Friday, January 24, 2020

LCPD ETHICS: "Could be worse, not sure how, but it could be"--Eeyore


Truth to tell, this subject takes a longer than usual blog.  Contrary to popular belief, I do not launch thankless crusades to exercise a perverse disposition; I undertake them for a purpose.  On 31 August, a LCPD Animal Control officer charged me with five municipal code violations related to my care of pets at my home.  I have taken exception to those charges ever since.  In a nearly 6-month quest, I have pursued unprofessionalism and dishonesty of LCPD personnel from one officer to several lieutenants to the police chief.  My quest adds a small-scale view of a citizen’s experience to the large-scale overview of independent audits.  My experience differs from that of most who lack the energy, time, or temperament to persist in fighting, if not righting, one wrong after another.  I hope that the outcome of the investigation will be justice for me and reforms helping others after me, and that LCPD personnel will become, by firing, hiring, or training, worthy of the citizens of Las Cruces.  The mayor, councilors, and city manager need to see to it.

This blog addresses various topics involved in the LCPD investigation prompted by my complaint.  The narrative context for these topics appears in three early blogs: Juan Valles/LCPD Phony Charges (4 Aug), LCPD's Internal Affairs Failures (11 Aug), and Phony Charges Suggest LCPD Antisemitism (22 Sep).

Professional police officers investigate a complaint to confirm or refute it.  Without a proper investigation, a complaint of a violation of law is insufficient for a conclusion of its violation.  Only when it is properly done can justice be done; otherwise, not.  Officer Juan Valles, who cited me, did not do it.  In 37 minutes between a call to Animal Control and his posting a Warning Notice, he failed to investigate the two complaints of an anonymous caller, fabricated three complaints of his own, and recorded all five as violations of municipal codes.  His performance: dereliction of duty, three counts of false charges, and five counts of dishonesty.  His motive for the fabrications is unknown.

Valles’s performance signaled that the bar for honesty and professionalism in the LCPD was low and could be lower.  Under the guidance of ranking officers, the response to my complaint has been an investigation which, in 5½ months, has been a slow-motion muddle of attempts to dodge facts, twist logic, and clear Valles at the expense of honesty and professionalism.  Its end is not in sight because it may not have begun.

Chief Gallagher raises the standard in telling City Council that “truthfulness is ‘the cornerstone of what we do’.”  But he lowered it and let another lower it in the recorded 7 January meeting at City Hall with Councilor Gandara, Interim City Manager Studer, IA Lt. Kinney, and me.  Before we met, Studer had asked Gallagher to address my concerns, mainly about the then 5-months’ delay in completing the investigation begun the first week of August.  Gallagher’s 17 December responses were one basis of discussion.  But Gallagher and Kinney did little to explain the delay except by blaming me and did much to impugn my complaints, facts, logic—all to excuse the LCPD and exonerate Valles.  In the discussion, truthfulness was often abused.  Gallagher made up “alternative facts” and made sham arguments, and Kinney, without facts, questioned my certified statements of facts, as both showed their biases in the investigation.

Gallagher lied about the most important accusation in my complaint in an exchange between him and me on this point.  A little history: in my first email on my complaint, sent to Gallagher (and copied to the mayor and my councilor) on 1 September, I stated, “The important point about these three charges is that no anonymous caller made them; Officer Valles, with total disregard for the truth, completely fabricated them.  In short, he lied.”  Gallagher responded by notifying me that he was forwarding my complaint to IA; he said nothing about my comment.  Fast forward to the 7 January meeting.  When I used the same language to make the same point, Gallagher expressed indignation at my maligning this officer.  His accusation imputed to me a malicious motive and a damaging lie on the basis of his implied knowledge of the truth.  I dismissed his anger as irrelevant to the facts.  He challenged me to prove my accusation; I answered with the probable assumption that the anonymous caller had complained about excessive waste and off-leash dogs, not paperwork.  He then stated that those three paperwork items were part of the caller’s complaint.  I had no response to this blunt assertion made as if factual.  Days later, I obtained a record of the call at the Messila Valley Regional Dispatch Authority (MVRDA).  Its record of the call states no such items.  It reads: “refused caller reporting that there are 4+ dogs and cats at this 20 [probably code for address or residence] and that there is a feces buildup that is causing a really bad smell and that the owners always let the cats out and intentionally lets the dogs out to run loose in the field behind the house.  rp would like aco to address these issues.”  Gallagher either lied or, to win an argument or sully my credibility, did not care about “truthfulness.”

--> During this exchange, Kinney said nothing because she did not know the facts.  She stated that she had the MVRDA report but had not read it.  So, as of 17 December, long after my 5 August complaint that Valles had fabricated three paperwork violations, long after the 11 September date on which Gallagher claims the investigation could have been closed, neither she nor, I assume, anyone else had read the report.  In short, IA had not bothered to learn and consider the basic fact of my complaint or the officer’s motive for fabrication—hardly a sign of any investigation at all, much less a good-faith one.

