Thursday, July 21, 2005


The banner headline of the Albuquerque Journal Monday the 18th reads “THINK YOU SEE A POLICE CAR? CHECK AGAIN.” There on the front page are pictures of a “Police” car, and a “Patrol” car. They definitely look alike, so Chief Ray Schultz is justified in ordering the private security company to change the looks of its cars.

Chief Schultz is quoted as saying that the vehicles “. . . can easily confuse the public.” He said that “The public needs to be assured that they are actually dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department when they see one of our officers. There shouldn’t be any confusion if they are dealing with a security guard or a police officer.”

This story raises the question of whether the Albuquerque Police Department officers should be allowed to hire out to private citizens, or neighborhood associations, to provide security service in Albuquerque, in the officers’ regular uniforms, with the regular badges, guns, equipment, and in APD cars. That is the time and a half program called “Chief’s Overtime.” See post in archives for March 7 2005.

No doubt it is a different matter. It is one thing to confuse a private security guard with the police. It is another to deal with a policeman off duty, appearing to be a policeman on duty. However, the latter situation leaves one feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

Assume that a neighborhood has been troubled by criminals driving around, stealing, writing graffiti, selling marijuana and cocaine, and the like. Community policing just does not seem to be getting the job done. The neighborhood association, or a few neighbors (all private citizens) then hire police officers, through Chief’s Overtime, to spend off-duty time patroling the area; and now the neighborhood is safe because officers who are dressed as usual, carry the guns as usual, and drive the police vehicles as usual, are patrolling the streets. Does that make you uncomfortable, as a resident or taxpayer?

Are the police underpaid? Probably so, although one has to consider all of the benefits, including the type of retirement and health care plan, in order to make that determination. In any event, the police should be paid very well, as they are essential to our safety. Most are honest, hard-working, fair-minded, compassionate people, proud to serve. Pay them a decent salary. However, the Chief should reconsider this matter of Chief’s Overtime (which was here long before he became Chief). Maybe this should be taken up with the candidates for City office.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


The story is in the Albuquerque Journal, July 16, 2005. Regarding Magistrate Judge in Rio Arriba County. He accepted a case in which an acquaintance of his was arrested for DWI and put in jail at 8:40 p.m. on a Saturday in July.

That evening, at the request of persons who called the Judge, he set bail at $500, with 10% deposit ($50.00) to be posted, and directed that the accused be released to the accused’s wife. Breath tests indicated that the accused was still under the influence for driving at the time of his release to the wife.

The jailer, who was in charge in the absence of the Sheriff (out on assignment), apparently contacted the Sheriff, who was reluctant to release the accused while the accused was still under the influence (until his blood alcohol went down). In any event, the accused was not released, and it was explained by the Sheriff that no one is released except by the Sheriff or a deputy, and that he was tied up at a function, on duty.

Upon receiving this information, the Judge signed an order of release and drove to the jail (1 ½ hour round trip), and hand-delivered the order of release and got the job done. The Governor is looking into the matter.

Some questions should be answered here, but not by the Judge. The Sheriff should state by what authority his jail took the accused into custody and detained him. The accused should have been presented to a magistrate and the jailer should have an order from the Judge authorizing the detention. Apparently the jailer accepted the prisoner, solely on the authority of the arresting officer. That is the way it is handled in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, also. Thus every man’s liberty is in the hands of every police officer.

A simple procedure would protect the rights of all. The arresting officer may take the accused to the jail, and then contact a magistrate, by telephone or cell phone, or email, or fax. The Judge could place the officer under oath, listen to the recitation of probable cause, ask questions if necessary, and make a neutral, independent determination of whether there is probable cause. The magistrate Judge could then decide the issue of conditions of release (bail) and issue an order for that purpose.

No need to drive an hour and a half. A permanent record can be made at the time. No one is jailed without the approval of a Judge. Then, if jail is necessary, and later the accused is able to meet his conditions of release (bail, for example), the jailer who is detaining the accused should have the power to release. This should not be the type of facility, that if you go in, you do not come out. And it should not be the kind of facility where the person with the keys to put a person in, does not have the authority to let that person out upon an order of the Court.

In this day of modern communications, and the technology to record proceedings on audio, video, and otherwise, there is no reason for anyone to have to deliver a “wet signature” order from a Judge to any officer. The Sheriff in this case has some explaining to do. If he suspected that the Judge was playing favorites, he should have done his duty as Sheriff and required his deputies and jailer (is not the jailer also a deputy?) to do their respective duties; and later he could complain to the Judicial Standards Commission, the District Attorney, the County Commissioners, and the media.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


An Albuquerque Journal story, July 15, 2005, reported that Albuquerque Police Department officers were cleared in two shootings. The shootings occurred in November, 2003.

The APD Oversight Commission ruled that APD officers were justified in the two fatal shootings. The Commission upheld findings of the Independent Review Officer and the Chief of Police.

One case was a domestic dispute. Two officers went to assist a woman to remove her things from an apartment. They found 20-year old Aaron Dominguez, with whom the woman had been feuding. Dominguez brandished a shotgun at the officers and shouted, “Shoot me, shoot me! You’re going to have to shoot me!” Officers shot him six times. This was found to be a justifiable homicide.

In another incident, two officers stopped a man from beating another with a bat in circumstances in which the victim was in danger of death and the offender was clearly the aggressor. The officers shouted, “Stop! Police!” The offender hit the victim again. One of the officers shot the offender twice in the back, killing him. The other officer did not fire. This case was ruled a justifiable homicide.

We are not quarreling with the findings of the Chief and I.R.O., with which the Commission concurred. But why not an inquest in such cases? Why not start the inquest testimony forthwith, that is, without unnecessary delay? At least before the funeral. Why 20 months?

The final chapter was in a public meeting of the Oversight Commission. An inquest, broadcast by video on line, would have been more open. Are there witnesses who may want or need privacy? That can be arranged if reasonably necessary, and the testimony still be had.

It is said that this “verdict” by the Oversight Commission (an approval of a determination by the Chief of Police and the Independent Review Officer) inspires confidence of the police in the Commission. What about the confidence of the public? Why not open up the proceedings, call the witnesses, and get the matter over with (except perhaps for forensic tests) within 36 hours? The New Mexico statutes already provide that the Medical Examiner may conduct an inquest, and take testimony. New Mexico Statutes Annotated, Section 24-11-7.