The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has released three (3) lapel videos and recordings of 911 calls of APD officers responding to a hotel and elementary school in November to check on the 7-year-old child who the Attorney General’s Office has since said was sex trafficked by her relatives.
It is the November 14, 2017 lapel camera video of the APD Officer talking to the child’s teacher and Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) investigator that is so very damaging and at the same time heartbreaking.
The video at best reflects a hapless police department and a hapless CYFD department and at worst negligent training on APD standard operating procedures.
In the video, the teacher describes how she took the child to a bathroom located in the classroom to have her cleaned up and provide the child with clean clothing.
The teacher tells the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator she was “gagging because it smelled of feces and of urine”.
When the teacher took the child’s clothing and went to put it in a bag, she discovered the child’s underwear had caked blood on it with dried feces.
The teacher told the officers that the blood was not at all normal for a child of 7 who was not old enough to be menstruating.
The teacher told the police officer and well as the CYFD investigator it was not the first time she had to give the 7-year-old child clean cloths and it was an ongoing problem, all which is evidence of child neglect.
The teacher leaves the bag of the child’s clothing in the secure classroom bathroom and leaves the classroom.
After the officers finish talking to the teacher, the APD Officer and the CYFD investigator have a discussion on what to do with the child’s clothing collected by the teacher.
The APD officer actually asks the question “Do you think it is a good idea to collect them?”
The CYFD investigator then tells the officer “That’s up to you guys. That ain’t my department.”
The APD officer tries to call the Crimes Against Children Unit to get guidance on what to do with the clothing and apparently never got a response.
The fact that a trained APD officer could not decide to take the blood stained underwear of a 7 year old child secured by a teacher who was trying to report child abuse and tag it into evidence is absolutely astonishing and heartbreaking.
There should have been absolutely no uncertainty about what to do with the girl’s blood-stained underwear, which was to take it and tag it into evidence.
STAND BY YOUR MAN
It is tragic to see Mayor Tim Keller standing by Interim Chief Michael Geier’s and APD’s claims that APD could not have taken blood-stained underwear as evidence in the abuse of a 7-year-old child.
Both Mayor Keller and the Interim Chief Geier are saying that no one violated any policies or procedures, including when an APD officer tossed out the blood-stained underwear of an innocent 7-year-old child rather than tagging it into evidence.
APD Interim Chief Michael Geier has also told media outlets that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time.
Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier saying APD did everything they could with the information they had rings extremely hollow when you’re dealing with a seven-year-old child and a teacher trying to do the right thing by reporting potential child abuse.
When both the Mayor and Chief say that that no one violated any policies or procedures, they are simply very wrong.
Mayor Keller showed an obvious ignorance of the law and when he used a clever law enforcement catch phrase and said:
“There are rules of what you can take, there are laws against what you can take. … This is one of things we’re proactively doing is revisiting our evidence collection policies and we want to get as far to ‘bag it and tag it’ as we can under the law.”
Mayor Keller needs to stop trying to talk like a cop or at the very least try to understand the law of evidence.
The officer would not have violated the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure had he collected it and tagged it into evidence.
CHILD’S CLOTHING AND PHYSICAL CONDITION HAD EVIDENTIARY VALUE
During my career as Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney, I prosecuted child abuse cases.
Thirty-five years ago, I did a grand jury investigation of the mishandling of child abuse cases by the state.
To this day I can recall too many details of those crimes and the people I prosecuted.
Study after study show that children from lower economic homes have a higher risk to suffer severe physical abuse and sexual abuse from their parents.
The seven-year-old child’s underwear had evidentiary value.
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 on underwear is the very type of evidence used to identify and convict rapists and child molesters.
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, the defendant’s blood, or blood from others.
Throwing the evidence in the trash means no one will know what other bodily fluids from others was on the underwear.
APD STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES
The police offense report mentions the bloodstained underwear.
If the blood stain underwear merited mentioning in the written offense report, the cop had the obligation to take it from the child’s teacher and tagged it into evidence for further examination by APD’s forensic lab.
The lapel camera videos revealed that the teacher reported 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 dried, caked blood on the crotch of her underwear.
The teacher took all the child’s clothing, bagged it, and saved it for police.
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 she claimed the cop threw the clothing in the trash.
She said the APD officer told her the underwear had not been kept in a secure location.
The police officer also said to the teacher “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.
It is a judge and not a cop that decides if tagged evidence is admitted as evidence in a court of law.
There was a violation of standard operating procedure of not tagging into evidence an item given to an officer by a witness to a crime.
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.
Mayor Keller declared the investigation is not over and said:
“If we find protocol was violated, where they did any procedure was wrong, we will absolutely hold them accountable. … If there is nothing that an officer did wrong, I’m not going to discipline them just because people are angry.”
Mayor Keller with his words and actions is showing a blind loyalty to a Chief of Police who probably knows better when it comes to the law and the department’s standard operating procedures.
This is the identical song and dance we got from former Mayor Richard Berry and former Chief Gordon Eden, which is support your chief and police no matter what they do or say and believe whatever your chief and APD tells you that is allowed under the law.