Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
David Young wears a badge and carries a gun.
He has arrested 18 people since January 2008.
He has written criminal complaints testifying under "the penalty of perjury" that he is a detective with the Albuquerque Police Department.
One of his specialties: working as an undercover "john" busting prostitutes.
But Young isn't a certified law enforcement officer in the state of New Mexico. He's a civilian employee who works on radios and planting "wires" for APD's Special Investigations Division. He's worked at APD for 11 years and has been a reserve officer for five.
While acting as a cop, Young has also made more than $12,000 in overtime working warrant sweeps, stakeouts, undercover prostitution stings and making arrests.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said this week he was not aware Young was making overtime as a police officer until contacted by the Journal.
When Schultz was presented with documentation showing how much money Young had made, he ordered that Young not be allowed to wear a gun and he not be eligible for overtime. Schultz also opened an investigation.
"I assigned a special investigator to the case," Schultz said. "It is being done by a different division. We take all allegations that concern conduct very seriously and investigate them."
Young's attorney, John D'Amato, said Tuesday his client was asked to work undercover assignments by his superiors. The Special Investigations Division where Young works on radios is responsible for investigating drug crimes and conducting undercover operations.
Most of Young's arrests are of alleged prostitutes.
According to APD records, most of Young's time sheets that paid him overtime to do police work were signed by two supervisors.
"SID has been so shorthanded," D'Amato said. "He filled a service that was requested by his superiors and this is maybe just one symptom of special investigations being short-staffed."
According to Art Ortiz, director of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, in order for someone to make an arrest he or she must be a certified law enforcement officer or commissioned by the police department they work for. If they are commissioned, they must become certified within a year after they are hired.
According to APD, Young has been a "reserve" officer for several years. Under APD's standard operating procedures, reserves are volunteers who can't be paid for police work.
APD officials said Young is not a detective.
Reserves are supposed to complete an abbreviated law enforcement academy course and volunteer to ride along with full-time officers eight hours a month. APD officials couldn't say whether Young complied with all of the conditions.
Ortiz said reserve officers can't make arrests, book someone into jail or write a criminal complaint and prosecute cases all of which Young has done, according to Metropolitan Court records.
Under state law, most misdemeanors are prosecuted by the arresting police officer, not a district attorney.
"Reserve officers have been there to assist law enforcement officers," he said. "They are not salaried full-time employees. They do not have arrest powers. If they are assisting another officer, yes, the reserve officer can assist him in making the arrest."
Attorney Bill Tinker represented one of the people Young has arrested.
According to a criminal complaint Young wrote, he pulled up in a vehicle to Tinker's client who was standing near Central in July 2008 and asked if she was "working." The woman said yes, entered Young's vehicle, and asked how much money he had. According to the complaint the woman said she would provide Young sexual favors for money. At that point, she was arrested. Young signed the criminal complaint and is listed on the woman's booking sheet as the arresting officer.
On the complaint, Young lists his title as detective.
Tinker said he thought Young was a certified officer, so he had no reason to question it. The case was dismissed because Young failed to show up in court.
Since Jan. 1, 2008, Young has failed to appear in four cases, causing them to be dismissed, according to court records.
"I deal with so many cops, and many times we have to assume they are commissioned or certified," Tinker said. "We don't go to the extreme of verifying."
Most of the people Young arrested had public defenders. District Public Defender Ralph Odenwald said he was going to investigate all of the cases his office represented.
APD officials contend Young can make arrests as long as he is in the presence of or under the supervision of another officer.
They also said a city ordinance gives the police chief authority to make anyone he wants a reserve and to give them full police powers. But, according to the ordinance quoted by police officials, reserves do not have those police powers if they are not volunteering their time for the city. In most of Young's arrests, he was granted overtime pay.
According to Metropolitan Court records, it is implied in nearly every one of Young's arrests that he is by himself when he works as an undercover "john." He appears in court by himself and has signed off on plea agreements by himself.
APD officials said that in those arrests Young was working closely with the department's vice unit and full-time officers were nearby.