How some cops use the badge to commit sex crimes

Sexual misconduct persists during traffic stops, ridealongs and mentorship programs


She was driving in a park with two male friends when a pair of plainclothes New York City police detectives drove up in an unmarked van. The officers, from the Brooklyn South precinct, stopped the trio for being in a public park after dark. The officers searched the car and found marijuana and the anti-anxiety medication Klonopin. They arrested her, put her in the back of the van in handcuffs and ordered her friends not to follow.

According to prosecutors, the detectives proceeded to force the 18-year-old woman to perform oral sex on one of them, who then raped her. The other officer then allegedly forced her into oral sex, as well. The 50-count indictment also alleges that the officers, who are facing charges of rape, kidnapping and official misconduct, threatened her with criminal charges if she didn’t cooperate. The defendants have since quit the force, though their attorneys have sought to undermine the young woman’s account.

This story broke in October to shock and outrage. While I share the outrage, as someone who has studied police sexual violence for more than a decade — and as a survivor — this young woman’s experience didn’t surprise me. In fact, it is representative of national patterns of sexual violence by officers during traffic stops and handling of minor offenses, drug arrests and police interactions with teenagers.

Research on “police sexual misconduct” — a term used to describe actions from sexual harassment and extortion to forcible rape by officers — overwhelmingly concludes that it is a systemic problem. A 2015 investigation by the Buffalo News, based on a national review of media reports and court records over a 10-year period, concluded that an officer is accused of an act of sexual misconduct at least every five days. The vast majority of incidents, the report found, involve motorists, young people in job-shadowing programs, students, victims of violence and informants. In more than 60 percent of the cases reviewed, an officer was convicted of a crime or faced other consequences.

Former police officer turned professor Phil Stinson conducted a national analysis of more than 500 officer arrests for sexual misconduct over a three-year period. He found that half involved on-duty misconduct and noted that off-duty misconduct is often facilitated by the power of the badge or the presence of an official service weapon. A fifth of arrests involved forcible rape, another fifth forcible fondling.

In a second study, funded by the National Institute of Justice and analyzing more than 6,700 officer arrests nationwide during a seven-year period, Stinson found that half of arrests for sexual misconduct were for incidents involving minors. According to a 2010 Cato Institute review, sexual misconduct is the second-most-frequently reported form of police misconduct, after excessive force.

“Over the years I would see it all,” former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper wrote in his book, “Breaking Rank.” He described cases in which cops fondled prisoners, made false traffic stops of attractive women, traded sexual favors for freedom, had sex with teenagers and raped children. “Sexual predation by police officers happens far more often than people in the business are willing to admit.”

Research consistently shows that police officers target young women like the Brooklyn teenager. A 2000 survey of nearly 1,000 New York City youth found that 2 in 5 young women — almost half of whom were black, Latina or Asian — reported sexual harassment by officers. A 2003 national study of cases reported in the media over more than a decade, conducted by the Police Professionalism Initiative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, found that 40 percent of reported cases of police sexual misconduct involved teens, often young women involved in youth engagement and job-shadowing programs. One young woman, Diana Guerrero, filed a lawsuit against the city of Las Cruces, N.M., after she was assaulted during a “ride along” with an officer in 2011. The officer said in a taped confession: “The badge gets you the p—y and the p—y gets your badge, you know?”

Officers also prey on domestic-violence survivors, who are particularly vulnerable to abuses by people they call on for protection. One officer quoted in an investigative report by the Philadelphia Inquirer said, “I would see women that were vulnerable where I could appear as a knight in shining armor.” He explained, “I’m going to help this woman who’s being abused by her boyfriend, and then I’ll ask for sexual favors.” Another bragged that getting dates with such victims was like “shooting fish in a barrel.

Police also target women they don’t think would be believed if they came forward, including women of color, transgender women, women who use drugs or alcohol, and women involved in the sex trade. The 2016 Justice Department investigation of the Baltimore Police Department found that officers extorted sex from women under the threat of prostitution charges. Two Los Angeles Police Department officers are currently on trial for extorting sex from women facing drug charges. Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who is serving a 263-year sentence after being accused of sexual assault by 13 black women and girls, targeted young women, women who used drugs and women he believed to be “working girls.”

These cases are unique only in that the officers faced consequences for their actions. Accountability is rare. One study found that in 41 percent of cases, officers charged with sexual violence had been previously accused of sexual misconduct — between two and 21 prior allegations — but had remained on the force. Even when officers are terminated or allowed to resign, many are able to simply move on to another department, in what researchers dub the “officer shuffle.”

Why aren’t departments doing more to stop sexual violence by officers? Despite materials such as “Addressing Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement,” a guide published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in 2011, most police departments have no policies or training making it clear that on-duty sexual misconduct against civilians is prohibited. The Obama-era President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the Justice Department’s guidance on gender bias in policing, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and various researchers have all taken the position that departments need to, at a minimum, enact and enforce policies prohibiting sexual violence by officers. When asked why more departments haven’t taken up the charge, an IACP spokesman simply said, “We don’t see a groundswell from people who are protesting their police departments for this kind of activity.”

While that needs to change, departments shouldn’t have to be asked twice to explicitly tell officers that sexually harassing and assaulting members of the public is unacceptable and will result in termination.

