Complaints against police continue to decline
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2015, a total of 42 allegations of misconduct were filed
against officers of the Las Cruces Police Department, and fewer than 20 of those were sustained upon investigation.
That information came from Kym Craven of Public Safety Strategies Group (PSSG) of West Townsend, Massachusetts, the company hired in August 2014 to review the LCPD Professional Standards Unit’s (PSU) investigations of community-generated complaints and internal investigations.
Craven made the report to the Las Cruces City Council during its April 11 work session.
Of the complaints filed (some involving multiple allegations), 18 were sustained and three were listed as “sustained other,” meaning another valid issue came up during the investigation of a complaint.
Craven said most community complaints were for conduct/rudeness, conduct/ failure to act, use of force or property handling.
The single complaint most often cited was rudeness, she said.
Most community complaints, Craven said, were generated during police responses to domestic violence calls, disturbance calls, traffic stops and wellness checks.
Most complaints that came about from internal investigations were for use of force, failure to follow policy and conduct/truthfulness, she said.
In compiling the July through December report, Craven said PSSG “looked at every complaint and every piece of documentation related to that complaint.”
“We welcome an unbiased second set of eyes to look at our administrative investigations,” Police Chief Jaime Montoya said. “Our PSU unit is specially trained to conduct administrative investigations and must follow policies and laws when they conduct their investigations. The PSU unit does a great job and it is reassuring that PSSG concurs.”
Craven said community members can file complaints against police officers by mail, email, phone or in person.
“I’m pleased to note these improvements are continuing,” Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Smith said.
“I just want to comment on use of force,” Councillor Gill Sorg said, noting it has become a national issue. “I want to compliment our police department on the job they do in that area.”
“It’s obviously going well,” said Councillor Jack Eakman. “I think we all agree that public safety is job one.” Eakman said he was concerned about the new city manager or interim “coming up to speed” to “properly oversee a police department of this size” after City Manager Robert Garza retires May 28.
Garza said the need to train a new city manager with regard to police oversight will depend on his or her background coming into the job. Garza said he will provide a written transition plan for his successor that covers every department, and said he will make himself available to assist the new city manager as needed. Garza also said the city has “excellent department heads,” and has a “team approach to management.” He said Montoya has “very strong command and control” at the police department.
Garza said the city has used a police audit program for the past six years. PSSG is in the second year of a threeyear contract, he said. A different auditing company will likely be hired when the current contract expires, Garza said.
“I think this is really a great program,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said.
Garza said the city has a hotline number that allows callers to anonymously report matters of concern regarding the police and fire departments and other agencies of city government. The calls are taken by an independent company hired by the city, which submits them to the city for evaluation and investigation, Garza said. The hotline can be accessed at 1-844-297-5947 or CLCHotline.com.
To view the PowerPoint Craven presented to the council at its April 11 meeting, visit es.granicus.com/MetaViewer. php?view_id=2& event_id=204& meta_ id=68069.
For more information, visit the LCPD Professional Standards Unit at http:// www.las-cruces.org/en/departments/police- department/chief-jaime-montoya/ professional-standards-unit.