By DAVID CORREIA
Three of nine members of the Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Commission (POC)–Jonathan Siegel, Richard Shine & Jennifer Barela–resigned today in protest. The Commission is charged with investigating and/or mediating all citizen complaints of APD. In addition, the Commission is tasked with monitoring all investigations of police shootings that are under investigation by APD’s Internal Affairs. Siegel, in his resignation letter, described the work of the Commission as “suspect” given the cozy relationship of Robin Hammer, the Independent Review Officer (IRO), with the City Attorney and Chief of Police.
The Independent Review Officer reviews and investigates complaints against APD but, despite the intent of the ordinance that created the IRO, is independent in name only. The DOJ report in particular was pointedly critical that the Independent Review Officer has become increasingly cozy with APD.
The US Department of Justice, in its recent damning report of police violence in Albuquerque, pointed to failures not only in the office of the IRO, but also in police oversight in Albuquerque more generally as a key part of the systemic problem of unconstitutional policing at APD. Barela, in her resignation, agreed, noting that the Commission “no longer has the power to conduct any civilian oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department or to review or disagree with the Independent Review Officer because of the current, defective Police Oversight Commission Ordinance and the City Attorney’s recent interpretations of the Police Oversight Commission’s Rules and Powers. Specifically on April 10, 2014 at the Police Oversight Commission Meeting, the City Attorney’s Office, through its representative, told the Commission that it does not have the power to vote against or change the findings of the Independent Review Officer and/or the Chief of the Albuquerque Police Department.”
Shine agreed, noting that the City Attorney’s office blocked efforts by the POC to “exercise the Commission’s authority under the POC Ordinance to ‘monitor’ all APD Internal Affairs investigations–including the use of Tasers and the officer-involved shootings of which the U.S. Department of Justice has recently been so critical.” According the Shine, the City Attorney advised the Chief of Police to ignore POC requests and refuse to discuss the matter.
Read their letters below: