It is being reported that Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier are defending the actions of the Albuquerque Police Department and its interactions with the 7-year-old child who the Attorney General’s Office says was being trafficked for prostitution by her relatives.
Both Mayor Keller and the Interim Chief are saying that no one violated any policies or procedures, including an instance where an APD officer tossed out the blood-stained underwear of a 7 year old rather than tagging it into evidence.
APD Interim Chief Michael Geier told media outlets that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time.
Geier repeatedly said that the blood-stained underwear by itself was not a strong enough reason to cause further investigation beyond what the officer did that day.
Mayor Tim Keller parroted the Chief’s position when he said:
“Based on information they had at the time we have no reason to believe protocol wasn’t followed and procedure wasn’t followed.”
Mayor Keller’s comments were in conflict to what he told Action 7 News that he be believed error were made when it came to officer’s interactions with Terri Sanchez, James Stewart and their children, failing to mention the interactions the police officer had with the reporting teacher, when he said:
“You’ve got to acknowledge what actually happened and based on that, we had to have done things differently. We should have done things differently and that is definitely the case.”
THERE WAS MORE EVIDENCE THAN JUST THE CLOTHING
Interim Chief Geier says that the blood-stained underwear by itself was not a strong enough reason to cause further investigation, which is simply not the case.
Interim Chief Geier saying APD did everything they could with the information they had at the time rings very hollow when you’re dealing with a seven-year-old child and a teacher trying to do the right thing.
Interim Chief Geier ignores the other evidence the officer was told by the teacher indicating child abuse or neglect, including the child going to school unkempt and smelling of urine, which are classic signs of child neglect.
When both the Mayor and Chief say that that no one violated any policies or procedures, they are ignoring the fact that the police officer in the police offense report mentions the bloodstained underwear but did not say what happened to it nor does the report mention why it was thrown in the trash.
If the blood stain underwear merited mentioning in the written offense report, it should have been taken from the child’s teacher and tagged into evidence for further examination by APD’s forensic lab.
During the three-day detention hearing for defendants James Stewart and Teri Sanchez it was revealed by a teacher that on November 14, 2017, the child went to school unkempt and smelling of urine.
When the teacher helped the child change into clean clothes, the teacher saw the child had blood on the crotch of her underwear.
The teacher removed the underwear from the 7-year-old student and saved it for investigators.
The teacher testified when the police officer came to the school the following day, the APD officer said they could not use the underwear as evidence and threw the clothing in the trash.
She said the APD officer told her the underwear had not been kept in a secure location and that the police office said, “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court.”
A police officer telling a potential witness in a case “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court” and then “tossing evidence” is totally inappropriate.
The requirement of keeping evidence in a “extreme-secure location” applies only to evidence collected by law enforcement to ensure “chain of custody”.
There is no such requirement of “extreme-secure location” placed on victims or witnesses to crimes who turn over evidence to law enforcement, which is what the teacher was doing with the child’s blood-stained underwear.
The policies and procedures for the taking and tagging of evidence are clear from reading APD’s standard operating procedure.
During my career as Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney, I prosecuted child abuse cases and because of the emotional toll it took on me, I decided to move on and go into the private practice of law.
Thirty five years ago, I did a grand jury investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by a state agency, and to this day I can recall too many details of those crimes and the people I prosecuted.
Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 22 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse.
(Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.)
Study after study has shown that children from lower economic homes have a higher risk to suffer severe physical abuse and sexual abuse from their parents.
After 35 years, I still can remember the specifics of many of the cases I prosecuted.
All too often, DNA evidence found in blood and a victim’s testimony are the only evidence available to obtain a conviction for rape and child sexual abuse.
Any forensic testing results of bodily fluids such as blood and seaman would probably be enough to sustain a conviction for child rape and abuse.
DNA evidence found in rape kits is the type of evidence used to identify and convict rapists and child molesters.
The problem is, the fact that the child’s underwear was thrown away means that no one will ever know if the blood on the child’s underwear was her blood or of either defendants.
What will be unconscionable is if the offenders are not brought to justice all because a police officer failed to understand APD standard operating procedures, declined to take evidence from a victim and a witness in a case and unilaterally made the decision to trash the evidence.
A Mayor and a Chief trying to act transparent before an Internal Affairs Investigation is completed does not help much.