We should also know by now that we can’t depend on the police to police themselves. Yet there is often nowhere that a woman who has been sexually assaulted by an officer can go to report it — except the police. If she goes to the district attorney or a civilian oversight agency, the case is usually referred to a police department for investigation. Intimidation is common. The Brooklyn teenager said at least nine police officers came to her hospital room, discouraging her from going through with a rape kit. In a Chicago case, Tiawanda Moore was prosecuted for recording investigating officers as they tried to discourage her from filing a sexual misconduct complaint. (She was acquitted after a year-long trial.) In Eugene, Ore., an officer who was later convicted of sexually abusing a dozen women put his service weapon to one victim’s genitals and threatened to blow her up “from the inside out” if she told anyone.

Municipalities could make it easier for victims to come forward by enabling civilian oversight agencies to investigate complaints of sexual violence by police. Indeed, the Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police Department recommended that civilian investigators be empowered and trained to receive such complaints. City legislators and advocates tried to transfer jurisdiction over sexual misconduct complaints to the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability — only to be stymied by the police union.

But we shouldn’t just rely on victims of police sexual assault to come forward. A range of measures, from small steps to structural changes, can be taken to prevent and detect police sexual violence. Departments can monitor data from individual officers’ traffic or pedestrian stops to determine whether they are stopping a disproportionate number of women. They can use GPS to track patrol car movements, a strategy that corroborated the testimony of Holtzclaw’s victims. Supervisors can show up unexpectedly to check on officers on late-night patrol. Many departments already require officers to report mileage when they transport arrestees, in part to prevent detours to secluded areas to force or extort sex. Investigators can also conduct stings to catch officers in the act, something the New York and Los Angeles departments have done successfully on occasion but not nearly often enough.

Research and investigations conclude that police sexual assault is facilitated by the structure of policing itself. As Stinson put it: “Police routinely operate alone and largely free from any direct supervision, either from administrators or fellow officers. Police commonly encounter citizens who are vulnerable, usually because they are victims, criminal suspects, or perceived as ‘suspicious’ and subject to the power and coercive authority granted to police. Police-citizen interactions often occur in the late-night hours that provide low public visibility and ample opportunities to those officers who are able and willing to take advantage of citizens to commit acts of sexual deviance and to perpetrate sex crimes.” Police officers wield significant power and discretion, and are protected by a blue wall of silence when they abuse them.

In light of these realities, the goal should be to reduce the number of police encounters and the power officers use to extort or force sex. That would mean not flooding communities with officers, and not giving those officers the ability to hold mandatory-minimum drug sentences over women’s heads, contrary to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s current priorities. It would mean taking a public health approach to drug and prostitution offenses, and taking police officers — who use the serious consequences of such charges to extort sex and rape women — out of the equation, either by decriminalizing those offenses or eliminating arrests through pre-arrest diversion programs.

Survivors of sexual assault by police deserve solutions that strike at the root of the problem, instead of mere outrage at each crime that happens to make the news. No survivor of sexual violence should be ignored simply because her perpetrator was a police officer.

Andrea J. Ritchie, January 12, 2018, Washington Post, “How some cops use the badge to commit sex crimes”,


State police chief: Make misconduct cases more accessible to public

  • State police chief: Make misconduct cases more accessible to public
New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas

Correction appended

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas says he wants the state Law Enforcement Board to make it easier for the public to access the agency’s investigations of alleged misconduct by police officers across the state.

Kassetas has placed the idea on the agenda for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board’s public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday in Albuquerque.

Currently, the Law Enforcement Board discusses complaints of officer misconduct in closed-door sessions out of the public eye. Board members publicly vote whether to take action against officers subject to complaints. But the board’s nine members discuss disciplinary actions in closed-door executive sessions.

Those discussions leave the public without key details that could implicate or exonerate officers — who are named publicly during the voting sessions.

It can be rare for a person in Kassetas’ position in law enforcement to speak out about cases of misconduct. But Kassetas has made television appearances about the issue, spreading the message that his profession will not tolerate cops breaking bad. In February, Lt. Gary Smith, a State Police lieutenant in Roswell, retired amid allegations that he put in for overtime he never worked.

“It’s a sad end to his career but as the chief again I’m not losing any sleep for it. There’s no room in my organization for theft or fraud dishonest officers, so get out,” Kassetas said in an on-air interview with KRQE News 13 in August.

Smith faces seven fourth-degree felony charges in a pending state District Court trial in Roswell. Kassetas has said fellow officers reported the alleged overtime theft.

“What triggered it was my belief that we have to police our own profession,” Kassetas said. “I’ll terminate an officer and he or she is able to be hired on in another department almost seamlessly.”

Such cases have caused embarrassment to a profession that cannot be above the law while at the same time upholding it, Kassetas said.

In an interview last month, Kassetas said lawyers for the state would have to determine what type of information the agency is able to make public and what it cannot legally publish.

“I think the lawyers have to figure out what’s protected and what’s not, but the core of it is transparency,” Kassetas said.

He said wants to follow the model of the neighboring Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, whose functions are similar to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board.

Four times annually, the Arizona board publishes on its website a so-called integrity bulletin, summarizing the board’s investigatory findings into cases of officer misconduct across the state. The quarterly publication includes summaries of revocations, suspensions, mandatory revocations because of felonies, denials and voluntary relinquishment of law enforcement officers’ certifications. The summaries do not name specific officers or agencies, but they do reference specific case numbers.

