In last week's ginormous 20th Anniversary issue, former news editor Dennis Domrzalski namechecked this story as his favorite during his three years at the Alibi. After the AAN Altweeklies Wire picked up the story-about-the-story today, it seemed appropriate to unearth the original piece for posterity. Incidentally, Mr. Bralley now runs a (pretty darned good) citizen photojournalism blog focusing on local politics.
The Two-Minute Criminal
APD Officer in Big Trouble For Talking Longer Than Two Minutes
by Dennis Domrzalski
Publication date: December 23, 1999
Albuquerque police officer Mark Bralley can be annoying and a pain in the ass to his superiors and to government officials. When he was president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association 1986 , he angered Police Department officials when he charged that the Department was run like a patron system. Also in the ‘80s, Bralley won a case against the Department in which he charged that he was improperly denied a job that he had tested for. This past April, Bralley infuriated the city’s Police Oversight Commission and Police Department officials when he flashed his badge at POC members during one of their meetings and alleged that they were violating the state’s open meetings law. This summer Bralley went to court with allegations that the POC had violated the open meetings law. He won the case. A judge ruled that the POC had indeed run afoul of the anti-secrecy law.
In his 23 years as an APD officer Bralley has been what bureaucracies, and certainly police departments, abhor: someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and to speak his mind in public.
But now, according to APD honchos, Bralley has crossed the line and has gone from being a mere annoyance and pain in the ass, to being a criminal. Because of his most recent actions Bralley faces the possibility of being disciplined or fired. APD big shots have launched two internal affairs investigations against him on charges of disorderly conduct, battery and bringing dishonor to APD. During a hearing for one of those internal affairs investigations APD officers dragged Bralley’s attorney out of the interview room.
What has Bralley done to be investigated for disorderly conduct and battery? What has he done to go from law enforcer to suspected criminal, to go from good cop to bad cop?
He has committed the heinous crime of talking for longer than two minutes at a meeting of the Police Oversight Commission. Bralley, in what one attorney in town called a case of “rolling stupidity” is facing a potentially career-ending investigation because in the United States of America, in the freest nation on the planet, he spoke at a public meeting of a government commission for longer than two minutes. Make no mistake, officer Mark Bralley has violated the two-minute rule.
The strange case reached its bizarre climax on the morning of Dec. 2 when was Bralley was being questioned about his actions by APD Internal Affairs Sgt. John Gallegos. Weekly Alibi attended the interview at Bralley’s request. During that meeting, Gallegos and other APD officers dragged Bralley’s attorney, Paul Livingston, out of the room because he, in Gallegos’ opinion was talking too much and was interrupting the meeting. Livingston had objected to a question that Gallegos had asked his client. And he was ejected for objecting and for allegedly disrupting the interview even though Gallegos had told him at the beginning of the meeting that he was welcome to interject at any time. It was while Gallegos and other officers were dragging Livingston out of the room on the first floor of the old City Hall building Downtown that Bralley got into more trouble. He placed his hand on Gallegos’ shoulder, in an attempt, he said, to calm Gallegos down. Gallegos didn’t see it that way, and now, Bralley is the focus of a second IA investigation in which he is accused of battery on and interfering with a police officer.
To be sure, not everyone has taken Bralley’s side on the matter. Some people think that Bralley is out to destroy the POC, which is charged with implementing civilian oversight of the Police Department. Bralley denied that charge. He said he believes in civilian oversight and that he challenges the POC only when they screw up.
POC member Fred Ward was pleased to hear that Bralley was being investigated for talking for longer than two minutes at the Nov. 8 POC meeting.
“I totally agree,” Ward said when told of Bralley’s situation. “They (Bralley and Livingston) have no respect for the chairperson. They are there for no other reason than to antagonize the board. I think they are a disgrace.”
POC member Susan Seligman said that Bralley and Livingston have spent nine months disrupting POC meetings. “They interrupt the meetings constantly. They speak longer than their allotted time,” Seligman said.
