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Editorial: It’s ‘troubling’ that Eden didn’t listen to Sandy tape

Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy was recorded calling James Boyd a “f***ing lunatic” two hours before he shot the mentally ill, homeless man who was killed by police in March while camping in the Sandia foothills.

Six months later, Chief Gorden Eden says he finds Sandy’s comment “troubling.” Why the time delay?

Eden said he didn’t hear the recording until Monday when it was released to the news media and that Boyd’s comment, which was recorded by a State Police patrol car’s dashboard camera, violated department policy that officers should not use coarse or profane language.

A police spokeswoman said the State Police video was conveyed directly to the FBI, which took it in as part of its investigation into the Boyd shooting. She said it is the normal process to wait to conduct an internal investigation until after a criminal investigation is completed in order to avoid tainting any criminal case. In Boyd’s case, parallel criminal investigations were being conducted by different agencies under both federal and state law.

Still, it’s hard to fathom how a chief can run a police department effectively if he does not pursue evidence of potential department policy violations when they come to his attention – especially a chief who was brought in to clean up the department’s improper use of deadly force and see it through a Department of Justice investigation and consent decree.

And in this case it appears he went out of his way NOT to know what happened leading up to Boyd’s shooting – a case so egregious that Mayor Richard Berry calls it a “game changer.”

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While it is important not to get in the way of a criminal investigation, it would seem like a department that can’t do even the most basic review of this kind of case while it is timely – or until the media breaks it – is going to have a very difficult time making even simple reforms.

And that’s troubling.

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.

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