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Thursday, June 12, 2008
Attack on Cameraman Prompts New APD Policy
By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Police Chief Ray Schultz plans to retrain his entire police force because of mistakes he acknowledged were made by an officer who attacked a KOB-TV cameraman after ordering him to move from an area near a crime scene.
The incident which was caught on tape, aired on TV and posted on the Internet sparked hundreds of complaints to APD.
Schultz said Wednesday that he has drafted a policy that he plans to take to all of the city's news organizations for input. He also said the police force will go through training on the new policy and how to deal with crime scene onlookers.
One change would require an officer involved in a disagreement with the media to call a supervisor or public information officer.
The officer involved in last month's incident has been paired to work with a veteran officer and never alone until an investigation is complete.
"I have always said that we learn from our mistakes," Schultz said. "Obviously, there were some mistakes made. So, let's learn from them instead of repeating them."
Veteran KOB-TV cameraman Rick Foley was covering a police standoff on May 29 near Copper and Charleston NE when rookie officer Daniel Guzman told Foley to move to a different location, according to a police report.
Foley at the time was some distance from the police cars blocking the street and was outside an area that had been blocked by officers.
Shortly after Guzman told Foley he needed to move, the two exchanged more words.
A video captured by Foley's camera shows the officer lunging at Foley. Foley was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and cited for "refusing to obey an officer."
The citation was filed Tuesday in Metropolitan Court. Foley has been given a July 1 court date.
Schultz said he couldn't intervene and have the citation dismissed. Only an officer or a judge can dismiss a citation once it has been written, he said.
Shortly after the incident, Schultz asked the city's independent review officer to investigate.
That investigation is ongoing. The IRO has reviewed Foley's tape but has not conducted any interviews.
The Journal made an official request on June 2 for records involving any prior disciplinary action taken against Guzman as well as any other resident's complaints.
Police have yet to produce the documents.
A deputy city attorney said in an e-mail that they are reviewing the request and will have a response within 15 days.
Schultz said action was taken shortly after the incident because of the severity of the allegations and the fact that his office has received about 200 e-mails most of which attack Guzman and the chief. Schultz said that two of those e-mails had a threatening tone and that those e-mailers wanted to know where and when Guzman works so they could "talk to him."
"Because of the nature of some of the e-mails, we thought it was in his best interest not to put him in a situation where someone has an encounter with him and something escalates," Schultz said.
Schultz said that when he watched a video of the encounter, he noticed that several mistakes were made, although he declined to elaborate until the IRO completes its investigation.
Schultz pointed out that Foley had asked Guzman for his name and badge number, and that the officer refused to give it.
"That's an obvious policy violation," Schultz said. "We have a distinct policy you will provide name and identification number when asked by anyone. That did not occur."
Schultz said the new policy he drafted deals mostly with how officers are to treat representatives of the media when they think a reporter or photographer is disobeying a lawful order.
The drafted policy calls for the officer to contact his supervisor or a public information officer, but not to initiate an arrest.
The department already has a policy in place that says anyone from the community can record any crime scene as long as he or she is not standing in the scene.
"We want any conflicts addressed at the scene and not have our officers jump to enforcement action," Schultz said. "Let's get the right people there and not get to the point where someone is being arrested or cited."