We heard something this morning that has us seeing red... again. According to 770KKOB, the Albuquerque Police Department's Internal Affairs department has targeted Sergeant Heh for an investigation (read it here). Of course the department isn't releasing the nature of the investigation and the city attorney couldn't comment because it's a "personnel matter." But it seems to us that even though the nature of the investigation hasn't been released, the reason for it is perfectly clear.
As you'll remember, Sergeant Heh had the audacity to ask the APOA for a re-vote on the recent hastily passed APD contract. What made matters worse is he had the temerity to take his complaint before the city council Monday night as a private citizen exercising his rights to free speech and redress of grievance.
As a general rule, the 5th floor (and the 11th for that matter) takes a dim view of employees speaking their minds publicly - especially when their opinions differ from the powers that be. Over at APD officers are pretty much forbidden to speak to the media or anyone outside the department. Legally the SOP doesn't trump the 1st Amendment, but don't think for a second that public involvement of any kind in city policy or politics outside of the department isn't noticed.
In other words, don't talk about it, don't think about it, and don't reveal it to anyone even if it's unflattering, unethical, or especially illegal. It's the code of silence and hell hath no fury like a department whose questionable behavior is revealed.
In many circumstances it's important for officers to remain behind the blue wall - keeping what they know and what they've seen to themselves. In fact, most of us couldn't handle much of what they know and what they've seen.
However, that code of silence needs to be broken when their department and their futures are in jeopardy not from the criminals that they've sworn to protect the public from, but from the very leaders that are supposed to be backing them up - be they union or government. Of course, that doesn't sit well with those in power.
Our Eyes tell us that APD's strategy when confronted with someone like Sergeant Heh, is to put them squarely and resolutely back in their place or to fire them. Their favorite tool for keeping the troops in line is the Internal Affairs investigation. Don't get us wrong, IA does perform a needed service. Someone needs to police the police. Unfortunately, the power that IA wields can easily be used to intimidate and to seek retribution. In short, the power of an Internal Affairs investigation - like any governmental authority - can be misused and abused.
It's no surprise that Sergeant Heh is being investigated immediately after speaking out publicly. The 5th floor and no doubt some of the folks over at the APOA see the sergeant as the leader of a rebellion. How dare he question our contract? How dare he ask to see the contract before casting his vote? How dare he make us look bad?!
Intimidation and fear are the primary weapons of organized crime. Pay our "protection" money and we uh... the "crooks" won't destroy your store or kill your family. Keep your mouth shut and don't complain and you won't have to worry about Internal Affairs. It's sad and frankly terrifying, to see the Albuquerque Police Department brass using the tactics of their sworn enemy - on their own personnel.
What does that say about the department? What does that say about us? All of us have the responsibility to keep an eye on the leaders in government. When someone has the courage to step forward and expose a problem the investigation should be of the problem not the messenger.
Clearly APD has problems and their source seems to be the department's leaders - political and administrative. This type of blatant retribution by the 5th floor is just the latest shenanigan. Don't the 800 or so APD officers deserve better than to live in fear of their own department? Don't we deserve better?