Below are two reports published in APQ Reports on August 20, 2018 and August 21, 2018 respectively. .
Dennis Domrzalski is a longtime journalist in Albuquerque, he has covered the Department of Justice Consent decree hearings extensively as well as APD.
Dan Klein is a retired APD sergeant.
The Albuquerque Journal and the TV stations have not reported on the fact that the Civilian Police Oversight Agency is being denied access to an Internal Affairs Investigation.
APDReports has now sued the City over the denial of an Inspection of Public Records Request.
THE ABQREPORTS ARTICLES
ABQReports: City Stonewalls CPOA on Jennifer Garcia Internal Affairs Investigation
August 20, 2018
BY: Dennis Domrzalski
“The city of Albuquerque has refused to turn over to the Civilian Police Oversight Agency the police department’s Internal Affairs file on Lt. Jennifer Garcia, who was recently demoted as the head of IA for backdating an altering a public document.
That refusal has prompted a former member of the city’s Police Oversight Board to accuse the city of violating the 2014 police oversight ordinance and of trying to hide something and protect someone.
The city’s Legal Department notified Ed Harness, director of the Civilian Police Agency, on Friday, Aug. 17, that it wouldn’t run over Garcia’s IA file, saying the document constituted attorney client privilege.
The CPOA had requested the file because the POB voted on Aug. 9 to investigate the Garcia matter. The motion to conduct the investigation was made by POB member Chelsea Van Deventer
Former POB member Jim Larson was furious when he heard the news.
“That’s horseshit,” Larson told ABQReport. “The [police oversight] ordinance says the POB will monitor and audit Internal Affairs investigations. Why would they violate the ordinance? What are they trying to protect? This is a slap n the face to transparency.”
Harness said he got an email Friday afternoon from Assistant City Attorney Samantha Holtz saying the city would not turn over Garcia’s IA file to the CPOA so it could conduct an investigation into the process of how Garcia was demoted.
“I was told by City Legal on Friday afternoon. They said it fell under attorney client privilege and that the investigation was done in anticipation of litigation,” Harness told ABQReport. “I’m a bit unclear of what litigation they are anticipating so I have asked [City Legal] for some clarification there.”
Harness said that the city’s refusal greatly hampers the CPOA’s ability to investigate the Garcia matter.
“There was some process by which there was a decision to demote her [Garcia] and they must have reached that conclusion based on the investigation,” Harness said. He added that the case has the appearance of a conflict of interest because Jennifer Garcia’s husband is APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia.
“You have her spouse on the department. There is clearly the appearance of a conflict. Was her case reviewed and done no differently than any other case?” Harness added. “Without looking at the file, how can we be sure that all the proper steps were taken?”
APD began investigating Jennifer Garcia in March when she was the commander of the IA unit. The city hired a private firm to conduct the investigation, which found that Garcia had backdated an IA investigation on a police officer to make it appear that the probe had been completed by the deadline imposed by the department’s collective bargaining agreement with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.
Earlier this month, APD Chief Mike Geier demoted Garcia from commander to lieutenant and transferred her to the department’s Field Services Bureau.
ABQReport filed an inspection of public records request with the city for the investigative file on Garcia. The city denied the request, and ABQReport then sued the city in state District Court demanding its release. That case is pending and the city has been ordered by District Court Judge Alan Malott to explain why it has refused to release the file.
Geier has also filed an LEA-90 against Garcia with the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. An LEA-90 is usually filed when a police chief wants to revoke an officer’s law enforcement license. But Geier made no recommendation in his LEA-90 on Gracia, and an APD spokesman said that Geier isn’t trying to get Garcia’s law enforcement license revoked.
Harness said he doesn’t know what his agency will do next to try and pry the file lose from the city, but he added that the CPOA could sue the city in an effort to get it released.
“I don’t know what the next steps will be,” Harness said. “We will have to discuss that with the [POB] board and counsel to see what the next steps will be and whether we will have to litigate as well.”
APQ REPORTS KLEIN: COVER-UP IN JENNIFER GARCIA IA CASE
August 21, 2018
BY DAN KLEIN
Mayor Tim Keller are you out there? Is this your idea of transparency?
The City Attorney is refusing to release any part of the Internal Affairs investigation on Jennifer Garcia to the Civilian Police Oversight Agency saying it’s attorney work product. Well, just who is the city attorney protecting and who owns the “work product?” Last I checked the city attorney represented … the city and it’s citizens!
We paid for this work, we deserve to see what we bought. Therefore, I formally release the city attorney from their attorney client privilege with me and I demand that they release the entire Jennifer Garcia investigation to the CPOA.
It won’t happen. Police Chief Mike Geier and Keller are protecting someone regarding this investigation.
I remember the city attorney last year couldn’t release an IA investigation into the commander of the Airport police, Marshall Katz, fast enough. Even if you hadn’t asked for a copy, city employees would have driven by your house and lobbed a copy out the car door window onto your driveway. That’s how badly they wanted Katz out.
This the same old APD, and Gordo and R.J. might as well still be in command. Always the same. When something makes them look good, or when they want to get someone they don’t like, boom! The files, audios and videos are out there almost immediately. And they’re made public whether anyone asked for them or not.
But if there are files and investigations that make them, or one of their favorites look bad, they refuse to release it until they’re dragged into court and ordered to by a judge. And guess what? That costs you and me money because the fines the city winds up paying come from our wallets.
Now they are stonewalling again on the Garcia case. So what happens next?
A waste of taxpayer money as the CPOA sues the City Attorney / APD to force them to release the IA investigation. Who pays? Us.
We’ll be paying for the CPOA, a public agency, to sue the city, and we’ll be paying for the city to defend itself against the CPOA. That’s insanity. That’s immoral, and that makes me sick.
The city attorney who authorized this crap should be fired immediately. Or is transparency another promise that Keller never planned to keep? Come on Mayor, fix this before you lose all credibility. There is a cover-up going on at APD and the City Attorney is up to their necks in it. Something stinks. If you care about transparency and our city please share this.
The city attorney denies the CPOA access to the Jennifer Garcia IA investigation citing attorney work product. Who paid for this work product? You and me folks. The Albuquerque taxpayer paid for it, but the city attorney doesn’t think we deserve to know what it says.
Mayor Keller, hello? Please fix this before my tax dollars get spent for the CPOA to sue and the city attorney to defend. Maybe make Assistant City Attorney Samantha Holtz pay for the defense out of her own pocket. That might make people in City Hall remember who their bosses are. They work for us. We paid for this investigation. Make it public!
What are they afraid of?
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
When read together, the two blog articles pack a powerful punch.
The articles reflect that nothing is really changing at APD nor with Internal Affairs, especially with the tactics of stonewalling the media to coverup things that are happening within APD.
The city over the past 8 years has been on the losing side of lawsuit after lawsuit over its failure to respond to IPRA requests in a timely manner and failure to turn over documents that are public record.
Thousands of taxpayer dollars have been paid out in fines that could have easily been avoided had the city followed the law.
One observation that is being made by many APD insiders is that what Jennifer Bell Garcia did at Internal Affairs of backdating an altering a public document was probably not the first time it has happened.
The APD Internal Affairs Unit needs to be abolished and its functions absorbed by the Office Independent Council.
APD has consistently shown it cannot police itself which contributed to the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice.
The disciplinary action taken against former APD Internal Affairs Commander Jennifer Garcia and her relationship with Deputy Chief Eric Garcia in the APD upper command staff is further evidence that APD cannot police itself because of the inherent biases of one police officer investigating another.
The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit where necessary.
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