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Civilian Police Oversight board member resigns

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Over the summer the police union called for Chelsea Van Deventer to resign from the Civilian Police Oversight Agency board because of social media posts it viewed as biased against law enforcement, including a tweet that was critical of a federal “Blue Lives Matter Bill.”

But in a twist this week, she ended up resigning because she took a job in law enforcement herself.

Van Deventer, a lawyer, was hired as the chief prosecutor for the Laguna Pueblo last month. She submitted her letter of resignation to the CPOA board Thursday.

City ordinance prohibits anyone who had been employed with law enforcement in the past year to serve on the board.

“I am aware that Board Member (William) Kass intends to lead a discussion about ‘punishing’ me pursuant to Robert’s Rules of Order for taking a position as Chief Prosecutor for the Pueblo of Laguna,” Van Deventer wrote in her letter. “As much as I would relish the opportunity to join in that discussion I have instead decided to resign and I hereby submit my resignation.” She provided a copy of that letter to the Journal.

In the six-page letter with attachments, Van Deventer also laid out a litany of criticisms of the CPOA investigation into a high-profile case involving an officer refusing to collect the bloody underwear of a young girl who prosecutors later said was trafficked by a close relative. The girl’s relative was recently found guilty on separate allegations – that he forced his children to panhandle.

The CPOA, created after a Department of Justice investigation found the Albuquerque Police Department had a practice of using excessive force, investigates civilian complaints against officers and makes recommendations to the chief about discipline.

An internal affairs investigation within the Albuquerque Police Department found five officers violated policies in the case of the 7-year-old girl, whereas the CPOA investigation only found one.

Van Deventer strongly advised the board to ask for an audit of the agency’s investigation into the case. “The case is too complex and the CPOA’s investigation too negligently handled for the Board to be able to correct the shockingly numerous problems presented by the CPOA’s investigation through the process of the complainant’s appeal,” she wrote.

Edward Harness, the CPOA director, declined on Thursday night to respond to the criticism.

It’s not the first time the case has raised the ire of a CPOA board member.

Jim Larson, a former Dallas police officer and U.S. Secret Service agent, served four months on the board before resigning in part because of his strong feelings about the officers’ actions in this case. Shortly afterward he filed the complaint with the CPOA.

He has since strongly criticized the CPOA investigation and told the Journal on Friday he agreed with many of the points Van Deventer brought up.

The CPOA board plans to take action on an audit of cases at its December meeting.

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