Welcome to our new web site!

To give our readers a chance to experience all that our new website has to offer, we have made all content freely avaiable, through October 1, 2018.

During this time, print and digital subscribers will not need to log in to view our stories or e-editions.

Police auditor vets more complaints against LCPD

Says it is a positive step


An independent police auditor noted a rise in allegations against the Las Cruces Police Department during a presentation to the Las Cruces City Council on March 11.

However, OIR Group, a California-based police auditing firm, attributed the rise in allegations to better reporting and a more thorough process by LCPD.

“I think this report, more than anything, is starting to reflect the shift in culture that I think we’ve all been really happy to see,” Councilor Becki Graham said.

Other members of the council and city administrators also felt Monday’s report signaled a positive change in LCPD.

“I think if you zoom out for this entire period, you’ll see a lot of positive change that resulted because of our relationship with OIR, that might not have happened otherwise,” LCPD Chief Jeremy Story said.

The city of Las Cruces hired OIR Group in March 2021. The city council renewed the agreement in February, asking the group to continue monitoring LCPD and host four public meetings yearly in exchange for about $75,000.

OIR reviews LCPD’s internal investigations into misconduct allegations to “determine if cases were complete, objective, and thorough.”

Misconduct allegations can range from foul language from officers to improperly written reports to deadly use of force.

OIR also reviews what, if any, corrective action the department took following investigations. According to OIR, LCPD often follows up by amending its general orders to reflect national best practices and OIR’s recommendations.

“I’m so appreciative of this relationship (between OIR and LCPD) and I actually enjoy the conversations that we have,” Story said.

OIR reviews and presents about once every six months. This audit’s time frame was from June 1, 2023, to Dec. 1, 2023. However, cases from outside the time frame can also arise to OIR’s attention depending on several circumstances.

For this audit, OIR reviewed 98 allegations made either by residents or members of the police department, a higher number than typical.  

“When you see an increase in a category like misconduct investigations, there’s obviously an initial impulse to think, ‘This is concerning.’ It’s been our experience that isn’t necessarily true,” said Stephen Connolly, a principal of OIR and one of its investigators.

Connolly said part of the reason for more cases was simply a coincidence. He noted that many allegations came in towards the end of the period, but most amounted to low-level misconduct allegations. That created a backlog, bloating the number when the cases went to OIR.

One incident documented in OIR’s report involved a police officer attaching a police report to a divorce filing. LCPD found the officer did not have the authority to view the report, much less use it in divorce court. According to OIR, LCPD disciplined the officer and retrained him regarding the confidentiality of records. 

Connolly also said OIR believes LCPD has prioritized “a more timely completion” of misconduct allegations and a more thorough review process.

“We really see it as a hallmark of an effective discipline process,” Connolly said.

About half of the 98 allegations were substantiated, meaning the department found the allegation did occur and took disciplinary or corrective action. Sustained allegations led to various consequences, including verbal reprimand and suspension or termination. According to OIR, at least one officer was fired during this period.

“Unless you’re separating the employee from the agency altogether, (discipline) really should be about changing behavior and correcting behavior,” Connolly said, adding that LCPD was enforcing debriefs or training for officers with sustained misconduct allegations.

“The department has gotten much better about adding some sort of counseling, training or debriefing session with the involved officers to make sure that, along with the formal consequence, there’s some opportunity to grow and improve,” Connoly said.

The department found that most of the allegations had not occurred.

“In almost all of the cases, we agreed with and aligned with the finding. In some, we had some disagreements, and we raised that to the chief and to the department,” Magula said, adding that the cases in disagreement were closed.

OIR investigator Teresa Magula also said OIR reviewed incidents in which two LCPD officers improperly used their police status to “gain access to information that otherwise would not have been available to a member of the public.”

“The department really quickly put in some safeguards around sharing information and around access to information, which we felt was very appropriate,” Magula said. “We look forward to not seeing these types of allegations in the future, given the new guard rails that are up.”

LCPD, complaints, positive change