The Española City Police Department has never been long on following its own policies. Every iteration of command structure enters touting high expectations, an overhaul of training, a shuffle of key positions and of course paint the cars and change the uniforms. We never understand those last two.
In the mix of making the position his own, the police chief usually reviews policies and procedures. Those also get a more strict look when an incident occurs and a specific policy comes into play.
Our favorite is the policy that states no outside organization can perform an internal affairs review of any officer. That one is regularly violated and probably for good reason. The Española City Police Department has a couple of individuals capable of actually performing a real investigation and because of the rarity of said skills, their time is always in demand.
Previous chiefs have usually chosen “investigators” with past ties to local law enforcement, a few of them actually to the Department. No conflict there.
We will not rehash the recent rape accusations against two police officers, how it was “investigated” and then mishandled badly. Suffice to say, the whole thing smelled bad and is nothing the city can be proud of.
We also won’t rehash how the last two deputy chiefs moved on to their next law enforcement job. Again, we should hang our heads.
Most recently we have the two police officers crashing into each other at the intersection of Valley Drive and Riverside Drive. It’s almost laughable envisioning the two officers approaching the intersection, both with emergency lights and siren blasting, thinking they’re impervious and have the right-of-way and the waters will part as they approach. Instead each ran into another cop with the same thought.
At this point of the story it must be said that no law enforcement officer should assume an intersection will be clear as he/she approaches, lights blaring siren screaming. A large percentage of drivers in Española don’t know what that means and most react with the typical, “I’ll keep driving and the ambulance/cop/firetruck can go around me.”
We’ll skip the driving lesson here, as it will surely fall on ears as deaf as the ones who don’t hear sirens around them.
Our two city police heroes found themselves in a traffic accident and Department policy states an outside agency shall investigate. But as previously stated, the Department’s not big on following policies.
Española Police Department Policy 87.1.10 states: “Accidents involving Police Vehicles, no matter how minor, will be recorded and documented by an outside agency.”
Deputy Chief Roger Jimenez didn’t have his ducks aligned enough to speak, but that didn’t stop him. He said the Department can investigate itself. That’s the old state cop in him. State Police pretty much operates with impunity, the heck with standards.
City Department officers requested the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office send a deputy to investigate. A New Mexico State Police officer was actually on the scene and told he could leave.
When asked why he sent State Police away, Jimenez first denied they were ever there.
“State Police never showed up,” Jimenez said.
After he was told State Police were seen at the crash site, Jimenez changed gears and said State Police was there but wasn’t called to investigate.
The Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived and was also sent away.
“Rio Arriba Sheriff’s Office actually told us that they only had one person that was in Chama when the crash came out, and then they showed up after so we were already in the process and got the photographs and the officers were already enroute to go do their (drug and alcohol tests) per policy so that’s why we ended up handling it,” Jimenez said.
With Police Chief Louis Carlos’s gag order on officers regarding the Rio Grande SUN, we suggest he extend that to Jimenez. He’s his own worst enemy.
We’d also remind the chief we’ve been here a few years and seen a lot of police chiefs come and go, most quickly because of the process used to choose them. The ones who try to control the information coming out of the Department fare the poorest. It’s simply the more you squeeze, the more things push through your fingers.
City Attorney A.J. Salazar has been siding with the Department, part of his job, regardless of whether it’s right or not. The mayor seems to be either oblivious or unwilling to address the elephant in the room.
The rash of suits against the Department are indicative of a problem. A couple of nuisance suits are to be expected. The lawsuits Carlos is collecting show a pattern.
We suggest the mayor become a little more involved. We know cops tend to bully. He’s the mayor. It’s his job.