ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police Chief Michael Geier said the department plans to change the way police hire and train detectives in the wake of several high-profile cases where the thoroughness of the investigation was called to question.
Geier and other police officials discussed the practice for selecting detectives with the Police Oversight Board during the board's regular monthly meeting on Thursday.
The board had asked for a presentation after the District Attorney's Office dropped numerous charges against three suspects in the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens after it was found that Michelle Martens, Victoria's mother and one of the suspects, gave incorrect information to police during her interrogation.
The wrong information was obtained after detectives asked Martens leading questions repeatedly. Her statements repeatedly contradicted themselves, but they became the crucial piece of evidence used to charge the group in the girl's death.
Joanne Fine, an oversight board member, said there have been other cases going back to the 2013 death of Omaree Varela, when the completeness of the department's investigation was called into question, as well as a more recent case where a young girl was allegedly forced into prostitution.
“For me, I'm interested in knowing what we have learned systemically about those cases,” she said.
Geier said that, currently, officers can go from field services to detective if they seek certain types of training that detectives would need, such as interrogation and criminal investigations courses. But what courses the officers need to take aren't finalized.
If they are selected for a detective position, they would likely start as a more general detective working in a particular area command, investigating such things as property crimes and domestic violence cases without serious injuries.
If they continue to gain experience and seek out training courses, the detective could then be selected for a specialty unit like crimes against children or homicide.
Currently, officers don't receive a promotion or raise if they become a detective, said Cmdr. Paul Duran. Geier said police will consider giving officers raises if they make detective.
Duran said that this week police created a working group to try to make a more standardized system that instructs officers what they have to do to become detectives, and then what classes they will need to take to advance to more specialized detective units.
“This is the plan for the future,” Geier said. “The goal is that we build a quality career path.”