In fact, Seligman recently bore the brunt of Livingston’s ire when he called her and other POC members Nazis. She filed a complaint against him with the New Mexico State Bar Association. The Bar Association concluded that Livingston had done nothing wrong.
Jennie Lusk, who is also a POC member, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Livingston had been physically removed from the room during Bralley’s IA interview. “He is so ill-behaved. He can make things a lot harder for Mark,” Lusk said. When asked whether the POC’s rule that no one can speak for longer than two minutes during a meeting was reasonable, Lusk said that Bralley and Livingston would violate a time limit no matter how long it was.
“I so much believe in their right to speak and I so much endorse that the Commission hear what their concerns are,” Lusk said, “But I have never seen two people who are more disrespectful of the process of the basic function of government. No matter how long they have to speak they are going to overstep it.”
But attorney Dave Cargo, who watched a video tape of Bralley’s Internal Affairs investigation, said the situation amounted to a case of “rolling stupidity.”
“It’s kind of drumhead justice. ‘You have a right to a lawyer and all of a sudden a hand reaches in and you see the guy’s (Livingston’s) shoes go out the door.,” Cargo said. the former New Mexico governor was also critical of the POC’s two-minute rule for speakers. “If you are going to have public input you have to have a little patience with the public, and two minutes is not reasonable. He (Bralley) has some position and credibility. It’s not like he just dropped in from a homeless shelter. Bralley spends a lot of time studying this stuff and a lot of times he is right.”
The Beginning: Nov 8
The case began on Nov. 8 when a sullen-looking Bralley attended the POC meeting in the City Council chambers in City Hall. He had signed up to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting. When his name was called he walked to the podium and addressed POC Chairperson Jill Marron.
“My name is Mark Bralley. I’m an Albuquerque police officer,” Bralley said. “I am here to protest the two-minute rule on speech and public comments (and) your expression of disgust for certain people who come before you, the people who go to work, who work the streets at night when you’re not willing to be out there traveling around, but they’re out there making them safe so you can if you had to.”
Bralley then went on to tell Marron that he resented her statements that the lawsuit he filed against the POC and won was a bad thing. “The lawsuit has been dealt with. The judge has ruled that you acted improperly and that is a good thing,” Bralley said.
[There] is not free speech in this office. … You have no right to free speech in this office, Mr. Livingston.
—APD Sgt. John Gallegos
At one point, a bell rang, signaling that Bralley’s two minutes to speak were up. Bralley continued talking. Later, Marron interrupted him. “You’re two minutes are up,” she said.
“I’m not finished speaking,” Bralley replied.
After he had spoken for nearly six minutes, Marron interrupted him again. “I’m not sure what your point is,” she said. “But all I have to say about this is I’m glad Ms. Seligman filed the complaint against Mr. Livingston. I’m embarrassed he is a member of the bar and acts the way he does.” Marron then called for security to intervene in the matter.
Bralley was ready for her. “If you think that my standing here and talking to you about an issue that is pertinent to this discussion constitutes disorderly conduct and disruption of a public meeting, you are in error,” Bralley said.
“It does,” Marron replied. “I have asked you to sit down. I have asked you to cease.”
“No sir,” Bralley said. “I won’t.”
A city security guard approached Bralley, who then said, “We have a deputy chief (Bill Weiland) here. If he thinks I am out of order he can order me to sit down. If he thinks that I am violating the First Amendment he can order me to sit down.”
Weiland did just that and ordered Bralley to sit down. And it was Weiland, who used to head up APD’s Internal Affairs Unit, who filed the complaint against Bralley that accused him of disorderly conduct and conduct unbecoming of a police officer.
Police Chief Jerry Galvin said he could not discuss the specifics of Bralley’s case because it was an internal investigation and a personnel matter. But Galvin did say that talking for longer than two minutes during a public meeting could be improper conduct for a police officer.
“An officer on and off-duty is certainly under scrutiny depending on what they do,” Galvin said. “If they are disorderly and bring the Department into disrepute, certainly we are going to investigate that. an officer’s conduct on and off duty that brings the department into disrepute and is a violation of the law is going to be investigated by the Department.”