One revocation case published in the Arizona board’s third integrity bulletin in 2017, which summarizes board actions from meetings in July, August and September, looks like this: “A deputy was in the hiring process with an agency and took a pre-hire polygraph examination. The polygrapher concluded that the deputy employed countermeasures in order to affect the outcome of the test. When questioned, the deputy first denied and then eventually admitted to doing so in order to influence the outcome of the polygraph test.”

The agency also publishes findings into cases in which it takes no actions against an officer. The brief summaries look like this: “An officer engaged in rude and defamatory comments to the female employee within view of a citizen and fellow employees.”

Kassetas believes New Mexico’s statewide board, as well as individual agencies, should take advantage of the internet by making internal law enforcement workings more accessible — and not just about cases of officer misconduct. Kassetas said he sees no reason why internal policies of police departments should shouldn’t be posted online. Currently, journalists and citizens must frequently request such documents through the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, often called by its abbreviated name, IPRA.

“Why do we make journalists or the public IPRA the pursuit policy?” Kassetas said. “It should be there.”

He said law enforcement agencies making more information available online will save their public-records custodians time because they would not have to process Inspection of Public Records Act requests.

“We just sort of make it hard for people to find out about it…” Kassetas said. “I talk about it, but it’s really not a sexy topic. So until I really put it out on the forefront, it won’t get any traction.”


, “State police chief: Make misconduct cases more accessible to public”,

What Happens When A Troubled Police Department Refuses To Reform?

In Albuquerque, they’ve been getting away with it.

ALBUQUERQUE ― Early on the morning of Aug. 24, 2016, two Albuquerque police officers responded to a 911 call at an apartment complex on the city’s west side. Inside, they found the remains of fourth-grader Victoria Martens wrapped in a smoldering blanket. She had been given alcohol and methamphetamine before she was sexually assaulted, strangled, stabbed and then dismembered. It was her 10th birthday.

Victoria’s mother, Michelle, her mother’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s cousin were arrested at the scene and charged in the girl’s murder. Only later did it come to light that New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department had forwarded a complaint related to Victoria Martens to the Albuquerque Police Department five months before her death. Victoria had told a family friend that her mother’s boyfriend had tried to kiss her ― a different man than the one charged in the girl’s death ― and the friend called CYFD.

The police received the referral, but did not follow up. When a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal, the city’s morning newspaper, inquired about it, two APD spokespeople said officers had interviewed Victoria and her mother but found no cause for further investigation. In reality, they had ignored the referral entirely.

If they’d actually looked into it, they might have learned that Michelle Martens had previously trawled the internet looking for men to engage in sexual acts with her children. A subsequent civilian oversight board investigation found that the APD officials had lied to the press and to the public about the case ― and once they were caught in their lie, Police Chief Gorden Eden rejected the board’s recommendation that one of his officers be suspended for 80 hours for violating the public’s trust.

The handling of the Martens case fit a broader pattern of troubling behavior among APD command staff. The department has been under a reform agreement with the Department of Justice since 2014, after an investigation following a string of controversial police killings found the department had violated the U.S. Constitution and demonstrated “patterns of excessive force.”

The DOJ agreement called for changes to the department’s policies on use of force, training and transparency, as well ongoing review by civilian panels and an independent monitor. But the APD has repeatedly failed to comply with reforms. A court-appointed independent monitor, James Ginger, has filed five reports with the judge overseeing the case, each one ripping APD for its obstruction. The most recent report, filed in May, accused APD of being in “deliberate noncompliance.”

“There seems to be no one person, unit, or group with responsibility and command authority to ‘make change happen,’” wrote Ginger.

Federal consent decrees and civilian oversight are often held up as strong tools to get misbehaving police departments to right ship. But Albuquerque’s experience shows the agreements can be toothless and fragile ― they don’t work without the cooperation of the police and, perhaps more important, city government. It’s been more than three years since the agreement was signed, and oversight officials and community activists say the department’s leaders remain accountable to no one.

Brendan Donahue -Live music/Portrait – via Getty Images
Albuquerque police officers observe a protest in March 2014, just weeks before the U.S. Department of Justice released a scathing report about the department’s unconstitutional practices.

On a Tuesday morning in early September, members of Albuquerque’s Police Oversight Board gathered in the basement of a municipal building downtown to review a docket of APD cases.

When the session moved to cases from APD’s Critical Incident Review Team, an internal unit created under the settlement agreement to examine serious uses of force, the board identified a recurring problem: The video evidence CIRT had been sharing was often disorganized and inconsistently labeled, making it nearly impossible to navigate to relevant segments of footage.

Complications like this have become par for the course, said Joanne Fine, chair of the board. “Every obstacle they can put in our way, they did,” she said in an interview after the meeting.

Fine retired in 2013 from United Way, where she served as a chief communications officer, and has been volunteering with the oversight board since 2015. Her attitude toward the reform process has changed in the last two years.

“We were trying to figure out a way to collaborate with APD, to cooperate with them, before we realized the dysfunction,” she said.

Fine devotes about 20 hours a week to the work, she said. For other board members, which include a former pastor, retired scientist and a diverse cast of community activists, it has become a full-time job without pay.

APD may occasionally give lip service to the oversight board, but the department doesn’t genuinely acknowledge the mandate of civilian oversight, said Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, the investigative arm of the POB that reviews officer-involved shootings and complaints against officers.

