Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy, who serves primarily as APD’s lawyer, confirmed in a telephone interview that officer Dawne Roberto had been under investigation since March after a citizen filed a complaint against her, but she would not say specifically what Roberto was fired for.
The president of the police union, however, said in an interview Wednesday that it was her understanding that allegations Roberto violated the department’s social media policy were among the reasons. The union has appealed the firing.
Journal earlier this year obtained a copy of the citizen’s complaint through the state Inspection of Public Records Act. The complainant’s name was redacted, but the body of the complaint indicates that it was filed by the wife of an APD sergeant.
Among the allegations in the complaint was that Roberto had “for years” been involved with a website called “The Eye On Albuquerque,” whose anonymous bloggers are hyper-critical of the city and police administrations, the Albuquerque Journal and others.
The complaint alleged that Roberto “has been running this blog for years and gets much of the information for their stories from work,” according to the complaint, which states that Roberto was a personal friend of the sergeant’s family. “She is and has been abusing her official capacity as a police officer to disseminate police information on a public blog site. I have seen her approve comments while logged onto the page with my very own eyes.”
Roberto could not be reached for comment, and her attorney, John D’Amato, did not respond to multiple voicemails.
A mainstay of criticism on the blog has been outgoing Police Chief Ray Schultz, who is frequently compared to the likes of Adolf Hitler.
Levy would not say whether Roberto, who served about 15 years with APD, was investigated for ties to the blog. She did, however, say that Schultz recused himself from the disciplinary process because of “issues concerning social media.”
“He wanted her to have a fair and impartial investigation,” Levy said. “And he didn’t want there to be any appearance of impropriety.”
Schultz did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Levy said the investigation was conducted by Robin Hammer, the city’s Independent Review Officer, and Hammer’s staff. That’s how all citizen complaints against police officers are handled.
The IRO’s investigators determined that Roberto had violated APD standard operating procedures, which Levy would not enumerate.
Deputy Chief Allen Banks reviewed those findings, she said, and the final decision to fire Roberto fell to acting Deputy Chief Doug West.
Roberto had a hearing on Friday and was fired Tuesday, Levy said.
Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association President Stephanie Lopez said in an interview that union officials filed an appeal on Roberto’s behalf late Tuesday.
“We stand behind all of our officers, as well as officer Roberto,” Lopez said. “Dawne … had no progressive discipline issues, and she would go above and beyond to help anybody in need. The department has lost a very valuable officer.”
She said it was her understanding that APD brass had concluded that Roberto violated the department’s social media policy which, among other things, prohibits officers from posting comments and statements online that could make the department look bad.
That policy, Lopez said, has been enforced inconsistently. At least one officer was fired for violating it prior to Roberto, others have been suspended, and others have not been disciplined at all.
Because one of the allegations against Roberto was that she provided sensitive APD information to a public blog, Lopez said APOA officials temporarily stripped Roberto of her duties as union secretary during the investigation.
“That was something we were concerned with, and that’s why we placed her on a kind of leave,” she said, adding that during that time, Roberto wasn’t allowed to represent officers in Internal Affairs cases.
Lopez said a member of the union’s board will be appointed to replace Roberto.