ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden suspended an officer for 40 hours without pay for using a confidential criminal database for personal reasons, despite sharp criticism of the officer’s actions from the Police Oversight Board.
An investigation by the Civilian Police Oversight Agency found that officer Regina Sanchez looked up information in the National Crime Information Center database for personal reasons, gave it to her brother-in-law and lied about it when confronted. The investigative report was obtained by the Journal under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.
Eden said in a memo, however, that although Sanchez admitted to using the database for personal reasons, there was no evidence she gave the information to her brother-in-law, Joshua Martinez, or that she was untruthful. Sanchez has been in a long-term relationship with Joshua Martinez’s brother, according to the report.
Sanchez, in an interview with the CPOA and police officials, admitted to getting information from NCIC but said she never gave the information to anyone.
“There is no evidence from any source that officer Regina Sanchez provided NCIC information to unauthorized persons,” Eden wrote in the memo.
The state Department of Public Safety also investigated and determined Sanchez violated state and federal policies by misusing the database.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board voted in October not to discipline Sanchez in connection with the incident, according to meeting minutes.
A message left at Sanchez’s substation was not returned.
CPOA criticizes action
Tammy Martinez filed a complaint with the city’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency in December 2014 alleging that Sanchez had given Joshua Martinez an address for her.
Joshua Martinez was trying to find his ex-wife, who had a restraining order against him, and he told investigators that someone with access to the National Crime Information Center gave him her address, according to an investigative CPOA report.
Martinez claimed he got the information from a probation officer but didn’t know his name, according to the report, referring to “the guy” who gave it to him.
The complaint against Sanchez was one of the first citizen complaints heard by the CPOA’s Police Oversight Board, which severely criticized Sanchez during the board’s first meeting without mentioning the officer by name.
Board member Joanne Fine, who is on the board’s citizen case review subcommittee, said it was surprising to hear Sanchez was only suspended for 40 hours.
“That’s light in our opinion, especially because it was breaking the law,” she said. “It was a surprise to hear the punishment was not very significant.”
Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, said Eden reviewed the investigation and Sanchez’s entire internal affairs file before handing down the 40-hour suspension. Sanchez served her suspension over five days spread out in May and June, according to police documents.
In the memo, Eden said Sanchez had a “favorable work history.”
The case was one of nine in which DPS officials determined someone had misused NCIC in 2015. Herman Lovato, a spokesman for the department, said Albuquerque police took sufficient action against Sanchez and the case was closed.
Edward Harness, the executive director of the CPOA, said the investigation into Tammy Martinez’s complaint has been completed but may be reopened if she files an appeal. She declined to comment.
People can be charged criminally for misusing NCIC, as the database contains confidential records on property, criminals, terrorists and gangs. Albuquerque police policy says an officer who misuses the database can face discipline “up to termination,” according to a police spokeswoman.