“We look at this consent decree and the department as if they’re going through the stages of grief,” Harness said. “The command staff is still in that phase of denial, and they haven’t moved on to acceptance. So that’s where the resistance is. They deny that there are any problems, they deny that there were ever problems, and they don’t feel that change is necessary.”

Asked for comment, APD emailed a statement from a city attorney, who maintained that Albuquerque and its police department remain committed to reform.

We look at this consent decree and the department as if they’re going through the stages of grief. The command staff is still in that phase of denial. Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency

Consent decrees can change the behavior of police departments, said Harness, a former Milwaukee police officer. But much of the necessary change is cultural, and it can be difficult to enforce a transformation when defiance has become so deeply entrenched.

Critics say APD’s culture of intransigence starts at the top. Chief Eden came to APD in February 2014, two months before the DOJ released the findings of its investigation into the department’s practices. Eden replaced Ray Schultz, who had faced calls to resign amid the probe, with the intent that he would lead the department through the reform process.

The investigation specifically called out APD’s SWAT team and another, since-disbanded tactical unit, concluding that the officers assigned to the elite squads had been responsible for more than a third of the department’s shootings since 2010. Weeks after that review, Eden promoted a former SWAT commander, Bob Huntsman, to be his second in command. Huntsman had left the APD in 2012, before some of the unit’s most controversial killings, but activists said his leadership had enabled SWAT’s rogue behavior. They saw his selection as an immediate sign of hostility toward the reform effort.

Huntsman’s role at APD has only grown since his return, while Eden’s has withered. He “essentially runs” APD today, said Harness.

Under Eden and Huntsman’s watch, there appears to have been little effort to challenge the culture at APD. Many say the current mindset dates back to August 2005, when a mentally ill man went on a shooting spree that left two of the department’s officers and three others dead. The department began to take on a more militarized ethos after the tragedy, laying the groundwork for an increase in officer-involved shootings, said Pete Dinelli, a former city councilor and prosecutor and frequent critic of the APD.

“We shifted from community-based policing, where we had a fully staffed department that did a lot of community outreach and emphasized a proactive approach to law enforcement,” said Dinelli. “We started recruiting a far more aggressive type of police officer. And with that, there was an emphasis placed on defensive tactics on behalf of the police officer.”

Under the department’s current leadership, Dinelli has little hope that reform will truly take root. And he says it’s not just Huntsman and Eden who have to go.

“It’s a paramilitary organization with a definite chain of command in place,” he said. “Most of the officers that are in command staff have been there for a number of years. They don’t want to respond to civilians. They don’t want to be told what to do.”

Meaningful reform would require APD to recruit and train a new generation of rank-and-file officers, Dinelli said.

In theory, the DOJ or the monitor, James Ginger, could call for sanctions on the department, including criminal contempt-of-court charges, fines, removal of leaders, or even a complete takeover, an unprecedented action for a federal judge.

Jonathan Smith, a former Justice Department official in the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Albuquerque agreement, said he understands the impatience but urged activists to stay actively involved in the process and to let it play out.

“These police departments get broken over a long period of time, cultures get developed over a long period of time, and changing police culture takes a long period of time,” Smith said. (The Department of Justice said it would not comment on pending litigation.)

Gutting the department would certainly be a drastic departure from the current approach.

“We only can make recommendations; we cannot impose anything,” Harness said. “We have to have the support of the public and of the citizens of Albuquerque to get things done. We have to have them engaged, and we have to have them be responsive and hold the department accountable.”

It’s not clear that the general public would support a broader overhaul. Crime rates have been on the rise in Albuquerque over the past few years, and some residents ― especially those in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods ― see reform as a secondary issue, one that only makes it harder for cops to protect them and their property.

“If you go to community meetings, for the most part you’ll find a much larger group that supports whatever the police do and a small minority that wants to see the police change,” said Bill Kass, a member of the POB. “They’re hardly a silent majority. They’re effectively a supportive majority, so that does give cops some cover.”

Law enforcement officials around the country have made similar arguments that addressing civil rights violations in a department would interfere with legitimate police functions. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed disdain for federal consent decrees and the idea of police reform more broadly, drawing pushback from activists who say that the efforts benefit civilians and cops alike.

Although Albuquerque’s consent decree is a court-ordered agreement, meaning Sessions can’t unilaterally roll it back, his tone doesn’t make the process any easier.

“I believe the Trump administration and Jeff Sessions are going to do whatever they can to gut any further civil rights investigations of police misconduct,” Dinelli said. “Over the next four years, as long as Trump and Sessions are in office, we won’t see another consent decree.”

That sort of antagonism has broader implications for police reform in Albuquerque and nationwide.

“You’re losing the hammer and you’re sending a message to jurisdictions that we’re not really serious about this,” said William Yeomans, a 24-year veteran of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and a former acting assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush.

“Decrees work best when folks at the top make it clear that they mean business, that the decree will be carried out,” added Yeomans. “If they don’t, and there’s any wiggle room, people are going to tend back on the way they have traditionally done things.”

You’re losing the hammer and you’re sending a message to jurisdictions that we’re not really serious about this. William Yeomans, former acting assistant attorney general under George W. Bush

Over the course of a consent decree, police will eventually get the message, Smith said.

“If you tell a cop, ‘Here’s a new policy,’ they’ll roll their eyes and go back to doing it the way they’ve done it, until they’ve been held accountable again and again and again,” he said.

Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, says that cops on the street want the reform effort to succeed, but they’re frustrated by the complexity and lack of consistency in implementing some policies. Many beat cops ― some already skeptical of the push for more transparency and accountability ― see an inefficient system of red tape that keeps them off street while they fill out paperwork for the various oversight authorities.

Willoughby said his experience with the process has been chaotic and inconsistent. Every consent decree is different, and everyone involved in Albuquerque’s campaign has, in effect, been participating in a big experiment, Willoughby said. And unless everyone reaches agreement on how to move forward, the process will fail.

“When we started this there was not a book out there called ‘Reforming Your Police Department With The DOJ For Idiots,’” Willoughby said. “I don’t think there has been ill-intent, but it is evident to me that this is not going to work.”

ferrantraite via Getty Images
Downtown Albuquerque at night. The most recent federal monitor’s report found APD to be 47 percent in operational compliance with the consent decree. For a judge to consider lifting the decree, it must be 95 percent for two years.

City leadership has done little to signal that reform is a priority. Mayor Richard Berry and the nine city councilors have remained mostly silent on the issue.

During a meeting with Ginger in early 2016, council members asked him who was ultimately responsible for the reform effort. His response: the City Council.

Even after Ginger’s five negative reports about APD’s stonewalling, there have been no calls from City Hall for Eden to be fired and no formal reprimands ― even when APD lied to the public about the Martens case.

Berry, the city’s first Republican mayor in over 30 years, has been similarly indifferent. But after two terms, he isn’t running for re-election, and a new mayor will be sworn in on Dec. 1. Both candidates in the runoff election slated for mid-November have said they’ll fire Eden and go full speed ahead on reform.

Berry did not respond to a HuffPost request to comment on reform of the police department.

Under the DOJ consent decree, the Albuquerque Police Department must be found to be in 95 percent operational compliance for two years before the judge can consider declaring the work complete. The monitor’s last report found just 47 percent operational compliance.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque taxpayers are on the hook not just for the cost of the protracted reform effort but also for the large settlements that continue to arise as a result of police misconduct. The city has already shelled out nearly $3 million to pay for salaries and audits associated with the reform process, according to officials, and will likely be on the hook for millions more before all is said and done. In 2017 alone, Albuquerque added an additional $3 million to its budget to bolster the fund that covers out-of-court settlements, many of which are related to APD.

But city officials say everything is going according to schedule.

“When the City and Department of Justice began this process, they set an extremely ambitious timeline for themselves, one of the most ambitious in the nation,” Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, who represents the city and APD in court, said in an email. “The City has made tremendous progress over the last three years. As the City continues those efforts, both the Department and community must remember that we are focused on ensuring reform is implemented correctly as opposed to merely quickly. As the Independent Monitor has said, ‘This is a marathon, not a sprint.’”

Activists say if the city doesn’t force its police department to change, it’s not going to. For now, however, the will for swifter action may not be there.

“It seems like citizens are sort of resigned to the fact that there’s always going to be pay-to-play, that you’re always going to have a pretty fierce police force with no accountability,” said Silvio Dell’Angela, a retired Air Force officer and Vietnam veteran who’s been actively involved in the reform process. “People don’t dare to threaten the status quo, even when cops shoot people.”

Deputy arrested, fired for allegedly stealing meth on the job

Published: June 23, 2017, 7:35 pm Updated: June 24, 2017, 4:11 pm

CLOVIS, N.M. (KRQE) — A New Mexico deputy was arrested and fired for allegedly stealing meth on the job.

“I’m very surprised. I’m very shocked. I didn’t think that could be happening in such a small town like this,” said Reginald Beacham, Clovis resident.

People in Clovis are surprised to hear about the case against the now-former Curry County Sheriff Deputy Brandon Nolen.

According to court documents, Nolen made a traffic stop March 20 in Clovis and seized approximately four grams of suspected methamphetamine, along with a gun and items of drug paraphernalia.

According to investigators, Nolen had an alcohol problem so he was required to take a drug test. A couple of days after the traffic stop, he tested positive for amphetamines, then was fired by the department.

That’s when authorities discovered the methamphetamine seized by Nolen during the traffic stop was missing from his evidence locker.

He was finally arrested this week.

The incident has caused a ripple effect. Now, the DA’s office says that because of the arrest they have had to dismiss more than 30 of Nolen’s cases.

Nolen is charged for the meth and with perjury and tampering with public records — for claiming he put the meth in evidence. He has since bonded out of jail.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Department refused to comment on this story.

Deputy arrested, fired for allegedly stealing meth on the job

Former Santa Fe County deputy arrested for child molestation

Published: May 5, 2017, 3:55 pm Updated: May 6, 2017, 5:39 pm

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been arrested for inappropriately touching two female family members. The molestation allegedly took place while he was a deputy.

Los Alamos Police say they arrested Dustin Bingham, 36, on Wednesday, May 3, during a traffic stop on a warrant for eight counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Bingham is accused of fondling two female relatives.

Bingham lived with the two girls and their family for several months in late 2015 through early 2016, sleeping in the same room as one of them. He then babysat the girls many times after. The time frame of all the allegations is Nov. 2015 to April 2017.

According to the affidavit, the girls told Bingham’s father what Bingham did. He then confronted Bingham. During that interaction, Bingham reportedly said, “Dad, I’m guilty.”

