Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
A leader of local Hispanic advocacy groups alleged in open court earlier this month that Albuquerque police officers surveilled his family’s home with spotlights and frequent drive-bys after a contentious meeting between him and officials with the city and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The claims prompted U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack to ask Albuquerque police Deputy Chief Eric Garcia to oversee an investigation into the allegations made by Ralph Arellanes. Arellanes is the chairman of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico and the executive director of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Arellanes told Brack about his recent encounters with police during a status conference in a police reform case that is being litigated in federal court between the city and the DOJ.
“Those are serious allegations,” Garcia said in court. “That kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman, said the department didn’t have anything else to add, other than the city is taking the allegations seriously and will report to Brack.
Arellanes and other advocates met with Albuquerque police, DOJ, city and police union officials earlier this month. Arellanes said he was interested in discussing policies for using electronic control weapons and training officers on them.
Arellanes said he didn’t believe the department was following guidelines set by TASER International, a company that has provided Albuquerque police with electronic control weapons and other police equipment.
James Ginger, an independent monitor overseeing police reform, said in court that it appears APD’s training is consistent with TASER’s manual for the weapons.
Days after that meeting, Arellanes said, he began to notice police officers driving by his house and shining spotlights into his home. He said the night before the March 22 hearing in front of Brack, police officers drove by his home about 12 times between 10 and 11:30 p.m.
“Are they trying to intimidate me?” Arellanes said during an interview.
Arellanes said he had similar encounters with Albuquerque police in 2007, when his family brought a lawsuit against police officers claiming they used excessive force against his son.
“This did go on. I’m not saying I believe it. I saw the spotlights. And it’s started up again because APD doesn’t want to be held accountable,” he said. “The folks that are speaking out about unconstitutional policing are being intimidated and profiled and followed by APD.”
Arellanes said he was glad Brack asked Garcia for a full review of what happened.
“It does tell me that he cares about what’s going on the streets, about our community and about my family,” he said. “I was very appreciative of the words that Judge Brack used, because at least he stands up. This has to be looked into.”