeswoman for the Public Education Department did not respond to requests for comment on Phillips’ firing. Attempts to speak to Phillips about her letter were unsuccessful, too. 

The department’s website still lists Phillips as the assistant secretary for Native American education. It also lists her as a member of the Tohono O’odham nation.

NM In Depth wins 10 awards from Press Women’s Association

The work of New Mexico In Depth reporters, editors and Fellows has been recognized with 10 awards from the New Mexico Press Women’s Association, including stories that have explored the real-life consequences for DACA recipients of the Trump administration’s policies and whether young people are leaving the state because of a lack of opportunities. Also garnering awards were articles examining the effect of money in the Albuquerque mayor’s race and a look at the city’s urban Indian population three years after two homeless Native Americans were killed in a vicious attack. “We’re extraordinarily proud of our showing,” said NMID Executive Director Trip Jennings, citing in particular the honors three of NMID’s Fellows — Xchelzin Peña, Melorie Begay and Robert Salas — won in the contest. All three are the first recipients of NMID’s Fellowships. NMID started the program in 2016 for journalism students and recent graduates of color at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.

It’s a steep hill to climb for women running for state office

Kim Olson, the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner, has been driving across the Lone Star State for the past year, spreading the message about the importance of farming and handing out wildflower seeds. “Some candidates have push cards or business cards, I don’t have any of that. I just have my seed packet and it has all my information printed on it,” said Olson, a farmer, Iraqi war veteran and retired Air Force colonel from the small city of Mineral Wells about 80 miles west of Dallas. “They are Texas native wildflowers, because I’m a beekeeper and my tag line is ‘Wild for agriculture.’”

This article is reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity.Olson, 60, is part of a women’s movement that in the past year has harnessed the power of female protesters angered by the 2016 presidential election and transformed it into political ambition up and down ballots nationwide. Already nearly 500 women have shown interest in running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections, twice as many as compared with the same time in 2016, according to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.