This week’s theme is: Stuff You Should Know. Don’t let Lady Justice keep her secrets.
You Should Know What the Police Are Up To
It’s called the “blue wall of silence.” Ex-officer Sam Costales of the Albuquerque Police Department says he feared for his life and was forced to leave his job after he testified in the 2006 trial of Al Unser Sr. During the trial he said he saw Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies twist Unser’s arm and throw him to the ground. Costales sued APD, and a jury gave him more than $600,000. Though it sucks that taxpayers are out more than half a mil after this verdict, that’s a firm cash-money message to the police department.
It’s but a small chink in this looming blue wall. Somehow, it’s accepted that police officers don’t speak out when they see something go awry in an arrest. Brotherhood should not trump decency and civil rights.
Further, the Police Oversight Commission just released its third-quarter report, and it calls for APD officers to use their belt tapes during arrests. “The tapes provide a very clear record of what transpired whenever allegations against an officer arise.”
Steve Smothermon, chairman of the commission, dug up that quote to bolster his 2009 report. It’s 16 years old. Independent Counsel Pat Apodaca said it in 1993.
Whether the culture of silence is top-down or just viral, it’s gotta go.
You Should Know What the Courts Are Up To
The state Supreme Court is considering changes to the rules that allow a judge to seal a case, which means it can’t be viewed by the public. As things stand, court records are usually open. You can look up your friends’ public urination violations on nmcourts.com. That might sound invasive, but it’s a good thing for media following, say, murder cases. It also makes it so that a privileged few can’t keep their indiscretions out of the public eye—theoretically.
As things stand, the rules for sealing cases are erratic and vary greatly around the state. New Mexico’s high court is attempting to make them uniform. The court will accept feedback on the notion until Monday, Dec. 7. Go to nmsupremecourt.nmcourts.gov/
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government supports most aspects of the alterations.
You Should Know What U.S. Spy Agencies Were Up To
By the end of the year—that’s when the White House said it would release millions of spy documents. Though President Obama has promised greater governmental transparency, he’s going to extend indefinitely the deadline for declassifying military and intelligence records.
Why should we care about old spy papers? The government keeps those records under wraps at the time of their making with security as an excuse. Still, there’s no law that they have to stay in the dark once the dust settles. No government should avoid accountability forever. Old documents like these can shed much light on our international dealings.
Great job, transparency president.
But Obama was unable to get spy agencies to comply, according the Boston Globe. They’ve dragged their feet reviewing the material set to be declassified. And somehow, the White House granted them an ambiguous extension to get their act together. This is the third extension. (Clinton and Bush gave the first two in 2000 and 2003.)
We’re talking foreign relations, military ops and intelligence from the likes of the CIA and the National Security Agency—not to mention the departments of Justice, State, Defense and Energy.
Great job, transparency president.
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