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The 2nd Judicial District intends to create a publicly available list of officials in the Albuquerque metropolitan area who have a history of dishonesty, use of force, bias, or other issues that may not make them suitable for assisting a law enforcement.
The list includes the names of officials who have claims about Giglio – material that prosecutors must provide to defense lawyers if their law enforcement witnesses are unreliable or biased – and is likely the first public database of its kind in the country.
District Attorney Raúl Torrez stressed, however, that the practice of disclosing the material was not itself new and was based on a 1972 Supreme Court case, Giglio v. The United States.
“In all fairness, it is the most important tool prosecutors must have in order to ensure police accountability,” Torrez said in an interview.
Representatives of the public defense law firms and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association said they routinely ask for information from Giglio at the beginning of each case. However, they are happy to hear that Torrez intends to announce the details are in.
“He’s right that they were done on a case-by-case basis,” said Jennifer Burrill, vice president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. “But having a publicly searchable database is really a remarkable thing and will go a long way towards restoring trust between community members and police officers and holding everyone accountable.”
Burrill said she was glad Torrez is bringing this practice to the Albuquerque metropolitan area, but wished it could be done nationwide.
“If officials often get into trouble, they can resign and switch to another agency,” she said. “With a transparent database, other departments can find out if this person has problems that are not welcomed in their department and end the practice of officials with malpractice issues that are passed down from department to department.”
Torrez said that was a big reason why he was doing this practice.
“Often times police chiefs have no idea that the person … has this credibility problem,” said Torrez. “In all fairness, having this information could affect these leaders’ willingness to hire the officer and, if they hire the officer, what kind of responsibilities they would give them. That’s another really important reason to make this available. “
He began the process last month by sending a letter to the heads of all local law enforcement agencies, including the Pueblo of Sandia Police Department, the Laguna Police Department, the Isleta Police Department, the New Mexico State Police Department and the Bernalillo District Sheriff’s Office, which Albuquerque Police Department and the University of New Mexico Police Department.
A spokesman for the APD – the largest local authority – said: “We support the transparency and efforts of the prosecutor to protect the integrity of the law enforcement agency following the arrests of our officers. Chief (Harold) Medina is working with the prosecutor to find out how best to achieve this goal. “
However, Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association, said he had concerns about a lack of confidentiality and would like more information about what’s coming so he can guide officers on how to protect themselves and their rights.
“Right now we are in the early stages of analyzing the prosecutor’s request and what he wants and what he is looking for,” Willoughby said. “I know the department is doing the same and today we really have more questions than answers.”
Torrez said his office will first distribute a questionnaire to the officers involved in law enforcement operations currently on trial. The questionnaire asks, among other things, whether an officer has been the subject of an internal investigation that led to a reasonable finding of dishonesty or other wrongdoing, whether he resigned during an internal investigation, and whether he was ever dismissed or charged with crime.
“In my opinion, the vast majority of officers will have nothing to worry about and nothing that will result in a Giglio notification from our office,” said Torrez.
The DA office said the list, which it hopes it will post on its website early next year, would say whether an official had a wrongdoing disclosure, but not what that wrongdoing was. In some cases, an officer may get a Giglio Disclosure that will result in them being added to the list. However, this is minor enough – for example, a one-off, long-ago problem with a season ticket – not to prevent participation in the prosecution, Torrez said.
On the other hand, there could be cases where an officer was found to have serious credibility problems but was still employed by a law enforcement agency.
“I could foresee a situation where a department would make a staff call based on persistent knowledge and then, after the proper process, would hire that person back into the department,” said Torrez. “We can make a judgment that this person will never testify again, and that will hopefully inform whether this law enforcement officer will keep this officer or deputy in a position that could undermine future investigation.”
Giglio Letter to Local Law Enforcement From Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
Giglio Questionnaire from Albuquerque Journal on Scribd