When it comes to enforcing laws, citizens expect those entrusted with the responsibility of law enforcement will do so in a manner that is fair and consistent. After all, a law enforcement agency derives its power and authority from the very people it is tasked to protect. It is a social contract between the people and the police. We grant police the power to deprive us of our most sacred intangables which is our liberty and our freedom. This is with the understanding (social contract) they will not abuse this authority and they will apply it equally to all citizens. It also behooves a law enforcement agency to be consistent in its actions. Consistency reinforces confidence, credibility, and authority are all necessary elements for a police department to operate smoothly and maintain the respect by the citizens.
However, when police departments and their officers deviate from being fair and consistent and are arbitrary, disparate, and capricious in their actions, they challenge this social contract. When there is inequality in the application of laws and the tolerance of misconduct, a department's credibility erodes away. The absence of equality evokes mistrust, and with mistrust comes a vacancy of authority.
On November 6, 2011 at 2207 hours, APD Officer Bonet was dispatched to assist another officer in search of a subject who had threatened suicide (APD CAD #P113101208). At 2237 hours Officer Bonet and the other officer contacted the subject at a verified location on Delamar NE and stated to the dispatcher “Made 25 w/the son and GF neg 43-1 at this time. Both state neg 43-1….Joseph and Miranda both appeared to have been sleeping.” These remarks were entered into APD CAD system. After clearing the call, Officer Bonet remained in the area and initiated contact with an occupant of a parked car up the street. At 2350 hours Officer Bonet advised, “While on nonrelated case…I observed a 31 veh…and I believed 31 veh was the poss 40 clr ref our 43-1 call.” In conflict to his previous representations, Officer Bonet stated he was looking to see if this person was the person related to the call he had just cleared over an hour earlier. Officer Bonet then had the occupant perform a field sobriety test. Not liking the efforts of the subject, Officer Bonet then arrested the person for DWI and then booked him into the MDC jail.
In the normal course of business, the lawyer representing the arrested person hired an investigator to review Officers Bonet's reports, the CADs, and interview Officer Bonet. During this process the investigator identified this timeline discrepancy. Officer Bonet had already cleared a call whereby a wanted “10-40” subject had been contacted and determined to be ok. Yet over an hour later Officer Bonet used that search as pretext for an officer initiated stop which otherwise lacked any reasonable suspicion never mind probable cause. Officer Bonet’s stop resulted in a person going to jail and having their vehicle towed—state deprivation of liberty and state deprivation of property. Seeing this, the investigator informed Officer Bonet of the serious issues raised by the officer’s conduct. Officer Bonet’s actions have burdened APD, the city, and himself personally with liability for an apparent civil rights violation.
One would think the department would scramble to correct this issue before the onslaught of litigation given the department’s current reputation and standing in the community. Instead, APD leaders did what has been a clear pattern and practice, they failed to take ownership of the problem. And in this instance, they attacked the investigator in a manner that is indeed arbitrary, disparate, and capricious. If the investigator had been anybody other than former APD officer Brad Ahrensfield do we really believe APD would have alleged Mr. Ahrensfield’s actions were consistent with witness intimidation? Is informing a witness that they have brought civil liability upon themselves intimidation? Is a person’s right to seek relief through the courts “intimidation?” Apparently to Mayor Berry’s police chief it is, but not according to the courts. The court denied the district attorney’s motion to implicate Mr. Ahrensfield in this matter.
However, because this is APD, when there is failure in the administrative and judicial levels, the matter is simply leaked to the Albuquerque Journal with a most department-favorable spin. Adding spice to the story, APD falsely asserted that Mr. Ahrensfield had violated conditions of his release by possessing a firearm during the course of some instruction. Despite the fact that Mr. Ahrensfield’s conditions of release permit him to possess firearms in support of his work and livelihood, and that the alleged incident occurred months ago, APD’s personal targeting of the former officer continues. We wonder how appropriate is it that, Hank Cadena, a former business associate of Mr. Ahrensfield, directly contacted a deputy chief to relay this allegation months after it occurred? Given that Mr. Cadena (a former Police Oversight Commission member) asserted a civil dispute with Mr. Ahrensfield is it likely that Mr. Cadena’s actions were merely retaliatory since they lacked total merit? Would it matter that Mr. Cadena, who is the target of a complex and ongoing lawsuit (D-202-CV-200306791), might have credibility issues himself?
The real story regarding Mr. Ahrensfield is one of Officer Bonet’s misconduct, privileged access to a deputy chief by a private citizen, and vindictive behavior by a department determined to deprive another citizen of their rights to liberty and property. These issues of course did not make it into any of the media’s stories over the last few days regarding Mr. Ahrensfield. But these additional elements do exist and they are evidence that APD continues to act in a manner inconsistent with the contract they hold with the citizens. We hope Mr. Ahrensfield files a complaint with the city’s Independent Review Office or Inspector General’s office regarding these matters and we invite the media to take a closer look at this story.
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