Dad told police the family initially considered dealing with the issue within their Mormon church, but for whatever reason, they ended up going to the Los Alamos Police Department instead on Wednesday, May 3.

While dad talked with LAPD officers, he called Bingham and put the call on speakerphone. Police recorded it.

During the call, Bingham admitted to touching the girls’ breasts and said he “needed help.” At that point, his arrest warrant was drafted.

“We are looking into any other potential victims and if there are, we would encourage them to contact the Los Alamos Police Department,” LAPD Cmdr. Oliver Morris said.

KRQE News 13 reached out Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia who said there were no red flags when he hired Bingham back in April 2015.

Bingham had previously worked for the Los Alamos Police Department as a detention officer. It’s unknown why he left that position.

“You depend on law enforcement to do those kinds of investigations, but when it comes up that one of your own is being accused or alleged to have done something inappropriate, it’s very disturbing,” Sheriff Garcia said.

Sheriff Garcia said he actually knew of the allegations as early as January, when he was contacted by the girls’ family.

Sheriff Garcia says he launched an internal affairs investigation into the matter and called New Mexico State Police for an outside investigation.

During the internal affairs investigation in February, Bingham resigned.

KRQE News 13 reached out to NMSP to determine what happened to their investigation into Bingham, and was told the case is pending review at the District Attorney’s Office.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been arrested for inappropriately touching two female family members. The molestation allegedly took place while he was a deputy.

Los Alamos Police say they arrested Dustin Bingham, 36, on Wednesday, May 3, during a traffic stop on a warrant for eight counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Bingham is accused of fondling two female relatives.

Bingham lived with the two girls and their family for several months in late 2015 through early 2016, sleeping in the same room as one of them. He then babysat the girls many times after. The time frame of all the allegations is Nov. 2015 to April 2017.

According to the affidavit, the girls told Bingham’s father what Bingham did. He then confronted Bingham. During that interaction, Bingham reportedly said, “Dad, I’m guilty.”

Dad told police the family initially considered dealing with the issue within their Mormon church, but for whatever reason, they ended up going to the Los Alamos Police Department instead on Wednesday, May 3.

While dad talked with LAPD officers, he called Bingham and put the call on speakerphone. Police recorded it.

During the call, Bingham admitted to touching the girls’ breasts and said he “needed help.” At that point, his arrest warrant was drafted.

“We are looking into any other potential victims and if there are, we would encourage them to contact the Los Alamos Police Department,” LAPD Cmdr. Oliver Morris said.

KRQE News 13 reached out Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia who said there were no red flags when he hired Bingham back in April 2015.

Bingham had previously worked for the Los Alamos Police Department as a detention officer. It’s unknown why he left that position.

“You depend on law enforcement to do those kinds of investigations, but when it comes up that one of your own is being accused or alleged to have done something inappropriate, it’s very disturbing,” Sheriff Garcia said.

Sheriff Garcia said he actually knew of the allegations as early as January, when he was contacted by the girls’ family.

Sheriff Garcia says he launched an internal affairs investigation into the matter and called New Mexico State Police for an outside investigation.

During the internal affairs investigation in February, Bingham resigned.

KRQE News 13 reached out to NMSP to determine what happened to their investigation into Bingham, and was told the case is pending review at the District Attorney’s Office.

Former Santa Fe County deputy arrested for child molestation

Jury awards couple $1.6M in suit against LCPD officers

Carlos Andres López , Las Cruces Sun-News Published 5:21 p.m. MT Feb. 13, 2017 | Updated 6:49 p.m. MT Feb. 13, 2017


LAS CRUCES – Four years ago, a dispute between neighbors turned violent when a Las Cruces police officer threw a stay-at-home mother onto gravel and intentionally slammed her face into the rocks, causing profuse bleeding, a broken nose and a fractured wrist.

On Friday, after more than three years of legal wrangling, an eight-member federal jury awarded the woman and her husband, Jillian and Andrew Beck, both formerly of Las Cruces, $1.6 million in damages.

The verdict was reached at the end of a five-day trial in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces. The trial centered on allegations in the couple’s civil-rights lawsuit against Officer Isaiah Baker and Officer Joseph Campa, both of the Las Cruces Police Department.

After about three hours of deliberations, the jury determined Baker had used unreasonably excessive force on Jillian Beck in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also committed a battery in violation of New Mexico law, the jury ruled. Because the latter was not a criminal charge, Baker is not facing any time behind bars.

The jury further concluded that Campa had unlawfully seized and arrested Andrew Beck, also in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The couple was awarded $1 million in punitive damages as a result of Baker’s “willful, malicious, wanton and reckless conduct,” according to their attorneys, Margaret Strickland and Mollie McGraw of Las Cruces. The couple received an additional $600,000 in compensatory damages.

In a brief statement released Friday, the city of Las Cruces said it was planning to “review the jury’s decision” for a possible appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. The city was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

A city spokesman did not respond Monday to questions from the Sun-News. A spokesman for LCPD also declined to comment on the case on Monday.

In an interview, Strickland said Jillian Beck was “relieved that the officers were going to be held accountable.”

Strickland, in a statement, added: “The jury sent a clear message that this type of behavior towards civilians will not be tolerated in our community.”

In arguments made before the jury, Strickland and McGraw said a “blue wall of silence” at LCPD had shielded the officers’ misconduct and subsequent cover-up for four years.