The Internal Affairs Interview
Sgt. John Gallegos’ office on the first floor of the old City Hall building Downtown is small, about 8 feet by 10 feet, has cream-colored walls that make the room look yellow. Gallegos appeared ready for Bralley and Livingston at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. He had a tape recorder set up on his desk ready to record the interview. APD Sgt. Levi Anaya was also in the room to help with the questioning. the meeting got off to a bad start when Gallegos, in an off-the-record comment, explained to Bralley and Livingston how he conducted his interviews. Here is a transcript of that conversation:
JG: Before we go on the record, before we go on my record, what I do, my interviews, I’d like to explain my interview process. At the beginning I’ll read Garrity (a recitation of a police officer’s rights regarding internal investigations). I’ll ask. I ask if you want to read your warnings and we’ll identify everybody in the room. is Mr. Livingston acting as your legal representative or just an observer?
MB: To clarify that I’m entitled to two representatives and whether they are legal or not legal—
JG: What I mean, is he going to be talking and making objections and that stuff or is he going to be a quiet observer?
MB: No, a representative, under the (police union) contract, is entitled to speak at any point.
JG: “I understand that. Will he be speaking?
JG: OK. Thank you.
PL: Yes, I will be speaking, probably extensively.
PL: I often speak ...
JG: Mr. Livingston, what I’m going to do is I’m going to remain in control of this meeting and what we will do is, at any time I will give everybody the opportunity to say something at the beginning, after officer Bralley reads his card and any opening dialogue or dissertation he wants to go through. I will offer all of you that opportunity as well. and then once that is done and is reasonable and in a relatively reasonable time, we’ll go into, I’ll ask officer Bralley about the incident specifically. After he explains the incident to me we’ll go through a question and answer thing, until I run out of questions or he runs out of answers, whatever. At any time that either of you want to interject, please do so. However, if the interjections become to the point of disrupting the meeting or if I feel like I’m starting to lose control of the meeting. I mean of the interview, then I will stop these interjections and we will break it and bring it back down.
No Free Speech at Internal Affairs
PL: Are we on the record?
PL: I’d like to hear this on the record, or I’d like to have it on the record.
MB: there is a record going (referring to his digital video camera that was set up in the room).
JG: You’ve got your record going.
PL: I’d like to have this on your record. I think this is something I need to respond to and I would like to have it on your record.
JG: OK, great. You’ll have that opportunity when I give you your opportunity to speak on the record.
MB: What he is saying is that he wants the statement you just made on your record for the formality of—
JG: The neat thing about that is it’s my record. I’ll decide what’s on it, OK?
JG: Thank you Mr. Livingston. See what I mean about disturbing. I’m not going to tolerate this, sir.
PL: This is about free speech.
JG: No sir.
PL: This is a case about free speech.
JG: This is not free speech in this office. This is an administrative investigation. I will give you your opportunity to speak. You have no right to free speech in this office, Mr. Livingston.
PL: I have a right to common civility.
JG: But you do not have a right ...
PL: You don’t let me finish when I say something.
PL: I have a right to common civility.
PL: I’m talking and you’re interrupting. That’s not common civility.
JG: First warning. You interrupt me again and you will be asked to leave. Do you understand.
PL: No. I don’t understand. I’m officer Bralley’s legal representative.
JG: And you will be asked to leave and you will be forced to leave if you disturb the meeting.
PL: Will I be arrested?
JG: No. You will be forced to leave, and if your conduct supports an arrest ...
PL: I would like this on the record.
JG: You’ve got the record. Sir, I decide what’s on my record, OK?
PL: I think it should be on the record.
JG: We’re done.
PL: I don’t think we’re going to respond to whatever you are saying now.
JG: Sir, do not interrupt me.”