Gallagher and Kinney quibbled over terms, departed from standard legal principles, and argued with facts.  Gallagher defied ordinary legal sense when he claimed that items checked as “Municipal Code Violation” were not violations because they had not been filed in court, only retained on file; and implied that, the warning notice having since been revised, conduct under the original no longer mattered.  Kinney, with no facts, disregarded the credence given to certified statements when she urged that Valles had tried to contact me.  Questioning the truth of statements in my complaint—just my word—she insinuated that I had lied that I was available, reading at home with alert dogs, had he tried to do so.  I added in reply that he had also not tried to call.  She asked whether, when I called him, he had asked to return to investigate; my answer was no.  Our back-and-forth was irrelevant; we did not disagree that, try or not, he had not investigated the complaints.

Gallagher and Kinney also used fabrications to shift the blame for the delay to me.  One Gallagher fabrication claims that IA completed its investigation by 11 September except for a “final interview” with me; he implied that, by refusing to attend it, I delayed the investigation thus left open.  Yet those who wanted to meet with me in September—Lt. Jaime Chavez (5 Sep), Gallagher (6 Sep), Lt. Kiri Daines (19 Sep)—never mentioned a “final interview” or the necessity of one.  Gallagher himself accepted that I wanted only written communications, promised a written report, and mentioned no “final interview.”  Daines said that my complaint would be processed without my “cooperation” and that I would receive a letter about it (both processing and letter apparently forestalled by my blog on antisemitism 3 days later).  Three months later, Gallagher fabricated a “final interview” to blame me for the delay.  Responding to these facts, he quibbled with his use of the word “final” but left the issue of the delay after 11 September unexplained.

Another Gallagher fabrication claims that my complaint about antisemitism delayed the investigation.  But I filed no complaint about antisemitism (my moral and religious convictions oppose criminalizing motives).  His fabrication built on IA’s late September fabrication of a complaint fobbed off as mine without my knowledge or authorization.  Its fabrication, making an issue which I meant for counseling into one of “bias-based policing,” required a full investigation lasting up to 180 days.  Yet he wrote that IA had not interviewed Valles 3 months later.  IA’s forgery of my complaint extended the delay.

Gallagher also misrepresents the LCPD response to my suggestion of an antisemitic motive to explain Valles’s dishonest notice.  Although he states that the LCPD takes the issue seriously, a 7-week gap occurred between 5 August, when I suggested it in an email to Gandara (FYI), Studer, IA Lt. Lazarin, and him, until shortly after 22 September, when my blog on antisemitism appeared and IA hastily fabricated the complaint to show LCPD seriousness.  Far from taking antisemitism seriously, LCPD addressees were so indifferent to, or so reluctant to address, it that they reacted only when my blog appeared in public.  Gallagher does not tell this truth about the LCPD’s regard for the issue.

Gallagher, for reasons readily imagined, disparaged me to Studer: during an email exchange with Mr. Hays he insinuated he was a victim of bias based policing.”  He identifies no such exchange, and I know of none.  I neither present nor regard myself as a victim of antisemitism.  I insinuated nothing about antisemitism; the image of the Star of David shown in my 5 August email and my 22 September blog graphically asserts my suggestion of Valles’s motive.  Embedded in Gallagher’s statement is an insinuation of his own: I had played a “Jew card.”  His disparagement reflects his discomfort with this issue, the investigation, and his inability to deal with the unexpected and the sensitive.

Thus far, LCPD has failed to complete in 5½ months an investigation which should have taken a few weeks (Lazarin said it would take 2).  Neither Gallagher nor Kinney answered the major question of the meeting: what delayed the investigation.  Neither explained why the investigation of my complaints waited on an investigation of “bias-based policing.”  Kinney’s repetition that it is still ongoing was no answer; more likely, little has been ongoing or even going on, and that in bad faith.  Gallagher and Kinney failed his standard of “truthfulness” because of fabrications—his “final interview,” IA’s forged complaint in my name—to blame me for the delay.  Confronted by the truth about their unethical conduct and their affront to my moral and religious convictions, they made no apology.  Their silence suggests unprofessionalism in two ways: inability to admit mistakes and disrespect for citizens with convictions different from theirs.

Gallagher honors “truthfulness” in its breach.  His hypocrisy covers and enables obstruction of my complaints of police misconduct or dishonesty.  Although the latest independent police audit notes only four cases of untruthfulness, the handling of my complaint suggests other complaints hindered and other citizens handled shabbily or deterred by anticipation of mistreatment.  Instead of ensuring impartial, professional investigations of misconduct and dishonesty, Gallagher undermines them to protect the police, not the public.

The Mayor, Councilors, and Studer should ask themselves whether Las Cruces can be well served by LCPD leadership and officers whose conduct is unprofessional, whose ethics are dubious, and whose report will likely be spurious, however they decide my complaint.  They face difficult questions.  What will the LCPD do about a lying officer?  What will it do to ascertain his motive and what will it do about it?  What will City Hall do about a lying police chief?  With luck to all, Gallagher’s apparently frequent absences from town mean that he is looking for another job.  However, his departure would be no solution, only another problem: attracting and selecting a professional with integrity and grit to reform an ethically challenged LCPD.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

CHIEF GALLAGHER'S LAS CRUCES PD: HIGH CRIMES AND LOW MISDEMEANORS


 Patrick Gallagher heads a police department in a city whose leadership and populace share an indifference to its incompetence, dishonesty, and disrespect for citizens.  It is a cultural thing.  In a state historically divided between the powerful and the powerless, police abuse is an expected and accepted aspect of police operations.

