It sounds like a black-ops raid in a Third World country.
Imagine coming home to a house you were renovating only to learn from neighbors that officers in combat gear and body armor had destroyed the front door, searched the property and ransacked the RV you and your girlfriend were living in while you worked on the project. They also took your dog and left it with a neighbor, boarded up the house, poured out your girlfriend’s cleaning supplies in the yard and the city filed a $200 lien on the property to cover the cost of boarding the place up.
No warrant. No police report on file. No arrests. No police video recording of the whole escapade.
That’s the incredible description of events in a lawsuit filed on behalf of James Griego against the city of Albuquerque for what his attorney describes as a “bizarre narcotics investigation” that allegedly stemmed from a code enforcement officer telling narcotics that Griego “was growing a cannabis plant in the yard.”
Griego’s attorney, Adam Flores, says his client has a medical marijuana card that allows him to grow up to eight plants, but didn’t know whether he had any on the property at the time of the search.
So what gives?
Griego said he had been in constant contact with the code inspector who made regular visits as he worked on what had been a substandard house on Third Street, north of Menaul, in the near North Valley. The lawsuit says that while city ordinance prohibits people from occupying substandard buildings without permission, the code enforcement division had agreed to let Griego and his girlfriend work on the house during the day and sleep in the RV parked on the property.
APD has denied having been a part of the search – a position rejected by attorney Flores.
“It’s just such a basic violation of rights to just bust into somebody’s house without a warrant, and then to deny your presence there is disgusting,” Flores said.
And frightening, if that’s what happened.
APD is working to get out from under a consent decree brought on by a U.S. Department of Justice report that found police had a pattern of using excessive force – and this episode is one that could have been taken right out of the pages from the “bad old days.”
The police department now says that it is reviewing the lawsuit allegations and can’t “comment on the specifics of the pending litigation.”
OK. Specifics are one thing. But ‘fessing up as to whether this was an APD operation and why it occurred is quite another.
It’s not just Griego who deserves an explanation here. So does the public.
Because at the very least, this isn’t the kind of transparent and constitutional policing Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Michael Geier have promised.
They need to provide some answers.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.