Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Review Faults Ex-APD Chief; Evidence Room Management Failed
Summary of report
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
Former Police Chief Gilbert Gallegos violated "basic police procedures" in handling allegations of wrongdoing in the police evidence room, according to a report issued Monday by Albuquerque's top police watchdog.
A summary of the 1,000-page report faults Gallegos for failing to launch an immediate criminal investigation into alleged thefts from the evidence room, despite the recommendation of senior staff.
Investigators, however, found no evidence of a cover-up by senior leadership, according to the report, which was signed by Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland and others.
Rowland investigated allegations of evidence-room misconduct at the request of Mayor Martin Chávez. The new police chief, Ray Schultz, released the report's executive summary late Monday, just hours after receiving it.
"Inadequate supervision over many years created conditions that made theft easy to commit and impossible to prove," the report's summary said.
It is blunt in faulting police leadership for failing to manage the evidence room better, but the report also says it appears Gallegos was misled about the nature of problems in the evidence room.
"We have no evidence that the Chief failed to act from a desire to cover up the thefts," the report said.
Still, he didn't do enough, it said.
"Basic police procedures were ignored and violated by the Chief," the report said.
It criticizes him for not removing "suspected employees" from the evidence room fast enough, a point raised previously by critics.
"During the time these suspected personnel were allowed to remain in their jobs, computer records were altered, evidence logs disappeared, and any chance for identifying those responsible for alleged theft was lost."
Other than Gallegos, the summary released Monday doesn't mention names.
Gallegos has requested that the Journal not contact him for comment, but he previously has maintained that he responded in a timely fashion to the evidence-room allegations. The troubles plaguing the evidence room date back 30 years, he has said, and no chief acted until he took office.
Monday's report touches on that issue.
"While efforts were made and it may even be said more was done under Chief Gallegos' leadership than previous administrations, it was not enough," the report said. "Money handling procedures were inadequate. Documentation was incomplete and inadequate."
The report appears to be good news for Capt. Marie Miranda, a whistle-blower in the case, and Deputy Police Chief Ed Sauer.
Both will return to their jobs after having been placed on administrative leave, Schultz said.
Miranda, a captain in the foothills area, has claimed supervisors retaliated against her for pointing out problems in the evidence room.
The investigation sustained "one procedural violation" against her, Schultz said, without going into detail.
Sauer had been accused of encouraging officers to retaliate against whistle-blowers. He was "cleared of all charges," Schultz said.
The report isn't all bad news. It says, for example, that many in "senior leadership" and "the vast majority of evidence unit personnel gave their best efforts to accomplish their assigned tasks."
The IRO report won't be the final episode in the case. The report says two investigations of officers have been forwarded to the internal-affairs unit.
The summary says the investigation found several violations of standard operating procedure.
It also mentions the case has hurt morale, painting a picture of a "dysfunctional" command.
"Deputy Chiefs supported their friend and leader, the Chief. They called other officers names and did not react to the valid concerns of their subordinates, but attempted to stop those concerns from being raised outside the department. Senior officers did not trust their leaders to do the right thing," it states.
The report makes a host of recommendations, including completing an inventory of all items in the evidence room warehouses and developing a system for disposing of evidence items in accordance with state law.
An inventory is already under way.
The Attorney General's Office announced in April that it wouldn't prosecute anyone in the alleged theft of cash from the Albuquerque police evidence room, partly because critical records were missing.
It found that at least $58,000 in cash was missing, but problems with records made it impossible to determine a total.