The incident occurred on the evening of Jan. 5, 2013, according to the lawsuit. Police had been dispatched to the 7500 block of Vista de Oeste Place, where the couple lived with their 4-year-old son, in response to a neighbor dispute. Baker and Campa were among the officers who responded to the call.

Jillian Beck, then 26, had been “upset with a neighbor who was throwing rocks and blowing an air horn in the middle of the night at another neighbor’s dog,” the lawsuit stated.

She explained her complaint to Baker, according to the lawsuit. But as she turned to walk away from the officer, he “unexpectedly grabbed her arm, twisted it behind her back, and slammed her to the ground.”

At trial, it was revealed that Beck had tried to lift her head off the ground in an effort to call out to a neighbor to remove her son from the scene. But as she lifted her head, Baker slammed her face onto rocks, her attorneys said.

When she was lifted off the ground by Baker, her face was covered in blood, the lawsuit stated. Her husband then attempted to help her, but when he stepped forward, he was detained by Campa.

Andrew Beck, who testified on Feb. 7 via live video from an Air Force base in Qatar, said he thought his wife was “choking on her own blood,” according to his attorneys. The active-duty airman had been based at White Sands Missile Range when the incident occurred.

During the trial, a police audio recording of the incident was played for the jury. In the recording, Baker can be heard saying “she got thrown” and she got a “face full of rocks,” Strickland said. A female officer then said “cool” in response.

Jillian Beck was then placed under arrest and charged with battery on a peace officer, resisting an officer and disorderly conduct. The battery and resisting charges were dismissed, court records show, and she pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct.

Her husband also was arrested and charged with resisting an officer. But the charge was later dismissed, Strickland said.

According to the city’s Human Resources Department, both Baker and Campa are still employed with LCPD as officers. Human resources would not say if the officers were ever disciplined over the incident.

Former Las Cruces Police officer arrested on drug charges

Police Chief says Smith “shocked” department

The former Las Cruces Police officer accused of trading drugs in exchange for sexual favors while on the job was arrested Wednesday.

32-year-old Alex Smith surrendered to New Mexico State Police and was booked into the Dona Ana County Detention Center on a $10,000 secured bond. He has since bonded out.

A grand jury indicted Smith on December 1 on one count of trafficking drugs and one count of conspiracy to commit trafficking.

According to the Las Cruces Sun News, Smith was investigated after he was accused of giving a substance believed to be methamphetamine to a woman last June, while in uniform and wearing his badge. According to Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya, Smith resigned June 9.

On Thursday, ABC-7 spoke with Montoya over the phone while he was attending a three day law enforcement academy in Albuquerque. Montoya said the department always works closely with employees who have problems. He says in Smith’s case, there were no warning signs.

“What he did, it shocked the department,” Montoya said. “He’s one of these employees that you really figure, we don’t have to worry about him, he’ll be fine. I had a lot of questions and concerns and we asked those questions in the department, are we missing something? What people see is it’s a reflection of the department and it’s not. It’s a reflection of an individual person.”

Montoya said there are certain policies in place within the department, and Smith chose to go against those.

“He went beyond that policy, did he choose to ignore it? I don’t know, I haven’t had that conversation with him because he’s gone,” Montoya said. “Did he even know the policy? A lot of guys on the street like to work their sources to get information to combat crime. But when you cross that line and you give a confidential informant drugs or favors, what makes you think it’s ok?”

Smith will be arraigned in District Court on December 19.

City not looking into APD records officer’s allegations

Lapel video is considered video evidence and tampering with evidence is a felony. The city is not investigating the allegations of video tampering, but the FBI might be.

Reynaldo Chavez used to be in charge of producing public documents and videos for news outlets and citizens. He swore under oath that a Deputy Chief or (former) City Attorney Kathy Levy ordered him to, “deny, withhold, obstruct, conceal, or even destroy records,” that related to the shooting deaths of James Boyd, Jeremy Robertson, or Mary Hawkes.

Chavez specifically pointed out Officer Frank Pezzano as a key person who erased, altered, corrupted, or encrypted lapel camera video. Chavez said Pezzano’s boss Lieutenant Fernando Aragon allowed it.

Chavez has also accused Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman of saying, “We can make this disappear.” Chavez says Huntsman was referring to a video.

Chavez’s statements were given to the attorneys suing the city of Albuquerque on behalf of Mary Hawkes family.

Chavez is currently in litigation with the city of Albuquerque. He says he was fired for not going along with the department’s orders to hide public records. The current City Attorney, Jessica Hernandez, released the following statement about the allegations: “The city questions the motives and disputes the accuracy of the information relayed by Mr. Chavez. The city stands prepared to defend against these allegations that records or evidence have been compromised.”

The city of Albuquerque has not looked into these allegations or considered that Reynaldo Chavez may be telling the truth. While quick to deny allegations, they have not taken the steps to investigate the allegations.

State police arrest Grants police officer, girlfriend

J.R. Oppenheim
August 25, 2016 12:45 PM

New Mexico State Police arrested a Grants law enforcement officer following a six-week misconduct investigation, a NMSP spokesperson said.

Public Information Officer Elizabeth Armijo said agents apprehended Grants Police Department Sgt. Roshern C. McKinney, 33, on marijuana distribution, conspiracy and felony embezzlement charges on Wednesday.

