Back in April, the Journal reported that three detectives and two inspectors had been suspended for passing around a "distasteful montage of pictures." We know what immediately springs to mind - a bunch of photos ala Abu Grab.
"We are taking extremely aggressive action," said Albuquerque Chief Public Safety Officer Pete Dinelli, who directly oversees the Safe City Strike Force. "The alleged conduct was inappropriate and unprofessional, but in no way was it criminal."The short story didn't really come to our attention until just recently when a different version of events reached us through our Eyes. Apparently, the Safe City Strike Force had a meeting back in April where the leader of the group Pete Dinelli instructed officers to obtain search warrants in every situation where they were conducting searches of "nuisance" properties.
Police officials said Dinelli was informed about the montage of pictures after a meeting Tuesday. Police officials would not discuss specifically what was in the photographs.
That sounds right. Everyone who's ever watched a cop show knows that the police need a warrant to search a private property - unless of course the officers are invited in by someone who has the authority to allow a search - someone like a tenant.
In fact, the unit has always obtained search warrants in any case where they had not been allowed to search the premises by a party who had the authority to do so. In cases where an authorized party allowed a search, officers carried a form and only performed a search after obtaining the signature of an authorized party.
According to our Eyes, Dinelli wanted the unit to put the kibosh on the authorized but non-search warrant searches because it's an election year. Apparently, the Chief Public Safety Officer didn't have a problem with the searches until his boss' (and his) job is on the line.
Our Eyes tell us that the photo montage suspensions are just an excuse to let the officers know that they're to tow the line. More importantly, the Eyes have it that Dinelli knew about the photos which were of a card placed in a strategic location after a successful abatement.
Look, the whole nuisance abatement concept bothers us for many reasons - the most important of which is that it's far too easy for a unit designed to clean up crack houses and prosecute slum lords to be used to harass law abiding property owners. It can also be used to steal MILLIONS of dollars from motorists through red light scam-eras... but we digress.
If we're going to have a nuisance abatement unit, it better have strict procedures and be monitored closely for potential abuse. That being said, the process should not be determined by the calendar. More specifically, it should not be determined by whether or not The Almighty Alcalde is up for re-election (to his 4th term).
If the unit is operating effectively, within the law, and not being used to harass, bully, or blackmail property owners then its operation should not change simply because the boss is up for re-election. Abating the abaters for political purposes is an abuse of the system and just as wrong as misusing the city's nuisance abatement process to harass an innocent property owner.