Updated: December 04, 2020 06:13 PM
Created: December 04, 2020 03:39 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzalez and District Attorney Raul Torres are in the midst of a dispute.
In October, Torrez created a new policy to identify and track law enforcement officers with a proven history of misconduct.
Federal law requires prosecutors to disclose sustained findings of officer misconduct to defense attorneys, potentially jeopardizing cases.
Torrez sent a letter to Gonzales and other law enforcement officials, informing them of a new questionnaire for officers who are called to testify.
Torrez wants to know about any misconduct that reflects bias, problems with telling the truth, any criminal charges or misconduct that warranted an investigation, such as mishandling evidence.
The Albuquerque Police Department and the police union complied. However, Gonzales said his deputies will not fill out the questionnaires.
"That letter outlined this notion that officers that engaged in misconduct somehow had a right to keep that misconduct private and not answer the question not provided to us and ultimately not make it available to defense," Torrez said.
In a letter to the district attorney, Gonzales wrote, "We believe the information requested in your questionnaire intrudes on the privacy rights of our deputies and is constitutionally immaterial."
The sheriff also sent a memo to his deputies, instructing them not to fill out the questionnaire.
"It's my belief, and frankly, it's the belief of virtually every court that's looked at this, that public servants that are wearing a badge and a gun that are authorized to enforce the law and use force on the streets of Albuquerque and investigate crimes-- when they've engaged in misconduct, they don't have a privacy, right to keep that information, certainly from prosecutors," Torrez said. "The constitution, in fact, requires that we ask the questions, and that you know, that they respond and answer those questions."
Torrez also doesn't buy the argument that the questionnaires are "constitutionally immaterial."
"It's not for the sheriff to decide what is constitutionally immaterial," Torrez said. "That's what that's what prosecutors are for. That's what attorneys are for. That's why we have courts, and independent fact finders to review the information, there are procedural safeguards. But ultimately, every federal court and the few state courts that have looked at this have resoundingly rejected that argument."
Gonzales did not agree to an interview with KOB 4. In a statement he said, "Mr. Torrez should instead focus on prosecuting cases and obtaining justice for victims in Bernalillo County which he has failed to do."
Sheriff Gonzales also created his own questionnaire.
"I think this is a police and law enforcement leader who doesn't understand that the world has changed fundamentally about the public's expectation for transparency and accountability," Torrez said.
D.A Torrez says it took legislation in Santa Fe to get the sheriff to outfit his deputies with body cameras. He added that he's willing to fight to change laws again in Santa Fe to force the sheriff to comply with his efforts to track and identify problem deputies.
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