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.”
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.