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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Friday, May 06, 2005

APD Above the Law . . . Again

APD Above the Law . . . Again

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.
Louis D. Brandeis

Friday's May 6, 2005 Albuquerque Journal article entitled, "Cops Caught Running Red Lights" discusses how APD police officers who are running through red lights and getting 'caught on tape' by the new cameras installed at a few of Albuquerque's major intersections. Interview of APD's most recent Police Chief, Ray Schultz reveals that, in lieu of being cited for breaking the law, offending police officers face the sanction of an Internal Affairs investigation and administrative consequences instead.

I wonder how APD would take it if APS, following APD's lead, opted to avail themselves of the opportunity to administratively sanction an employee who molests a student rather than turn them over to police for criminal investigation?

Chief Schultz also stated he felt that for Police Officers to receive a citation and administrative punishment would be unduly excessive punishment so; in lieu of APD Officers being held accountable in our legal system for breaking the law when committing traffic violations, they will automatically face an Internal Affairs investigation. Despite the Chief's reassurance that the punishment will be far worse than a date in court and a traffic violation on their driving record, I am not impressed. After the Evidence Unit farce, it is more likely the red-light violators are going to get off with a slap on the wrist if anything at all. While APD Police are sworn to uphold the laws and ordinances of the State of New Mexico and Albuquerque when they are sworn in, it appears they enjoy the perk of keeping traffic violations off their records.

What ever happened to the notion that APD is to be held to a higher ethical standard because they enforce the law? Unfortunately delivery drivers and other people who drive as part of their employment will not have the privelege that APD enjoys because when they are cited, it goes on their driving record and they face company sanctions on top of that - boy that seems kind of unfair doesn't it?

Here's something to think about; insurance companies regularly check, through the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) database to determine whether their customers have committed traffic violations and then base insurance rates on the MVD driving record. As a matter of policy, Insurance companies are not privy to APD's Administrative personnel records because they are federally protected documents. So, a lead-footed Police Officer conveniently avoids the embarrassment of seeing the Judge like the rest of us. Moreover, they also get to avoid having their insurance rates shoot up because their driving record is insured against documentation of traffic violations.

This most recent decision coming from APD is just another example of APD's mentality that they are above the law. The recent story over APD's Evidence Unit imbroglio where estimations of up to $200,000 were embezzled along with missing drugs and property from the Evidence Unit ended up being swept under the rug when APD announced that no one was going to be charged. Nevertheless, the whistleblowers remain in a terribly uncomfortable predicament of having to deal with the consequences at the hands of people within the Department who now rightly believe they are untouchable.

Couple this egregious decision to blow off the worst police corruption case in APD's history with the recent 'Runaway Bride.' Jennifer Wilbanks, that loopy lady who ran off after getting cold feet regarding her upcoming marriage ended up in Albuquerque with her desperate 911 call to APD. While her 5 day sojourn across the US was not illegal per se, her lying to the police by creating a hoax about being kidnapped and raped by a gun-wielding Hispanic male was. That her hoax chose to target a Hispanic male served to tap into fears that people of color are violent, dangerous sexual attackers isn't bad enough. That APD appears to have actively obstructed their own investigation by not having Ms. Wilbanks fill out a criminal complaint is a down right shame that speaks volumes. Most obviously, it indicates that there are two kinds of law in Albuquerque; the law that is on the books and the law that APD actively chooses to manipulate toward its own end. Jennifer Wilbanks turned out to be a perfect opportunity for the Department to demonstrate a 'kinder, gentler' APD. Public opinion means everything and APD is no fool. The 'Runaway Bride' media event served another purpose. It also brought a welcome opportunity to divert attention away from the corruption uncovered at the Evidence Unit.

It has been said, "A community gets the kind of police department it deserves." Bearing this in mind, it appears we set a precedent in looking the other way when the Evidence Unit corruption scandal went by the wayside and nobody seemed all that upset. When APD side-stepped the legal process in deciding to ignore Jennifer Wilbanks’ 911 kidnapping-rape hoax, we gave a collective nod of approval. Now, we are facing the prospect that APD officers are going to be permitted to violate traffic laws without having to bear any legal consequences whatsoever. Allowing the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate traffic violating police officers as an internal matter is a bad idea frankly because APD’s track record regarding findings against its police officers seems to be non-existent, for example; Evidence Unit Corruption Scandal; no indictments, no intention to pursue any either. People, we are heading for bad times.

If APD can selectively choose what to prosecute and what to ignore, why do we need a District Attorney or a judiciary for that matter? Moreover, If APD can do it, why can't APS do the same when say, one of their employees decides to commit a crime? Wouldn't you feel better if someone who commits a sex offense went before the judge rather than face an administrative consequence? I realize by comparing an APD Officer's traffic violation to a sex offense is extreme and I am not calling Albuquerque’s Finest a bunch of rapists. However, here's my point; why is APD above the law? What is to stop them from abiding by the law in some future situation? The citizens of this city need to wake up soon.


At Fri May 06, 09:31:00 PM MDT, Blogger Kimberly said...

I agree wholeheartedly. My dad was an APD cop forever; he's done now, but oh, the stories he could tell. Scary. I agree with your previous Armijo for Mayor blog, Marty is the schmooziest politician I ever met, I had to wash my hands after shaking his - he caves to special interests that can line his pockets.

At Sun May 08, 11:26:00 AM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...

Thanks for the input Kim, It seems like APD is an untouchable these days - Post 911, people blindly hero-worship the police and naively assume everything they do is above reporach. It is frightening to see just how far people are willing to go regarding foregoing their civil-rights when they are genuinely fearful. It strikes me that these are the times when we need to be ever more vigilant lest Fascism rear its ugly head again. It amazes me that police officers, swron to uphold the law are openly stating, quite matter-of-factly that some laws simply do not apply them! This is a dangeroous precedent because one day, another limit is ging to be pushed and some suspect is going to have a confession coerced - Thats when every one needs to be afraid because the Constitution will simply become a piece of paper and we will cease to be a Democracy. Thats what happened in Italy and Germany just before WWII.

At Sun May 15, 04:54:00 AM MDT, Blogger Eileen said...

I spent the majority of my adult live in Northern California. I can't say that I remember one police officer or one CHP, who flaunted the uniform. However, since I have been living in Albuquerque, I have seen this behavior time and time and time again.

Who does the public look to, when police officers do not obey the law?

This reminds me of a recent drive down Coal, when I saw an APD officer take three lanes at once and cut off traffic, to make a right turn. He had no sirens or lights on. He could have easily hit someone, including me. I wasn't able to snag his plate number - as though it would have done any good.

Great post :)


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