Mayor Tim Keller is issuing directives to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) to examine how they review and investigate suspected child abuse or children’s safety cases.
Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier have said that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures investigating a suspected child abuse case and when an APD officer tossed out the blood-stained underwear of the 7-year-old child rather than tagging it into evidence.
What is difficult to reconcile is Mayor Keller’s position on the evidence gathering by APD in the case involving a child’s blood stained garments when as State Auditor he called for the processing of the over 4,000 backlogged “rape kits” and now as Mayor he has made sure that $1.5 million is allocated to APD to process the rape kits.
WHAT MAYOR KELLER SAID AND ORDERED
In a press release announcing what action he wants APD to take, Mayor Keller said:
“We’re going to do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening [ever again]. It’s going to take all of us – law enforcement agencies, child advocates, prosecutors and the courts. … Today we’re stepping up ourselves, and we’re reaching out to all these partners to address coordination for cases impacting children’s safety. We’re asking all of these partners to review how they interact on child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking cases, including the handling of evidence. We’ve got to figure out a way to build a system that protects our kids.”
Mayor Tim Keller is ordering APD to undertake the following steps:
1. Review child abuse cases for patterns that raise red flags.
2. Work on trauma-informed interviewing techniques.
3. Use the Real Time Crime Center to identify people with repeat interactions with law enforcement or child welfare agencies.
4. Work with a state Children, Youth and Families Department task force to review prior cases.
5. Prioritize recruitment and funding for civilian and sworn positions that work on children’s cases.
6. Reach out to other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the courts, CYFD and child advocates to coordinate crimes against children cases.
7. Evaluate policies on evidence collection.
Mayor Keller’s words and orders are indeed noble and commendable.
Regrettably, it is not likely that anything will be actually be done or accomplished with his words alone.
Mayor Tim Keller is to be commended for issuing the directives to APD.
However, Mayor Keller’s directives are nothing more than words on paper issued in a press release.
If history is any indication of what will happen, Mayor Keller’s directives will sit on a shelf and collect dust, essentially ignored by APD.
All too often after horrific crimes against a child happens, elected officials express outrage and quickly announce proposed changes in the law, increase penalties, often including reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes against children.
The typical public relations approach is to demand a review of policies and procedures and vow to hold people accountable for their inaction or incompetence.
Ultimately, nothing happens and no one is held accountable.
APD, all police officers and the command staff need to fully commit without any reservation whatsoever to fulfill their motto of “to serve and protect”, especially when it comes to our children, otherwise the motto is meaningless.
Every step and every effort must be made by APD to protect our children and ensure swift justice is bought upon those who do harm to our innocent children.
It is apparent that there is a mind set by APD Interim Chief Geier and Mayor Keller that what happened in the most recent case involving the collection of evidence is acceptable to them.
Both Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier have bend over backwards to defend the actions of APD and saying no policies or procedures were violated.
There must be severe ramifications and people must be held accountable for the shoddy investigation such as what happened with this child, including APD personnel and CYFD personnel.
This city and state has seen and heard all this before from elected officials, mayors and governors included, yet the heinous crimes continue.
Hell, eight years ago Republican Governor Martinez was elected in part because of publicity she garnered as an elected District Attorney prosecuting the “Baby Brianna” child abuse case.
Lest anyone forget, baby Brianna Lopez was the 5-month old who was brutally raped and beat to death in 2002 by her own mother.
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.)
All too often, our elected officials express outrage over what happens in horrific child abuse cases.
All too often people do not hear, or for that matter do not want to hear or even care about the horrific details of crimes against children.
TWO CHILDREN REMEMBERED
A review and remembrance of the facts of two cases are in order.
The images from the facts are very hard to forget, but what happened must be remembered if we are to learn anything as a community.
NINE-YEAR-OLD OMAREE VARELA
In 2014, 9-year-old Omaree Varela was found beaten to death months after placing a desperate 911 call to APD.
Nine-year-old Omaree Varela called 911 from his Albuquerque home 6 months before his death.
