ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Albuquerque police officer Jeremy Dear’s attorney says his client was fired to be a “scapegoat to enforce compliance” of the department’s lapel-camera policy.
The city, however, says that Dear had a long history of use-of-force cases and citizen complaints, and that he was insubordinate and didn’t follow orders.
The two sides are arguing their case this week during an administrative hearing in which Dear is challenging his termination by Chief Gorden Eden.
Administrative Judge Pat Bingham is presiding over the hearing, which began Tuesday and is scheduled to last two days, and will make findings and a recommendation to the city’s Personnel Board before it votes whether to uphold Dear’s termination.
Eden fired Dear in December, claiming that Dear was untruthful and insubordinate and failed to follow a specific order to record all interactions with citizens.
In April 2014, Dear shot and killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who Dear said pointed a gun at him during a foot chase near Wyoming and Zuni in Southeast Albuquerque. Dear didn’t record the shooting with his on-body camera, saying it came unplugged.
Footage of police shootings were in the spotlight in Albuquerque at the time of the Hawkes shooting. A month before, on-body footage of the fatal shooting of James Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills sparked local and national outcry.
And less than two weeks before Hawkes’ shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice had released a report finding the majority of Albuquerque police’s recent shootings were unconstitutional.
But Dear wasn’t fired for Hawkes’ shooting, according to a news release from Eden last year. The circumstances that led to his termination, according to the city, had been underway for more than a year.
In mid-2013, police placed Dear on an administrative assignment – checking pawnshops for stolen goods – for 45 days because he had racked up at least 11 use-of-force cases and numerous citizen complaints, Dear said at the hearing Tuesday while being questioned by Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy.
Dear said he had high numbers of complaints against him and use-of-force cases because he was a hardworking officer. He also made more arrests, wrote more police reports and took more calls for service than other officers, and he was one of the highest-paid city employees because of the overtime he worked, he said.
“I love putting that uniform on. I love putting a badge on. I love going to work,” Dear said Tuesday.
Dear said that several months after the Hawkes shooting, he received notice that he was a target of an internal affairs investigation into his use of his lapel camera.
Levy said a review of Dear’s footage from over an eight-month period after he returned to active duty found that Dear didn’t properly log 44 percent of his lapel camera videos. She also said Dear didn’t turn on his camera during some of his use-of-force cases and situations that led to citizen complaints.
“The department cannot have an officer that doesn’t follow orders,” she said.
Current APD policy calls on officers to record most interactions with people. The University of New Mexico is reviewing the department’s lapel-camera policies, and the review could lead to changes. Dear’s attorney, Tom Grover, said the city is “woefully inconsistent” with how it punishes officers for violations of the lapel camera policy.
“Officer Dear did his best to comply with the policy,” Grover said, a policy “that is all but impossible to satisfy.”
The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board issued Dear a “letter of caution” last week for the circumstances that led to his firing from APD. That means he is still certified to work as a police officer in New Mexico.