June 6, 2005
Re: APD Evidence Unit and Senior APD Officer Investigation
Dear Mayor Chavez,
On March 24, 2005, you directed us to investigate a variety of allegations against the senior leadership of the Albuquerque Police Department, including problems in the Evidence Unit. We made several findings against senior personnel in our attached report. Some of the findings are minor, but we felt minor problems grew into bigger problems and contributed to the crisis that developed. Our recommendations are attached.
The Attorney General investigated allegations of criminal misconduct concerning evidence stolen from the Evidence Unit. Their report is dated April 22, 2005. We concur with the Attorney General’s report. The longstanding failure to catalog evidence, also identified in City audit reports going back to 2000, is a failure of leadership and management responsibilities. While efforts were made and it may even be said more was done under Chief Gallegos’ leadership than previous administrations, it was not enough. Money handling procedures were inadequate. Documentation was incomplete and inadequate. Inadequate supervision over many years created conditions that made theft easy to commit and impossible to prove. Neither senior leadership (the Chief of Police, the Manager and Deputy Manager of the Scientific Evidence Division) nor some intermediate supervisors (lieutenant, sergeant, and civilian) did enough to correct or prevent these conditions, even after having these issues identified in City audit reports.
We also concur with the Attorney General report that faults the Chief of Police for failing to secure the evidence documentation and allowing the suspected employees to remain in the Evidence Room for several months. The Chief failed to act on the recommendations of his senior staff to begin a criminal investigation. When he finally did allow the criminal investigation, he failed to remove the suspected personnel from the area. During the time these suspected personnel were allowed to remain in their jobs, computer records were altered, evidence logs disappeared, and any chance for identifying those responsible for alleged theft was lost.
We find that the remaining senior leadership involved in supervision of the Evidence Unit and the vast majority of Evidence Unit personnel gave their best efforts to accomplish their assigned tasks. We found no evidence of any effort to cover up problems by senior leadership. All issues of theft and management problems were brought to the Chief. We have no evidence that the Chief failed to act from a desire to cover up the thefts. He appears to have been misled by the Scientific Evidence Division Manager to believe the problems were of mismanagement and not theft.
Unfortunately, the failure by the Chief of Police to start a criminal investigation in the face of overwhelming evidence, and his subsequent failure to remove the suspected employees created deep distrust of leadership throughout the Department. Basic police procedures were ignored and violated by the Chief.
Normally loyal police officers put their careers and their reputations on the line by speaking out and writing scathing letters to the Chief. Eventually, the internal dissension spilled into the media. Daily reports of cover up, mismanagement, and criminal activity created a siege mentality in the Department. Factions were formed that pitted APD officers against other APD officers. Personal dislikes among officers became more and more intense. The relationships among the three deputy chiefs and their captains and others involved in the evidence issues became increasingly dysfunctional. An adversarial relationship and working environment was created among the senior leadership, which sank morale. Deputy Chiefs supported their friend and leader, the Chief. They called other officers names and did not react to the valid concerns of their subordinates, but attempted to stop those concerns from being raised outside the department. Senior officers did not trust their leaders to do the right thing.
Two captains and others attended a union meeting and presented their problems and complaints concerning deputy chiefs. The union voted no-confidence in one of the deputy chiefs. Another deputy chief then recommended to the Chief that both captains be relieved of their duties as area commanders based on their union activities. One captain was suspended and still remains suspended. The other captain was not suspended, but the working relationship is dysfunctional between the captain and deputy chief. It violates the Public Employee Bargaining Act and the City of Albuquerque Labor-Management Relations Ordinance to recommend or to take adverse action against members of the union collective bargaining unit for their union activities.
Deputy Chiefs made accusations against captains. Internal investigations were started and captains relieved of their duties. Captains made allegations against the Chief and deputy chiefs, but no investigations were started. The procedures for investigating complaints/allegations against senior leadership were outdated, untrustworthy, and not used.
Our investigation of the allegations and counter-allegations among the deputy chiefs and captains found several violations of standard operating procedures (two deputy chiefs, two captains and one detective). These allegations and counter allegations were examples of the break down of leadership, dysfunctional relationships, and lack of trust in the chain of command to address their concerns.
We investigated and addressed every allegation raised to us during our investigation. In an effort to bring closure to these allegations, many of which are mere rumor and conjecture, we addressed them all. Even when we had no witnesses and no evidence to support the allegation, we did our best to investigate and address the allegation. We did this not to ruin or harm the reputations of the employees, but to give a final answer and closure to all the rumors and innuendo that were adversely affecting the performance of the senior leadership and the department. If there was an allegation of an affair or improper personal relationship, we investigated it, even when there were no witnesses and no evidence other than the hearsay and multiple-hearsay. Two investigations of officers have been forwarded to Internal Affairs for possible polygraph examinations. Rather than delay this report, IA will complete those investigations.
During our investigation we seized computers, thousands of pages of documents and other evidence, including approximately 15,000 emails of 14 employees, senior officers and possible suspects. Over 50 people were interviewed with hundreds of hours of interviews. Almost everyone cooperated, even many personnel who had retired or left APD. Unlike the Attorney General, we did not have subpoena power, so we could not compel people who were not City employees to talk to us. Our formal report has been delivered to you and Internal Affairs for permanent record keeping because of the issues involving compelled statements and privacy interests of the APD employees.
We hope this report will continue the healing process started by the hiring of Chief Ray Schultz and interim Chief Joe Bowdich. The improvement in morale and esprit de corps is already evident. We are confident in their leadership. With the right team they will be able to regain public confidence in the Albuquerque Police Department.
- The City needs to get a complete and accurate inventory of all items in the evidence warehouses as soon as possible.
- A system for disposal of evidence items needs to be agreed upon by APD, the District Attorney, City Attorney, and be in compliance with state law. The system must have a priority and be staffed so hundreds of thousands of evidence items can be disposed of in a legal, fast, timely manner.
- The Evidence storage rooms at the Main need to be cleaned, decontaminated, and renovated so the space can be properly used and not sit idle.
- APD needs to require high value property items obtained from DRMO to be placed on the officers’ property lists. It should also indicate when APD property is allowed to be taken to officers’ homes. Anytime an officer takes high value property home, DRMO or other, it should be signed out on an official log.
- Complaints against captains and above, whether citizen complaints or internal complaints by APD officers, should be investigated by the Independent Review Office.
- The union president and vice president should not be performing duties for both the union and for APD. This dual role can and did cause some confusion of roles. APD is large enough to have both the union president and vice president be full time union officers and not do APD duties at the same time. This should be reviewed during the next negotiation of the union contract.
- Captains and lieutenants are part of the senior management and leadership of APD. Whether they should also be part of the collective bargaining unit seems inconsistent with their managerial responsibilities and should be reviewed during the next negotiation of the union contract.
- Internal Affairs should report directly to the Chief of Police and not be subject to other layers of supervision and review.