Friday, December 09, 2016

The Second Bombshell: Feds Have Begun Criminal Investigation Of Charges That APD Altered Lapel Camera Video, Plus: Friday Photo Fun: We Snap Away At The Race For Mayor  

Boom! The bombshell that went off when an ABQ police department records supervisor accused officers and their bosses of tampering with police lapel camera videos has been followed by another, and this could be the one that finally starts the clean-up at the deeply troubled APD:

Federal officials said Thursday they are conducting a criminal investigation of allegations that APD 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 “The Justice Department will decline to comment further due to its ongoing investigation into this matter,” Martinez wrote in a rare public confirmation of a federal criminal investigation. . .District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and the city’s citizen police watchdog group asked for a federal investigation after Reynaldo Chavez, APD’s former records supervisor, accused APD employees and higher-ups in a sworn affidavit of a scheme to alter, delete and leave out of police reports mentions of videos that would be damaging to the department’s reputation.

The chills that went up the spines of the city's political leadership when the news broke Thursday night were colder than a windy January night on Sandia Peak. A federal investigation could clear the department, but ominously it could lead to career-ending felony indictments and even time behind bars for those whose work it is to put others there.

Police Chief Eden, his right arm Deputy Chief Huntsman and the civilian leadership of the city--Mayor Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez--are all exposed. If criminal activity occurred it happened under their watch. What did they know? And when did they know it?

Former ABQ City Councilor, attorney and city Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli said:

At last, an independent investigation by a federal law enforcement agency and an investigation not conducted by someone selected and bought and paid for by city hall. Now let's see if the federal investigation goes all the way to include investigating the allegations that top APD command staff and the City Attorney's Office ordered the altering, tampering or withholding of video camera evidence in civil cases.

For Berry it is a nightmare of the highest order as he begins scoping out a run for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination. His chances are already weak but this could send him into political oblivion forever. He approved an in-house investigation over the allegations, but that probe will have the shadow of bias over it . Berry and others now have to deal with the Feds who are independent and not vulnerable to the smears and intimidation that APD and the administration has subjected its opponents to.

The fact that the US Attorney's office actually confirmed an investigation, something hardly ever done, tells you how extremely frustrated that office has become with the continued stonewalling at APD and the city. And Berry and Perry have no one to blame but themselves. They have had years to clean up APD but they let it off the leash and it hasn't stopped running since. Their arrogance and defiance of the US Justice Department order for reform has come home to roost.

District Attorney Brandenburg, who asked the Federal government to investigate the allegations, told us:

These allegations are among the most serious ever made against our police department. Now that the Department of Justice has decided to investigate, I am hopeful that our citizens will learn the truth, wherever it may lead. They deserve nothing less.

US Attorney Damon Martinez, a Democrat, is expected to be replaced by the incoming Republican Trump administration. Friends of Martinez have told us that he has been frustrated by higher-ups at the Justice Dept. as APD continues to fiercely balk at implementing mandated reforms.

It is worth noting that there have been other times when hopes were high that APD would finally be brought to heel only to see them dashed. This is another one of those times, perhaps one of the last, best chances.


Keller, Oliver and Lewis
Here's a pic we snapped for the season--the upcoming ABQ mayoral campaign season, that is.

On the left is Dem State Auditor and likely '17 mayoral candidate Tim Keller and on the right is GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis. Considering their political philosophies that positioning is  quite appropriate.

And who's that in the middle? No, it's not a Christmas elf squeezed between these two tall politicos, it's Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo county clerk who will be sworn in this afternoon in Santa Fe as the new secretary of state. She's doing a good job there of playing referee between these two future rivals.

Will we be seeing Lewis and Keller in a similar photo come late next year? We could if they are the two top vote getters and advance to a run-off election in what is expected to be a pretty crowded field. To win outright, a candidate would have to get 50 percent of the vote.

And, no, we don't know the answer to the burning question of why Keller is now sporting a beard, but if he needs a barber Lewis can help him out. The councilor says he has already raised close to $100,000 for his campaign.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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