A City of Albuquerque police vehicle. (Photo: “Rescuenav” / Flickr / Creative Commons)The Albuquerque Police Department dispatched officers who had been accused of police brutality and civil rights violations to an anti-police brutality rally in June, documents obtained exclusively by TheBlot Magazine reveal.
The documents, which are being published here for the first time, include a police database known as a computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) that lists the identities of uniformed officers who were assigned to handle traffic and monitor civil demonstrators at an anti-police brutality rally at Albuquerque’s Roosevelt Park on June 21.
The CAD reveals that a number of officers dispatched that day had been involved in some of the very events that protesters were rallying against. Among them were Officer Katherine Wright, who fatally shot 66-year-old Vincent Wood in 2013, and John McDaniel, who approached 38-year-old James Boyd before police killed him in an incident earlier this year.
One of the first officers dispatched that day, Andrew Hsu, had been disciplined by the Albuquerque Police Department in 2012 after cellphone video surfaced showing the officer punching a man who had been taken into custody.
Also present at the march were Officers Aaron Hoisington, Rogelio Banez, Tommy Benavidez and Joseph Burke. All four have been named as defendants in past or pending civil rights lawsuits.
The database was among several documents produced by the Albuquerque Police Department pursuant to an open records request filed by TheBlot on June 23. The agency stonewalled the request for three months, and only agreed to release the documents after this journalist threatened to take the police department to court.
Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Janet Blair did not return an inquiry about the officers who were dispatched to the rally.
Organizers of the event were outraged to learn that officers who had previous allegations of police brutality were among those who were dispatched to cover the anti-police brutality march.
“To put officers who are involved in police shootings and in other police brutality (claims) in uniform (to follow) the march against police brutality is insane,” event co-organizer Danny Hernandez said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.
Hernandez and other event organizers were already reeling from a television report that revealed undercover Albuquerque police officers had secretly surveilled the June rally. Those undercover officers used cameras to surreptitiously photograph and videotape participants in the rally, including at least one person whose relative had been killed by police.
“It blew us away when we found out that we had police officers surveilling us, and then to find out some of the officers had been involved in questionable acts, violent acts against numerous people — that just adds insult to injury,” Hernandez said. “They could have found other officers who didn’t have a record. Think about the families of the victims who were at the march. The family of every victim was in that march. How would they feel about it?”
On June 23, TheBlot asked the Albuquerque Police Department to furnish a copy of all photographs and video recordings made by the undercover officers, as well as all inter-department e-mails and memos related to their activity on June 21. To date, the agency has released just two videos: Both show a single incident involving an intoxicated man who verbally assaults some demonstrators before he is escorted out of the park. The videos were released to other media outlets in July.
Other videos and photographs that were presumably taken that day have yet to be released. The agency did not release any internal e-mails or memos. The identities of undercover officers dispatched that day do not appear to be in the police database obtained by TheBlot.
The Albuquerque Police Department has found itself in the crosshairs of the community and federal investigators over the handling of several fatal shootings over the past few years. In April, a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that “APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment” and other laws.
“Although APD has taken steps to allay the public’s concerns about the department’s use of force, these initiatives have been insufficient to ensure consistent accountability,” the DOJ report said. “The public’s confidence in the department remains shaken over concerns that the department is unable to control its officers’ use of excessive force.”
Community organizers agree.
“Here in Albuquerque, a lot of people simply don’t feel safe when APD is around, because you don’t know who they’re going to beat up or shoot,” Hernandez said. “It’s an insult, that people who are concerned about police brutality are being followed by people who committed abuses.”
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.