Monday, August 24, 2009
Reserve Cop Was Up for Award
By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Some of APD's top brass gave David Young a detective badge, signed his time sheets and recently nominated him to be APD's "Civilian of the Month," according to documents obtained by the Journal.
Young is a civilian employee assigned to APD's Special Investigations Division. He is also a police reserve officer. Reserves are volunteers who assist certified law enforcement officers, but state officials say reserves do not have arrest powers.
After learning Young was getting paid overtime to arrest alleged prostitutes, Chief Ray Schultz suspended his department's reserve program and opened an investigation.
In June, Lt. Rob Smith wrote a letter to Schultz and gave copies to his commander and deputy chief nominating Young for the civilian award. In his nomination letter, Smith acknowledged that Young was making misdemeanor and felony arrests.
Schultz on Friday said that he receives "letters all of the time" nominating people for the award and that, when he received the letter from Smith, he turned it over to a nominating committee.
Schultz said he didn't know Young was earning overtime to do police work.
The chief has assigned a lieutenant from a different division to conduct the investigation.
"I have an investigation going, and that investigation is open to go in any direction," Schultz said. "The lieutenant has been told it can go in any direction it needs to."
Since 2006, Young has made 24 arrests, mostly of alleged prostitutes.
Fifteen of the arrests, some of which resulted in convictions, are being called into question by the state Public Defender's Office because Young is not a certified law enforcement officer.
During one arrest, a woman stripped naked in a hotel room and gave Young a back massage before she was arrested on criminal solicitation charges, court records show.
In four other arrests, Young touched women's breasts at their requests to convince them he was not a police officer, according to Metropolitan Court records.
And twice he allowed women to touch his "crotch" to prove he was not an officer.
APD officials said courts have historically ruled in their favor when undercover detectives have touched suspected prostitutes to convince them they were not police officers.
But Mary Han, who has been appointed by the state's public defender to represent the people Young arrested, questioned Young's conduct.
"It is entirely improper for a police officer ... to be grabbing a women's breasts," Han said. "I am appalled and disturbed. It would be the same as a narcotics officer shooting up heroin to prove that he is not a cop."
According to one of the criminal complaints written by Young, he called a number he saw on Craigslist in the "exotic services" section in July 2008.
A female answered and agreed to go to a hotel room on Yale. When the woman entered the room, she requested an upfront fee of $200.
When Young asked her what he would get, the woman replied "lap dances that are topless."
The woman also said she would get totally naked for more tip money. Young gave her $150, the woman took off her clothes and asked Young if he was a police officer. Young said no. The woman then gave Young a back massage. She was arrested and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.
In the criminal complaint, Young noted that the woman did not have a license to be a massage therapist, which is required for the state of New Mexico.
"Where is the crime here?" Han asked. "There was no probable cause to arrest this woman. There was not probable cause to arrest a lot of the women he arrested.
"This is why we have trained, certified police officers."
The case against the woman was dismissed because Young failed to appear in court.
Under APD's general guidelines, undercover officers are not allowed to touch a suspect's bare breasts to convince the person they are not a police officer. Deputy Chief Kevin McCabe said undercover officers are allowed to touch the suspect's clothed breasts in such situations.
"You want to avoid any outrageous conduct. You have to use good judgment," McCabe said. "Sometimes, we have to make a judgment call, There are no absolutes. In the event a detective does touch an unclothed area, they are supposed to document it."
According to Metropolitan Court Criminal complaints, Young touched four women's breasts while trying to establish probable cause to arrest them for prostitution. In one arrest, Young wrote in the criminal complaint, "the woman exposed her breasts and told me to touch it, which I did."
Officials at the District Attorney's Office said Young's actions wouldn't have violated any law if the women asked him to touch their breasts.
"As long as she consents to it, it would not screw up the investigation," said Pat Davis, spokesman for the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office. "But we would have to look at it and see how prejudicial that would be toward a jury."
According to Metropolitan Court records, Young swore under the penalty of perjury that he was a detective when he wrote some of the criminal complaints that put people in jail.
APD officials have acknowledged that Young is not a detective.
At the Journal's request, APD provided a copy of an order form to get Young a detective's badge. It is not clear who placed the order, but officials said it was given to him by his superior officers.
In his letter, Smith said Young assisted in the service of five search warrants and made two felony and six misdemeanor arrests in his "reserve officer role."
"Since coming to SID, Mr. Young has continued to grow through his own initiative, talent and hard work," Smith wrote. "With the varied skill set acquired over the years, Mr. Young has become an invaluable asset to the division."
Smith was unavailable for comment.