Off-duty conduct gets APD officers in hot water

Pets in apartments, YouTube videos, speeding all the focus of complaints

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A review of citizen complaints investigated by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency finds several cases where Albuquerque police officers were turned in by citizens for alleged misconduct off the clock.

The CPOA is tasked with reviewing and investigating citizen complaints and use of force incidents. While the vast majority of those complaints are about how an officer has handled a case or dealt with the public while in uniform and on the job, not all of them are.

CPC #003-15

In the early morning hours of December 9, 2014, a citizen spotted a marked APD unit that could easily be mistaken for a drag racing car. According to the complaint, the citizen spotted the officer going 70 mph in a 35 mph zone on Montgomery, following the officer as he got onto I-25 Southbound.

On the freeway, the citizen started recording the unit going more than 110 mph, even following him onto I-40 East. It turned out the officer in that marked APD cruiser was off-duty and in plain clothes and not responding to a call. He did tell investigators he was heading to the hospital for a family medical emergency and sped because the citizen was following him closely. CPOA investigators found that despite those reasons, the officer broke three department policies by using his cruiser that way.

An APD spokesperson says there will likely be discipline against the officer in this case.

CPC #234-15

On the evening of November 30, 2015,a woman says she spotted an officer driving in a marked unit, texting and watching YouTube videos on his computer at the same time.

An investigation by the CPOA found the officer was taking his kids home from day care and was showing them videos on his city-owned computer. The officer denied texting. The CPOA determined he was in violation of department policy in using the car’s computer for personal purposes.

The CPOA recommended a written reprimand in this case. An APD spokesperson says there will likely be some kind of discipline meted out.

CPC #025-15

Even an officer’s rental problems can become department problems.

In January 2015, an officer’s former landlord filed a complaint with the CPOA. The landlord claims the officer failed to get rid of moving boxes when asked and, despite not being allowed to have pets, had two dogs and a rabbit. After he didn’t get rid of the pets, the landlord evicted the officer, claiming he left the place a mess.

In filing her complaint, the landlord said she felt the officer’s actions spoke to his character and that he failed to conduct himself professionally. A CPOA investigator agreed, saying the officer’s conduct violated department policy.

An APD spokesperson says there likely won’t be discipline in this case.

Union Response

APOA interim president Shaun Willoughby tells KRQE News 13 that while officers should be held to a higher standard, many civilian complaints are frivolous.

“Everybody’s always watching and scrutinizing and it’s very popular to complain on police nowadays,” Willoughby said. “To be evicted in your personal life and to get a complaint in your professional life is all too common and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Even so, Willoughby says the city’s “fortunate” to have a civilian complaint process that allows an avenue for these kinds of complaints to be thoroughly and fairly investigated.

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