On the Record and Immediate Tension
A moment later Gallegos turned on his tape recorder and the official interview began. Gallegos asked Bralley if he understood that he could be fired for not answering questions. Bralley said he didn’t and he asked for a copy of the Garrity rights that Gallegos was reading. Gallegos untaped a piece of paper from his wall and handed it to Bralley, who started reading from it. a while later, Gallegos demanded the sheet of paper back.
JG: OK, stop officer Bralley. Give me this back.
MB: No sir.
JG: Give it back to me ... this is mine.
MB: The thing is ... it is very dangerous.
PL: Why are you doing this?
MB: You may not stop me
JG: Yes I may. I may ask for this back.
MB: You gave me ... an opportunity to respond to this statement and you asked me a question.
JG: And I’m asking for it back, officer Bralley.
MB: You asked me a question. You asked me a question which I am trying to answer.
JG: Officer Bralley I’m warning you of insubordination. Be quiet at this point.
MB: No sir.
JG: Yes. Are you refusing? That is an order. Are you refusing to cooperate with my investigation?
MB: The thing is, I am trying to cooperate.
JG: Release my paper. Officer Bralley, that is an order. ...”
Livingston is Dragged Out
At one point, Gallegos told Bralley that he was under investigation for disorderly conduct and for conduct unbecoming of a police officer. Gallegos then asked Bralley if he understood the allegations. It was then that Livingston interrupted and the process began which led to his ejection from the meeting.
PL: Before he answers ... and I don’t want to interrupt him.
JG: Mr. Livingston I told you I would give you an opportunity to speak and I explained to you the structure of that order.
PL: But before my client answers another question I need an opportunity to speak responsibly to the last issue and you didn’t let me do that. I thought you would. Every time he speaks I should at least have an opportunity to say something otherwise you are going to do exactly the same thing that the Police Oversight Commission has done to us. Let me—
JG: Mr. Livingston, be quiet.
PL: Let me.
JG: Be quiet.
PL: Let me place—
JG: Sir, this is your first warning at this moment.
PL: Oh, come on.
JG: You will be asked—
PL: This is nonsense, what are you doing?
JG: You will be asked to leave, sir.
PL: You’re trying to treat me the same way the POC treats me.
JG: Mr. Livingston, please keep quiet. Sir this is your second, this is your second warning.
PL: And you’re going to count from 10 to one and then explode, or what?
JG: Sir, sir, third warning.
PL: Oh, stop this.
JG: You need to leave the meeting, sir.
PL: No I don’t.
JG: Yes you do. Sir, you have disrupted an internal investigation. You need to leave right now.
PL: I have not disrupted an internal investigation. I’m trying to finish a sentence.
JG: (To Sgt. Anaya) Would you get the lieutenant and somebody else to escort Mr. Livingston out of the meeting please.
PL: Please stop that.
Gallegos asked Livingston to leave the office and told Bralley to “be quiet” when he objected to Livingston’s ejection. Gallegos left the room. He eventually returned with other officers. He ordered Livingston to leave one more time. When Livingston refused, the officers, including Gallegos grabbed him and tried to pull him out of his chair.
PL: Wait a minute, what are you doing? What is wrong with you?
JG: Officer Bralley, unhand me.
MB: You’re committing a battery.
JG: Unhand me.
MB: You’re committing a battery.
JG: Unhand me. ... Stand up and leave.
PL: Who are you?
JG: Leave this office now.
PL: Let me see your identification.
JG: You’re not helping me. Stand up.
PL: I don’t want to stand up. I’m in the typical civil rights position of resisting a civil arrest.
JG: Sit down officer Bralley. That’s an order. Sit down.
MB: You don’t have a right to do this.
JG: You’re being insubordinate. Sit down.
MB: I don’t recognize your authority.
PL: I don’t really want to be thrown out ... what are you doing to me?
JG: You unhand me officer Bralley. You touch me again, you will be booked. You understand me? Don’t you dare touch me.
A Final Irony
After Livingston had been dragged out of the room, Gallegos returned and resumed the interview. Bralley said he did not want to continue because of his emotional state.
JG: I respect your opinion, officer Bralley. Section five. You have the right to consult with counsel before each question.
The investigation continues.