3 members of APD watchdog board slam city attorneys in resignation letters

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Three members of the Police Oversight Commission have resigned, citing what they called a heavy-handed approach from the City Attorney’s Office and Mayor Richard Berry’s appointed independent review officer that didn’t allow for true citizen oversight of the troubled Albuquerque Police Department.

KRQE News 13 has obtained resignation letters, date Tuesday, from commissioners Jonathan Siegel, Richard Shine and Jennifer Barela. Each letter is addressed to Berry.

“The City Attorney’s Office addressed the POC on April 10, 2014 and stated that we have no power to decide against the APD Chief or against (Independent Review Officer Robin Hammer’s) findings regarding citizens’ complaints,” Siegel wrote in his letter. “Due to the city attorney’s actions and the fact that the IRO is not independent from APD and the city, I cannot continue to pretend or deceive the members of our community into believing that our city has any real civilian oversight.”

The resignations come days after the U.S. Justice Department issued a damning report on APD, saying the department has a systemic pattern of violating people’s civil rights, specifically through the use of excessive force and deadly force, and that APD brass support and encourage a culture of police violence.

Among the DOJ’s findings was a line that mirrored what Shine, Siegel and Barela cited as their reasons for resigning.

“From our review it appears that the review officer is more closely aligned with (APD) than with the community that the review officer serves,” federal investigators wrote. “We are left with the conclusion that the current Review Officer and her predecessor have simply been too forgiving of the department’s use of deadly force. They thus deprived the department of critical opportunities to correct its course, which contributed to the overwhelming pattern of unconstitutional use of deadly force that we find.”

In an interview with KRQE News 13 earlier this week, Hammer defended her work as IRO and took exception with the Justice Department’s characterization of her approach to the job.

When KRQE News 13 called her Tuesday, she said she hadn’t read the letters and couldn’t comment.

City attorney David Tourek said in a statement that it’s unfortunate the commissioners resigned.

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