Alibi V.14 No.24 • June 16-22, 2005 

Thin Line

Who's accountable? Sometimes I just love the Albuquerque Journal, like on Tuesday, June 7, when this frontpage headline appeared: "Review Faults Ex-APD Chief; Evidence Room Management Failed."

The article either has contempt for the truth or is trying to channel the truth to readers by some mystic means. But with the Journal, you can never quite tell which one it is. For example, here are the three lead paragraphs:

Former Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos violated "basic police procedures" in handling allegations of wrongdoing in the police evidence room, according to a report issued Monday by Albuquerque's top police watchdog.

A summary of the 1,000-page report faults Gallegos for failing to launch an immediate criminal investigation into alleged thefts from the evidence room, despite the recommendation of senior staff.

Investigators, however, found no evidence of a cover-up by senior leadership, according to the report, which was signed by Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland and others.

The first two paragraphs would seem to indicate the clear possibility of a cover-up. But then the third paragraph boldly discounts the idea.

Meanwhile, the report was not exactly issued by “Albuquerque's top police watchdog.” The report summary was released by the mayor's office after the IRO's version had been revised and edited.

Still, here's the first quote from the report that appears a few paragraphs later: "Inadequate supervision over many years created conditions that made theft easy to commit and impossible to prove."

Wait a minute. That sentence sounds like the literal definition of a cover-up! If the report is contradicting itself, is it too much for the Journal to ask why and offer a more discerning viewpoint?

"Basic police procedures were ignored and violated by the Chief," is the next IRO quote to appear in the article. Gallegos didn't remove "suspected employees" from the evidence room fast enough, the Journal reports, and then the story quotes again from the executive summary:

"During the time these suspected personnel were allowed to remain in their jobs, computer records were altered, evidence logs disappeared, and any chance for identifying those responsible for alleged theft was lost."

But there was no cover-up. No sir. It said so right there in the IRO's summary, released by the mayor's office and reported in the Journal.

And now, the mayor's office is revising the IRO's full 1,000-page report, determining what sections will be redacted or blacked-out before the final version is released to the media and the public, perhaps sometime this week.

Does anyone else see a predictable outcome in all this? Chief Gallegos falls on his sword, and all's well that ends well. But will the Journal at least explain the report was edited by the mayor's office? That way their readers won't live under the illusion that a truly independent police watchdog group actually exists.