Alibi V.14 No.13 • March 31-April 6, 2005 

Council Watch

Personnel Matters, a Lot

City Councilor Debbie O’Malley called for “transparency and accountability” at APD.
City Councilor Debbie O’Malley called for “transparency and accountability” at APD.
Singeli Agnew

At the crowded March 21 meeting, Councilor Craig Loy's ordinance setting fines for drivers running red lights passed, as did Councilor Tina Cummins' ordinance bringing Albuquerque residential building codes in line with water conservation standards now required by state codes. During public comment, nine representatives of city unions spoke about the Labor Relations Board "taking years" to decide cases and said the city had a double standard in treatment for workers and management.

But first—not just a witness for the prosecution, but the prosecution itself. A recent "Council Watch" mentioned the court martial of Maj. Catherine Kaus, who commanded an Ohio National Guard unit transporting fuel from Kuwait into Iraq, for "scrounging spare parts and abandoned vehicles for her command." I was contacted by First Lt. Anthony J. Salazar, who identified himself as Kaus' prosecutor. Objecting to media depictions of Kaus as a hero, Salazar said she "directed her soldiers to steal vehicles from other units ... strip them ... and abandon the stolen vehicles" and showed disdain for the units thus robbed. Salazar said, "Maj. Kaus had the opportunity to get more equipment legitimately and she chose the easy, sleazy route."

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
You Thought "C.S.I." was Realistic?
At the Council's request, APD Chief Gil Gallegos reported on APD's problematic evidence room, characterizing it as "a 30-year issue." Gallegos castigated recent reports in city dailies, saying, "So many things are incorrect," and blasted "a new low in personal attacks on me and my staff." Gallegos said he launched an internal criminal investigation of the problem in 2003 that resulted in removing two people from the evidence room. He said APD then contacted Attorney General Patricia Madrid's office to direct another independent criminal investigation, along with requesting outside agencies to look at APD policies and audit the evidence room. Gallegos said that most cases affected by a recent chemical leak had already been resolved. He said his door was always open to those with concerns and there was no retaliation against whistleblowers.
Council President Brad Winter said the Council wasn't bashing but legitimately questioning why it took so long to fix problems. Gallegos said almost one million pieces of evidence were stored. Councilor Martin Heinrich said there had been no real communication previously, and the Council should be able to question APD directly rather than through the media. Councilor Debbie O'Malley said, "A police department has enormous power, so there has to be transparency and accountability." Loy said he thought the media was being used by people with agendas, without elaborating. Heinrich asked how APD could assure there was no retaliation. Gallegos said there was a whistleblower ordinance to do that. Councilor Eric Griego said APD officers and others had e-mailed him anonymously or off the record, expressing "deep concern, less about blaming people than concern about problems that need to be addressed." No, the reality is not like "C.S.I." with its stars investigating away in their up-to-the-minute Broken Headlight Glass Lab or their luxuriously equipped Argyll Sock Thread Analysis Facility. Referring to his years at APD, Loy said evidence used to be stored in "a barn." Seriously, it sounds at this point like three distinct problems exist: once adequate evidence procedures are now swamped by the growing volume of material, misconduct by individuals with access to evidence, and officers' fears, justified or not, of speaking up about problems. The technical problems seem headed for improvement with an audit, a new bar code tagging system, and plans for a professional oversight person. Safeguards are being put into place to prevent theft of items. But as always, technical problems are a lot easier to solve than the human ones.
Raising Hell in Four Hills
The installation of 16 speed humps on two Four Hills roads drew complaints by residents who said they had not been given prior notification. District Councilor Cummins proposed amending city regulations to notify neighborhood associations whenever such modifications would occur. Griego sponsored an amendment to Cummins' amendment expanding notification to anyone living within 500 feet of proposed humps or forced to drive over them, and giving those people a voice in any survey or petition related to hump installation.
Seventeen speakers supported Griego's amendment and eight opposed. Supporters criticized the previous lack of notification, uncomfortable jouncing, delay of emergency services and greater pollution. Opponents cited safer, slower traffic. Cummins said she saw kids in front yards where she'd never seen them before, and if she had to repair her car suspension 10,000 miles earlier, it was worth it. Griego's amendment failed. Loy's compromise to notify everyone but let only people living on humped streets have a say passed.Hump lovers stressed that people living on humped streets were "impacted" and should have a say, as opposed to people who had to drive over the humps but lived on other streets, who were only "affected" and should have no voice. But "impacted" used as an adjective, formerly limited to medical terminology, is just a gassy, currently fashionable substitute for "affected." The threat of mangled children trumps everything, of course, but it seems like the hump haters should receive some recompense, since they get all the hassle and none of the benefits.