The president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association received a warning from a state law enforcement board this week for mixing union duties with her responsibilities as a police officer while responding to a domestic violence case involving a fellow officer, whom she later bonded out of jail.
The Law Enforcement Academy Board made the decision to send the cautionary letter Wednesday in the misconduct case of Officer Stephanie Lopez.
Lopez said Thursday that her supervisors previously had suspended her for two weeks over the case.
LEA Director Jack Jones had recommended Lopez receive a cautionary letter after an informal hearing in March. Lopez’s attorney, Frederick Mowrer, asked the board to accept Jones’ recommendation.
Lopez’s case was in connection with a March 2013 call in which she responded to the home of a fellow officer who eventually was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Lopez was a secondary officer assisting on the call.
The LEA board accused Lopez of violating standard operating procedures, including writing her personal views in a police report and performing union duties instead of her responsibilities as an officer. The board noted she had a personal friendship with the officer.
“I think it’s perceived differently when it’s a female officer helping a male officer. It was offensive to me that I was asked if I was in a romantic relationship with him. I’ve known him for 18 years,” Lopez said in an interview Thursday. “I know his kids, he knows my kids, I know his parents, I know his sister, I know his family. We’ve been family friends for a long time.”
Lopez said she made the lead investigator aware that she was a friend of the officer’s.
Lopez became president of the police union in May 2013. She was a union representative at the time of the incident.
Lopez disputed that she put her own opinions in the police report. She said she responded to the house and saw scratches on the victim’s neck. She put in her report that two hours later, after the police officer had been arrested, that the scratches were larger.
“The personal views were my professional views,” she said. “I put what I thought was beneficial to the investigation.”
Lopez said she was criticized for bonding the arrested officer out of jail. She said she was off duty when she bonded him out and that she would do that part again.
“There isn’t an officer in this department that I wouldn’t help,” she said.
Lopez said she was suspended for 80 hours because of the incident.
APD spokeswoman Janet Blair said Thursday that APD has a tiered system for punishments the agency uses for officers who violate policy. Lopez was one of several Albuquerque Police officers disciplined at the board meeting.
The board revoked the certifications of three Albuquerque-area officers, as reported in Thursday’s Albuquerque Journal.