Gallagher, experienced in dealing with police misconduct elsewhere, seems unwilling to deal with it here.  Two examples suggest the difference.  City Manager Ed sabotaged by former City Manager Garza protecting his friends from management reforms.  Police Chief Montoya scorned by a police union lacking confidence in his leadership team.  A survival instinct may explain Gallagher’s tolerance of one officer acting unprofessionally even in a minor episode.

That episode, detailed in previous blogs, involved Officer Juan Valles’s trivial and inconsequential allegations about me and my dogs.  Instead of resenting and resigning myself to shoddy police work, I sent an informal complaint to Gallagher and filed a formal complaint to Internal Affairs (IA).

The IA response has been bizarre.  First, responding to my informal complaint forwarded from Gallagher, IA Officer Carmen Lazarin attempted to secretly record an interview—a legal but unethical act, as she admitted.  Thereafter, I refused oral but not written communications with LCPD officers.  Then, although IA exists to conduct independent investigations of other divisions, IA Chief Rebecca Kinney assigned my formal complaint to the chief of Valles’s division—a conflict of interest.  It was a second reason why I refused Codes Enforcement and Animal Control Chief Jaime Chavez’s request to talk about my concerns.

It is bizarre that a straightforward investigation has taken so long.  IA had only to ask Valles a few yes-or-no questions: did you investigate the complaints; see waste; see dogs walking off leash; find the kennel permit, licenses or tags, or shot records missing or defective?  These simple questions and honest answers—“no” to each—take less than an hour.  IA would inquire into his motive for dereliction of duty and spurious allegations; his account would take a bit longer.  Yet nothing happened in August.

It stayed bizarre in September, during which I received vague requests, without stated agenda or purpose, from Chavez, Gallagher, and Community Outreach Chief Kiri Daines, to discuss my “concerns.”  I refused them for stated reasons.  Gallagher asserts or insinuates that my lack of cooperation—that is, my refusals—is to blame for the delay, although the city’s legal staff told him that citizen cooperation is irrelevant to an IA investigation.  If, as Gallagher writes, the investigation was completed by 11 September but for a “final interview” with me—none of the requests indicated this necessity—it is hard to explain why it has still not been closed.

It got more bizarre.  On 17 December, Gallagher wrote me that Valles had not yet been interviewed.  So, if IA had closed out the case in mid September, it would have violated his due process rights.  Or if he has to be, but has not yet been, interviewed, then my refusal to talk with LCPD officers is not responsible for any delay.  Such is IA “strategy”: either violate rights or blame the citizen.

It was no less bizarre in October.  Early in the month, the investigation circled back to Lazarin, who was assigned to lead it.  Late in the month, IA made antisemitism part of my complaint without my knowledge, consent, or permission.  The timing is suspicious.  On 5 August, I emailed Lazarin, Gallagher, Interim City Manager William Studer, and my Councilor, Kasandra Gandara my suggestion that antisemitism may have been Valles’s motive for dereliction of duty and phony allegations.  No IA action.  On 22 September, my blog questioned whether antisemitism motivated Valles’s spurious allegations.  On 27 October, IA emailed that it had made my suggestion a complaint.  I wish now that I had said something then.  I believed that Valles’s motive did not affect me but that Gallagher should address it as a leadership issue.  I meant my blog to prod an investigation beset by delay, indirection, and erratic interventions, into concerted action.  No luck: no IA action in the months since.  Otherwise, I assumed that this unauthorized addition to my complaint was window-dressing and had the same status of, and would receive the same inattention, as my complaint.

I was wrong.  When, on 17 December, Gallagher’s email reported the conversion, I was irate.  If the LCPD wanted to act on public information, it should have done so on its own.  By converting my suggestion to another complaint, IA triggered an investigation of biased-based policing reportable to and possibly actionable by the Attorney General’s Office.  Acting on my moral and religious convictions, I neither aim nor act to criminalize motives of any kind, including antisemitism.  I have emailed city officials to demand a retraction of this misrepresentation verging on forgery and an apology for this misuse of my name and possible abuse to my reputation.  I expect no response.

Current status: An investigation of a minor episode begun 31 July has not concluded four-and-a-half months later.  Because of its bizarre, unprofessional, unethical, and possibly illegal conduct, the LCPD investigation into my, not its, complaints has stalled.  If it ever ends, if I receive the promised report, and if it resembles Gallagher’s emailed information, it will be incomplete, inaccurate, misleading, or unresponsive.

Many questions arise.  Does LCPD have the technical competence, professional standards, and officer integrity to function properly, including investigating itself?  Are its line officers capable of good order and self-discipline?  Can LCPD leaders command and control them; ensure professional, ethical, and legal conduct; and be transparent and accountable?  Is Gallagher smart, skillful, and strong enough—or too scared of union disapproval—to get LCPD to perform with P.R.I.D.E.?  It is a cultural thing.