But Chief Gorden Eden disagreed with the Police Oversight Board, which said the officer “did lie” to the Journal about the Victoria Martens case, and should be suspended 80 hours.
Victoria, 10, was raped and killed in her home in west Albuquerque in August 2016. Three adults, including her mother, have been charged in her death.
Ed Harness, the director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, announced the chief’s findings at a Police Oversight Board meeting Thursday night.
Because Eden disagreed with the civilian oversight group, the case will be reviewed by an independent monitor overseeing a yearslong police reform effort, he said.
“Our findings were that (the officer) and the PIO purposefully lied with the information they shared with the Journal,” Police Oversight Board Chairwoman Joanne Fine said during the meeting.
City rules prohibit civilian oversight groups from identifying the involved officers in cases they publicly discuss. But the Journal has identified him as Fred Duran, a former police public information officer.
The chief’s explanation for only suspending Duran eight hours, as described by Harness at Thursday’s board meeting, was that Duran was ill prepared for an interview with the Journal and didn’t perform his duties as expected.
But Eden didn’t find that a preponderance of the evidence showed that Duran had intentionally lied.
“Giving incorrect information and lying are two entirely different matters,” Eden said in police documents read aloud by Harness. “Lying requires intent. … I do not believe this factual allegation can be sustained.”
The chief did find that Duran had a duty to make sure the information he relayed to the Journal was correct.
“He failed to successfully perform his duties as” public information officer, Eden said.
An investigation by the CPOA found that Duran was in a meeting with other police officials in December 2016 and was told that prior to Victoria’s death, police received a complaint that a man had tried to kiss Victoria and police never investigated.
The next month Duran told the Journal that police had investigated the case, but found no crime had been committed. The Journal reported that information.
In March, upon receiving additional questions from the Journal, Duran and police officials said there was a miscommunication and told the Journal that police had not investigated the complaint. The Journal then reported the correct information.
That story prompted a complaint to the CPOA about Duran, which led to an investigation that resulted in the recommended suspension.
The chief’s decision also was based on the fact that many of the conversations Duran had about Victoria before his interview with the Journal weren’t recorded, so there was no evidence he lied, Harness said.
It isn’t clear if Duran has served the suspension or if he will appeal.