State police also charged McKinney’s girlfriend Tanicka Gallegos-Gonzales, 23, for drug distribution and conspiracy. Both were arrested in Albuquerque and booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Armijo said Grants Police Chief Craig Vandiver alerted state police after the department found lapel camera video that “exposed possible illicit activity by a Grants Police Department sergeant.”

The NMSP investigation that started July 11 uncovered McKinney allegedly drove his police car to the police station and put what appeared to be marijuana in a uniform pocket, Armijo said. McKinney then drove to Gallegos-Gonzales’ home and gave her the drug to give to her father, Armijo said.

This allegedly happened while McKinney was on duty, Armijo said.

McKinney is also accused of embezzling $785 and an eight-ounce brick of marijuana.

“These items were never submitted to the department’s evidence vault,” Armijo said.

23-year-old Edgar Alvarado dead after US Marshals raid wrong trailer

By Robert Browman and Ryan Boetel / Journal Staff Writers

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Perla Alvarado, right, and other members of the Alvarado family grieve following the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Edgar Alvarado at a trailer park located on the 7500 block of Central NW on Saturday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

The U.S. Marshals’ attempt to execute an arrest warrant at a West Central trailer park early Saturday morning led to a shooting and a family demanding answers from authorities.

A 23-year-old man who lived in one of the trailers was shot and killed, according to the man’s family. The shooting was followed by an hourslong SWAT standoff at a different trailer, which ended when a homicide suspect was taken into custody.

Family members who gathered at the scene said FBI agents told them Edgar Alvarado, 23, was the man who was killed. They said that, after speaking with the FBI, they believe Alvarado was shot when deputy marshals and police tried to execute the warrant at the wrong trailer.

Officials from multiple law enforcement agencies wouldn’t confirm or deny that Saturday.

Sgt. Chad Pierce, a spokesman for New Mexico State Police, said the shooting happened around 6 a.m. at 7501 Central NW. Multiple witnesses said the shooting happened around 3 a.m.

“The United States Marshal Service was in the process of serving an arrest warrant when an incident occurred and shots were fired,” Pierce wrote in a news release.

The Marshals Service said that George Bond, 25, and six others were arrested at the trailer park. Bond was wanted in connection with a 2014 murder in Los Lunas. He had managed to flee from authorities at Albuquerque’s main post office, near Broadway and Mountain NE, on Friday afternoon.

Ben Segotta, a spokesman for the Marshals Service, said the arrests were made near where the shooting took place, but he declined to comment on the shooting.

Pierce didn’t say if the marshals opened fire or if it was officers from another law enforcement agency.

Hugo Sanchez, who was among the group of family members at the scene, said an FBI agent and Albuquerque Police Department chaplain met privately with family members around 12:15 p.m. and confirmed Alvarado’s death.

Perla Alvarado, Edgar Alvarado’s cousin, met with FBI agents later in the day and said she was told the marshals were attempting to arrest someone who lives at a different trailer.

“They were looking for someone else and they killed him,” she said.

Spokesmen for the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, Albuquerque police and State Police refused to comment on that claim, or give any other information, on Saturday.

Edgar Alvarado lived in trailer 26, according to Perla Alvarado. Hours after the shooting, State Police and APD SWAT teams had surrounded nearby trailer 29.

Some officers had rifles pointed at the trailer, and others were asking people inside to come out.

“This is a police emergency. We cannot leave until we make contact with all occupants of trailer 29,” officers repeated over a loudspeaker.

Perla Alvarado said she believes her cousin was shot when officers got the trailers mixed up, but she isn’t sure why.

“This morning, we got a call about APD and U.S. Marshals being at my aunt’s house,” she said. “We have no idea why they shot him. He passed away instantly.”

She said Edgar Alvarado lived in the trailer with his mother, stepfather and two younger siblings, and was working on his car when officers showed up.

Thomas Terrazas-Borjas, who lives next door, said he heard two gunshots in the middle of the night. He looked outside and saw about 12 officers.

He said police questioned him about what he saw when he left his home Saturday morning.

More than 50 marked and unmarked law enforcement vehicles and tactical vehicles from multiple agencies flooded the area and Central Avenue was closed in both directions from Unser to Airport for several hours during the standoff. Police cars filled the mobile home park and spilled out on a driveway leading to Central.

Albuquerque police, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies, State Police, Rio Rancho police, the FBI and U.S. Marshals were there.

At least two Rooks – small tank-like tactical vehicles – were used, and several armored vans drove SWAT officers around during the standoff.

Conrad Candelaria, U.S. Marshal for the District of New Mexico, was at the scene. He didn’t respond to a request to speak with reporters.

Deputies with the U.S. Marshals Service, a branch of the Department of Justice, often execute warrants alongside local law enforcement agencies. It wasn’t clear Saturday if Albuquerque police officers or other law enforcement officers were present when the shooting happened.

Officials at the scene made no public statements, though FBI agents spoke with Edgar Alvarado’s family privately.

Edgar Alvarado’s family members, who were still at the scene late in the afternoon, yelled at police and demanded justice.

As the scene came to a close, SWAT officers were seen fist-bumping one another.

Alvarado was described as a small and outgoing man. He was a graduate of the Academy of Trades and Technology and was planning to propose to his girlfriend, his family said.

Perla Alvarado said the family is struggling to understand what happened.

“There has to be justice,” she said.

Robert Browman and Ryan Boetel, February 20th, 2016, Albuquerque Journal,  “Family demands answers after man killed in U.S. Marshals operation”,