About the 2016 Albuquerque sting operation

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Over the last 18 months NMID has closely examined the ATF sting operation, its design, its impact and the legal wrangling that continues to play out in federal court in more than two dozen stories.  

Of the 103 people arrested 28 — 27 percent of the total — were black. That’s compared to the city’s 3 percent black population. Further, black people made up just 5 percent of defendants in gun and drug cases in New Mexico’s federal courts during a 10-year period.

Racial profiling allegations and admonitions from federal judges have followed the team that descended on Albuquerque around the nation, NMID found. Scholars who study policing and law enforcement experts also questioned the stable of confidential informants ATF agents used — three of the informants were black, two were Hispanic. None was white.

NMID also found questionable tactics employed by the informants, including some that may have violated ATF’s own rules.

Federal documents obtained by NMID show that Martinez should have been closely monitoring the informants’ activities and, more broadly, the overall conduct of the operation. It is not clear whether he was exercising that oversight authority.

Other documents show the team was after drug and gun suppliers with ties to Mexican cartels, but in a majority of cases, those arrested did not have the lengthy, violent criminal pasts agents said were required for targeting in the sting, a review by NMID found. Rather, many of those arrested were struggling with drug addictions and arranged sales of relatively small quantities of drugs by federal standards. Some were homeless or living in their cars.

Many of the activists who met with city Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair on Monday evening cited specifics from NMID’s reporting as reasons for their opposition to Martinez.

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