By now we've all heard about Jason Daskalos flying the DWI coup with the help of former officer (and according to our Eyes soon to be re-hired officer) Ben Kirby. (ABQ Journal - Subscription Required) At the time the Journal quoted APD Chief of Police Ray Schultz as saying, "this is obviously behavior we don't condone... We expect our officers to make better decisions." According to our Eyes officer Kirby has maintained that he was simply transporting Mr. Daskalos to the West Side jail and not removing him from custody. In other words he was trying to expedite the DWI booking process.
Fast forward to April 17th, 2007... According to our Eyes an officer made a traffic stop on suspicion of DWI. The driver of the vehicle turns out to be retired AFD captain Ralph Ortega, who is also the brother of AFD Chief Robert Ortega. Following procedure, the first officer called in the DWI officer on duty who performed a field sobriety test and determined that Ortega was intoxicated and began the long booking procedure.
So far nothing untoward has happened. While in the midst of booking Mr. Ortega, the DWI officer received a phone call from the acting lieutenant for the Valley Area Command and was instructed to expedite the booking process for Mr. Ortega and to personally transport him out to the West Side jail. According to our Eyes, the order to expedite came from Chief Schultz and Nick Bakas, who until this week was in charge of public safety (AFD and APD) for the City of Albuquerque.
Normally DWI suspects are taken to the PTC (Prisoner Transport Center) to await transport to the west side jail. The PTC was established so that officers could return to duty as soon as possible and not have to take each prisoner out to the jail personally which could take them off the streets for hours.
In this case, the Chief and Nick Bakas decided that it was more important to expedite the booking of Mr. Ortega, than to make sure that the arresting officer was freed up to protect the public from other drivers who might be out over indulging. In addition, our Eyes suspect that Mr. Ortega was "walked through" the jail and was out the back door shortly after he arrived. Normally, the jail will not release you until you are at least below .08 BAL. In this case, Ortega asserted his right not to take a breathalyzer, which more than likely meant he would be spending the night.
Why is all of this important? After all, this is just another one of many DWI cases that plague the city and clog the courts. The problem here is preferential treatment and it happens far too often down at city hall. If you know somebody or give enough money, you'll be treated better than the average citizen. That's flat out wrong.
Whether you are a patrolman or the chief, the mayor or the director of public safety, you have the obligation to treat everyone fairly and by the same standards. Those standards should not change depending on the person's race, creed, color, position, who they're related to, or how much money they gave.
In this case, Nick Bakas and Chief Schultz did exactly what officer Ben Kirby was fired for. They ordered that the fire chief's brother be walked through the process, circumventing the standard procedures and inconveniences that everyone else must face. The result... An arresting officer was so steamed that he put the order in his report. And to make matters worse, the media is after that arrest report and the fifth floor is worried that it will make them look bad. It will and you do.
Perhaps Chief Schultz should have made a better decision... because his decision is certainly something that all of us cannot condone in our police department or in our city government.
----- EDITORS NOTE -----
We have intentionally withheld the names of the lower level officers involved even though they will end up part of the public record. Our intent is to protect these officers from the reprisals that all too often follow revelations like these.
Quote of the Day
Does this sound familiar? This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes