Complaint: APD Didn't Follow Policies in Bloody Underwear Case
The Albuquerque Police Department didn't follow its own policies of checking a state government database about abused children before officers checked on a 7-year-old girl last November whose parents are now charged prostituting her, according to a complaint filed Tuesday morning against APD with the Civilian Police Oversight Agency.
The complaint was filed by Jim Larson, who resigned earlier this month as a member of the Police Oversight Board. The complaint says that APD's Real Time Crime Center has had access to the state's Children, Youth and Families Department database since September of 2016 and that police dispatchers have been under orders since then to check the database on all calls involving potential child abuse. After checking the CYFD database, dispatchers are supposed to inform officers what the database contains regarding a child.
Had dispatchers accessed the database thy would seen that there had been more than 20 previous calls to CYFD about the 7-year-old and her parents, the complaint said. And if that information had been passe on to the officer who talked to the girl and her teacher in November of 2017, the officer might have tagged the girl's bloody underwear into evidence. Instead, the officer threw the underwear into a dumpster, and any evidence that the girl might have been sexually abused was lost.
“The RTCC policy and procedures were apparently not followed in response to the November 15, 2017 call originating from a school regarding a 7-year-old who the day before had dried blood in her underwear,” Larson's complaint said.
The complaint continued:
“As seen below there should have been extensive history and as a tier 1 priority the search was flawed or did not happen or the RTCC failed to notify the officer of the information found when searching the CACU and CYFD and other records.
In court documents, special agents detailed 25 prior referrals to CYFD. According to news reports the Bernalillo County Sherriff (BCSO) and APD have had previous interactions over the years with the parents and children. There should have been records available to RTCC.
Based on the video statements from the officer who interviewed the teacher was not provided any information other than the kids did not come to school that day and some faculty found or saw some blood on the daughter’s underwear the day before.
“I had no idea this was going on. I went over there and talked to the parents; I talked to the little girl, and I came over to talk to you (teacher) about what you had seen because all we were asked to do was a welfare check.”
“The call I got was concern because the kids didn’t come to school today and somebody, the faculty, found or saw some blood on her underwear yesterday. I’m like why weren’t we called yesterday?”
“I kinda wish I would have known because that would have held me back from already talking to this little girl.” “I had no idea; my next step was to talk to you guys (CYFD) and then CACU.”
"During the initial interviews of the family at the hotel there were other references to prior contact with APD.”
Larson's complaint also said that APD spokesman, Officer Simon Drobik's comments to the news media about the case “were so outrageous and incorrect, they demand a review.” Drobik told a TV reporter that the girl's bloody underwear wasn't tagged into evidence because neither the girl nor her teacher reported a case of abuse to the officer.
“Blaming the child and then incorrectly blaming the teacher for not alleging a crime is not a requirement by state statute nor APD SOP for a crime to be investigated,” The complaint said. “This is the second time (Victoria Martens being the first) when an APD PIO has misrepresented facts to the public regarding a child abuse case. Why did Drobnik make these statements? Was he acting on his own accord? Was he acting through the direction of a supervisor? This must be investigated as incorrect information given to the public must be corrected.”
Larson's complaint concluded:
“Despite the controversy, there is no authoritative decision on whether or not the soiled and bloodstained clothes should or should not have been taken and logged into evidence.
"This is an excellent issue for the Police Oversight Board to fulfill an important purpose of the organization, to gather and analyze data on trends and potential issues concerning police conduct and practices and related impacts on the community and individuals.
“Rather than sit quietly and wait for some complaint about this incident so they can review SOP compliance after the fact, the POB should take this controversial issue head on and gather and analyze data and policy related to the evidence issue and make a determination and recommendation to the Chief and City Council.”