In the 911 audio recording, the child’s mother and the boy’s stepfather can be heard hurling verbal abuse at the child.
The parents were unaware that the 911 dispatcher was listening and recording the exchange.
The verbal abuse began after the child accidentally spilled food on the ground.
Following is what the stepfather told nine-year-old child:
“I swear, I’m going to have a nervous fucking breakdown … Mainly because of this little shit head right here. … You make everybody sick around you, Omaree! Everybody!”
As the 911 dispatcher traces the call to the home, Omaree’s parents can be heard telling the boy to stop crying over bruises he has by saying:
“You just want attention, right? … Right?” his mother shouts.
The hostile abuse continues as the step father threatens to beat the boy and says that the child’s own brother can’t stand him.
The child cries out for his stepfather to stop.
“And you want me to be your dad? Fuck you! I ain’t gonna be shit to you. Don’t you even fucking look at me as your dad.”
According to then APD Chief Allen Banks, two APD officers went out to the residence after the child’s 911 call and made several errors that day that may have led to the child’s eventual death.
The 911 dispatcher told the APD officers that they should listen to the phone call before going to the home.
APD officers never went to the child’s home.
According to police logs, the officers claimed they questioned the parents for two hours.
Their lapel camera showed that the officers were there for only 15 minutes.
The APD Officers did not write a report in the case with one officer saying he would call the state’s Children Youth and Family Department.
No call to CYFD was ever made by either APD Officer.
After arriving to the child’s home to investigate the 911 call, one of the officer’s belt tape has him telling the parents:
“You guys seem like a good family. … A decent family. Just be careful what you guys say when you say stuff like that. I am going to overlook it right now.”
Six months later, Omaree Varela was dead.
The Omaree had been stomped and beaten to death by his parent.
The autopsy report detailed the child’s injuries.
The autopsy report said Omaree had lost about 25 percent of his blood volume through internal bleeding.
TEN-YEAR-OLD VICTORIA MARTENS
On August 24, 2016, in one of the most brutal murders seen in Albuquerque’s history, APD found the dead body of ten-year-old Victoria Martens in an Albuquerque apartment.
The APD Officers were responding to a 911 call for a “domestic” dispute.
The APD officers discovered 10-year-old Victoria Martens’ dismembered body partially wrapped in a burning blanket in her mother’s apartment.
The child’s mother, her boyfriend and the cousin of the boyfriend were arrested at the scene by APD.
All three defendants were arrested and charged with first degree murder, child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and death, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
All three defendants are in custody being held without bond and are awaiting trial.
According to the search warrants obtained by one media outlet, the mother told detectives that she had arranged for at least two other men to have sex with her daughter and “possibly the other minor child who resides at the residence.”
According to the news report, the mother told police she would contact men using the internet websites.
The warrant obtained by the news agency revisited the events of the night 10-year-old Victoria was killed.
The child was held down and given meth, to make her relax, so that the mother’s boyfriend could rape the child while the mother watched for her own “sexual gratification.”
The mother is reported to have continued to watch as the boyfriend strangled the child and the other defendant stabbed the child.
According to a separate search warrant, one of the defendants admitted to detectives that he had sexual intercourse with the child “shortly after the child was deceased.”
On August 4, 2017 the Albuquerque Journal reported that an investigation by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) found that a spokesperson for APD “did lie” to the newspaper about the police department’s response to a CYFD referral concerning Victoria Martens prior to her death.
In late January 2017, two police spokespersons told the Albuquerque Journal that officers did investigate the referrals and stated that interviews with Victoria Martens and her mother had been conducted.
The APD spoke persons lied in that and there were no interviews of the child nor of her mother.
Albuquerque and New Mexico must find solutions to what contributes to or cause our most horrific crimes: domestic violence, substance abuse, children living in severe poverty, a poor education system, the breakdown of the family unit, the failures of our social services and child protective services, a failed mental health system, an ineffective criminal justice system, a failing economy.
Our children’s lives depend upon it.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea”.
Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
— Matthew 19:13-14